When Tadao Ando set out to transform a one-time landfill into a park where people could gather on the island of Awaji, he had a simple vision in mind. But, after an earthquake devastated the area, not far from the coast of Japan, the architect revised his plans, turning the park into what may be the most beautiful memorial ever.
Built on the side of a mountain, Hyakudanen - known as the 100 Stepped Garden - commemorates the loss of more than 6,000 earthquake victims, while also acting as a reminder of the vitality of the area and the magnificence of nature.
Featuring 100 individual square garden patches that cascade down the side of the mountain, the park is a breathtaking vision. Throughout the year, each flowerbed changes with the season, maintaining a vibrant array of colors and textures from the warmest to the coldest months.
Walk - or take an express elevator - to the top of the enchanting garden, and the surrounding view is just as astounding as the flora. Since Ando began the project in the 90s, a hotel, conference center, amphitheater, and a number of restaurants have been built in the area.
This moving memorial is just one of many spectacular gardens in Japan. From bamboo walkways to fields of colorful flowers, the country is a garden lover's dream. But, if you're not interested in the long flight, there's always the Portland Japanese Garden that's almost as good as the real thing.