Toulouse is known for its beautiful parks, but this tiny and well maintained Japanese garden is with no doubt the nicest one of all. It has been officially classified as a "remarkable garden of France" and the winner of the grand prize in 1993. Although it's very small (it is set within a pleasant larger park) it's all I needed after having a busy day in Toulouse.
You probably won't find it by chance, as it's not very close to the city center, however it's still possible to reach it on foot. Another option is to go by metro - the garden is between Canal du Midi and Compans Caffarelli stops. Bicycles are not allowed inside it, but there is VélôToulouse bike station around 200 meters away. The entrance is free.
People come to Jardin Japonais to stroll around, have a picnic, read, meditate, or just contemplate life. Also, it's a good place to learn about Japanese culture, as inside the pavilion there is an extensive explanation about all the garden design and elements, and how they respect traditional Japanese rules. Although the descriptions are in French only, thanks to Google translate I learned that this garden represents a replica of existing gardens in Kyoto (Japan), built between the fourteenth and the sixteenth century. It contains all the characteristic elements: the mineral world, the plant world and the aquatic world with typical decorative elements such as a perimeter wall, bridge, lanterns, and a tea pavilion.
How come there is a Japanese garden in the middle of Toulouse? It was actually created in 1981, after Pierre Baudis, a former mayor of Toulouse got inspired by similar garden in - Dublin, Ireland. Toulouse Japanese garden is more precisely a Tsukiyama type garden, composed of artificial hills. It is full of botanical varieties of the far East, such as bamboo and water lily for example.
Whenever you come here, the garden will look lovely. However, the best time to visit is in spring, which is considered a sacred time In Japan. Spring brings Hanami ("flower viewing"),which is the Japanese tradition of enjoying the beauty of flowers. Usually it's about those of the cherry ("sakura") or sometimes, plum ("ume") trees. From the end of March to early May, cherry trees (Cerisiers du Japon) bloom all over Japan, but also here, in the Japanese garden in Toulouse.
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