Both gardens were designed by the Japanese landscape architect Ken Nakajima.
After a proficuous academic career at the Waseda University and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and the study and research about garden design in Kyoto, in the 70s he was chosen to spread the flavour for the Japanese gardens internationally.
He can sport an impressive curricula of 650 gardens desiugned by him, of which over 20 are spread across the world.
His first foreign project was the Japanese garden of the Institute of Japanese Culture in Rome, dated 1962.
The access to the garden is free, but due to its tiny size, the visit must be reserved by phone. After a few attempts at reserving a spot, I managed to visit it on April 17. Unfortunately the sakura were no longer in full bloom, but the image of the petals covering the grass and the water was extremely beautiful to behold.
The garden is a typical sen'en , a "garden with lake". The walking path follows the curvy, gentle natural slope, following through the little lake and the water features of the little but vivacious waterfall.
Among the various trees and flowers of Japanese taste (special mention for the beautiful yaezakura and iris), a special mention is reserved for the many olive trees that decorate the garden, a tribute of Nakajima to Italy and Mediterranean nature.
The second garden is preserved at the Orto Botanico di Roma, part of the complexes that constitute the research spaces destined to the Università di Roma "Sapienza".
To access the Orto, you have to pay a fee of 8 euros.
This was designed by Nakajima in 1993, and it's somehow specular to the one of the Institute.
In fact, if the first garden forced us to "walk down", in this one we're supposed to "walk up", climbing up the top of the Orto so to enjoy the view and the quiet up there.
If in the Institute we're invited to "join" the nature, at the Orto we're somehow "led" by the nature to a peaceful state of mind.
If the garden of the Institute was pretty much a token of friendship with Italian culture, here I savoured most of a "scientific vibe": the main focus of the garden is the "presentation" of the specimen that can be found in Eastern landscapes, and sure they merge quite effectively to the general "wildness" of the local specimen around and the ruin of the garden of the nearby Villa Corsini.
Once you enter the Orto and reach the fountain, I suggest you to turn left, so to enjoy the bamboo forest before reaching the garden. It's very suggestive!