Surprisingly, as modernization swept through Japan in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the number of traditional gardens increased. The clients, though, were now of a different order. Instead of the shoguns, their court aristocracy and feudal lords, the new patrons of these meticulously crafted sites of reflection, relaxation and great beauty were government officials, wealthy landowners and businessmen.

The completion in 1890 of a canal running from Japan’s largest expanse of fresh water, Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, to Kyoto, succeeded well in the aims for which it was conceived — providing water to irrigate farmland in the north of the city and creating both a waterway to transport cargo and a power source for the area’s textile industry. However, it also had unexpected benefits for gardens.

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