Miyazu Garden


Miyazu Garden, situated on the Atawhai side of the main road as you drive into Nelson, embodies the strong sister city relationship that flourishes between Nelson and Miyazu City in Japan. Planning for the garden began in 1990 and it was officially opened in October 1995.

Download MP3  See and download the map
Having technical problems while trying to download an audio file to your device? Contact us

Miyazu City is situated in the north of Kyoto Prefecture on the main island of Honshu. Miyazu shares many of Nelson's characteristics; fishing, tourism, beautiful beaches and the natural beauty and historic interest of the city. 

Miyazu LanternStone oki-gata ‘lighthouse’ Lantern on the ‘boulder bank’ in Miyazu Garden. Nelson City Council
Click image to enlarge

One of the many attractions is Amanohashidate, a narrow sandbar which extends 3.6km across Miyazu Bay.  Amanohashidate is planted with pine trees, so is a popular place for walking, cycling or swimming, as it faces the Japan Sea. The old legend tells that Amanohashidate is the bridge to heaven and is known as one of the three natural wonders of Japan.

In Miyazu Garden both New Zealand and Japanese plant species feature to symbolise the harmonising of the two cultures; harakeke (flax) and tawhai (beech) sit alongside cherry blossom and iris blooms. 

As soon as you walk through the gate made from old timber recycled from the port, the street noise is screened out with an immediate feeling of enclosure. Still reflective ponds, trickling bamboo spouts and melodic cascades enhance the sense of serenity.   Doing a circuit of the garden from the entrance you come first to the Dragon Pond, overhung by Jim's Pine, a weathered and windswept 30 year old bonsai.

The peninsula symbolises Nelson's Boulder Bank which is a landscape feature similar to Miyazu's Amanohashidate. The contrasting textures of foliage, wood, water and rock pull the whole picture together. Following the stepping stones towards the pondside pavilion you pass a stone basin used for ritual cleansing before the tea ceremony. The large flat stone beside the deck is called a shoe removing stone. Crossing the three plank bridge you can hear the sound of the shishi odoshi a kinetic fountain - originally used in gardens to keep wild animals out.

Miyazu BridgeBridge in Miyazu Garden. Nelson City Council.
Click image to enlarge

Shakkei is the art of using scenery beyond the garden to enhance its beauty and increase the perception of size through the use of perspective. Three examples in Miyazu Garden are; the view through the roofed gate to the Tasman Range, to the south to the Grampians, and up to the tree covered ridge to the north east.

Taking the path to the Raupo Pond you pass Crane and Tortoise Islands, traditionally named after creatures which are revered in Japan as symbols of longevity. The sturdy bridge between the islands symbolises the friendship between the sister cities.

In 1996, a New Zealand-wide survey of Sister City programmes undertaken by Massey University found that the Nelson-Miyazu link was the most-focused and built on a solid base of people-to-people interaction. The Nelson Miyazu affiliation was cited as a model to follow in setting up successful Sister City relationships.

In late 2008 the Council filled the base of the main pond in Miyazu Garden with sand, the traditional Japanese material used to represent water. Water leaks in that pond had seen major drainage and significant cost to keep it filled. The still-settling land caused the concrete pond liner to break.  Now the pond has a layer of gold and creamy coloured dolomite sand spread over the base and raked in the Japanese style.

2009 (updated December 2020)


Miyazu Garden was designed by Peter Coubrough from the Nelson City Council, which owns and maintains the garden.

This story is an edited version of the Nelson City Council Heritage plaque, with text by Janet Bathgate.

Sources used in this story

Want to find out more about the Miyazu Garden ? View Further Sources here.

Do you have a story about this subject? Find out how to add one here.

Comment on this story

Post your comment


No one has commented on this page yet.

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments

Further sources - Miyazu Garden


  • Venner, R.A. (2010) Miyazu Park and Miyazu Japanese Garden. Nelson, N.Z.: Rosemary A. Venner

Some of the many books in the Elma Turner Library on the art of the Japanese garden:


  • A powerful sisterhood - dateline Miyazu (1999, April 17). Nelson Mail p. 9-10 
  • High potential for sister cities (1997, March 23). Nelson Mail p. 2
  • Nelson Japanese garden features NZ plants (1996) Commercial Horticulture p 19

Web Resources