One of the cities we decided to visit on our trip to Japan was Niigata. We got here from Tokyo Central Station and it took us about two hours with SHINKANSEN TOKI. Among the tourist attractions in this city we could not miss the old Saito Residence (The Niigata Saitou Villa)
History of Saito Residence
The Niigata Saitou Villa was constructed over a four-year period from 1917 to 1920 by Kijuro Saitou IV a wealthy merchant from the port town of Niigata. He made his fortune operating cargo ships (Kitamaebune) that sailed the Japan Sea.
Located on the 4,500㎡of the estate, approximately 4,400 ㎡of which are gardens. There are an entrance garden, a courtyard and a main garden connected by stepping stone -style paths.
The main garden, in particular, makes skillful use of the area’s natural sand hill terrain to create a pleasant pathway to a teahouse named “Shokoan” and the teahouse garden.
The Niigata Saitou Villa is characterized by its unique design that integrates both the garden and building into a single unit. The villa is an open structure with a large garden that utilizes a gentle stream and pond. Visitors are drawn in by the beautiful sights during each and every season.
Large, overhanging, old pine trees form the backdrop for the numerous maple trees (Acer japonicum) that have been planted along the slope of the hill, between which a large waterfall and a rocky stream can be seen flowing into the garden pond below.
Numerous stones native to the area are used to decorate the landscape and lure the eye, creating a tranquil atmosphere along with the vibrant moss.
This location was used as a place to receivehonored guests on behalf of Niigata including many famous politicians to businessmen. Today, the site has been converted to public ownership through preservation efforts by local city residents, and it is a beloved local cultural heritage enjoyed by many.
The house and the garden as parts of a whole
This site was constructed with the concept of “Unity of a house and a garden” in mind. This means no boundaries exist and create harmony between the inside and outside. When you are inside, you feel like you are also in the garden.
Soon after you open the sliding glass doors facing the garden widely, you will feel one with the garden. Additionally, the house faces north to prevent direct sunlight from the garden, so the room stays cool. The stepped down corridor is half covered in tatami mats. Because of this, when you sit inside and look over the garden, you feel as if the room, corridor and garden are all level with one another.
The shape of bracken ferns are designed into the woodwork of the handrails.
About the Garden of Saito residence
When you walk in the garden, you step on a stone path. The stones are also another part of the sceneries of the garden. Near the entrance, there are flagstones placed to create an air of formality while in garden, along with the pond and waterfall, the fieldstones give off a softer impression.The stepping stones are placed so that the path splits and gently curves to either side to give visitors various angles from which to enjoy the garden.
There are around 1,000 trees and shrubs of 80 different varieties in addition to the pine and maple trees in the garden. The leaves and flowers of the bamboo and ume (Japanese plum) trees, also mokkoku, azaleaand common camellia, are generally preferredin the Japanese culture.
The grounds are covered in moss and grass that make for a lush and calming atmosphere. The gardens feel particularly vibrant after it rains.
The moss is extremely delicate so please be careful not to step on it.
The residence is also designated as a national scenic spot.
In autumn the contrasting colors of the green pine trees and red Japanese maple leaves bring the garden to life, which is also illuminated during the autumn season to show the garden and its autumn foliage to best advantage.