Stately home and gardens
of the Shimadzu family
Sengan-en is a traditional garden and stately home built by the 19th head of the Shimadzu family, Mitsuhisa, in 1658. Sengan-en uses the principle of “borrowed scenery”, and incorporates the background elements of active volcano Sakurajima and Kinko Bay as part of the gardens. The gardens cover over 12 acres and include trees hundreds of years old, calming ponds, gently bubbling streams, mysterious shrines, a bamboo grove, and a mountain hiking trail. Sengan-en also incorporates many influences from Chinese culture due to trade with China and Southeast Asia throughout the Edo period (1603-1868), showing the truly international nature of the Shimadzu clan. Cultural events relating to the 800 year history of the Shimadzu family are held in the gardens all year round. Sengan-en also has restaurants with expert chefs preparing the finest Kagoshima cuisine, made with locally sourced ingredients, and shops selling local craft products such as Satsuma Kiriko crystal glass. Sengan-en is Kagoshima’s best known destination, and is much loved by both locals and visitors alike.
The house at the centre of Sengan-en was built along with the gardens in 1658, but has been refurbished several times since then. The house today is as it was when it was lived in full time by Shimadzu Tadayoshi during the Meiji period (1868-1912). The whole house is built using flawless Yakushima cedar cut from trees over 1000 years old. The house was visited by royalty such as Edward VIII of the UK, and Nicholas II of Russia, features a fascinating mix of Japanese, Chinese and Western influences, showing the truly international nature of the Shimadzu clan.
Remains of the
Although Sengan-en is a Japanese garden, around 150 years ago this region was instrumental in the modernisation of Japan. The reverberatory furnace was one of the first projects undertaken to modernise Japan and create wealth and military strength. Iron smelted here was used in the production of cannon and ships. The Shoko Shuseikan Museum and Sengan-en were recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site related to Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution in 2015.