reviews & media

guest reviews | appearances in media

“As a Professional Landscape Architect I was interested in doing an in-depth study of Japanese Gardens. I had known what they looked like and what the basic philosophy underpinning them were from my studies and readings so I was looking for something more than the average tourist might be after. Mark’s garden tours certainly provided that.

“Firstly, we were taken to gardens that the general public cannot get into, thus providing a rare insight into rare and important gardens. Secondly, the time spent with Mark was an immersion in Japanese culture to equip one for a greater understanding, absolutely essential! Thirdly, Mark made the tour easy and effortless. Most of the important gardens require permission in advance to get into. Mark arranged all that and coordinated our transport around the city.

“Lastly and no less important, Mark was fun and easy to be with. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and received a deep understanding of the art form!”

Founding Director
Tract Consultants
Melbourne, Australia

On garden experiences: “Mark Hovane is an exceptionally gifted guide. His knowledge of the exquisite gardens of Kyoto is vast but his skill is in imparting just enough information that we can ‘see’ with new eyes in ways that are surprising, touching and constantly delightful. Visiting Kyoto’s gardens with Mark was a highlight of my trip to Kyoto, a city I have come to love.”

On ikebana: “I was leader of a small-group travel to Kyoto and some of our group took an afternoon’s Ikebana class with Mark. Without any previous skill or knowledge, each person created an arrangement of great beauty, guided by Mark’s gentle, timely instructions. Best of all, they were confident that they could create arrangements of similar beauty at home. I was astonished that he could teach so much in such a short time, and clearly with such delight and enthusiasm that it was completely contagious.”

Writer and retreat leader:

“One morning spent with Mark Hovane enhanced our entire experience of Japan. His skillful narratives about the traditional home and temple gardens we visited with him illuminated underlying patterns and symbols that we could then see everywhere. He provided a deeper insight into the Japanese aesthetic and culture than we ever would have had on our own. I highly recommend him!”

Berkeley, California

“Traveling for the first time in Japan, I wanted to explore the meaning and experience the beauty of Kyoto City’s famous gardens. I preferred to seek out those that are not on most “must see” lists. Mark’s knowledge and sensitivity enabled him to customize my tours. I learned through Mark that the design concepts of the various gardens could be both similar and remarkably distinct. Viewed from a tearoom, a temple veranda, or along a garden’s path, each plant and stone had importance for the whole. Architectural elements were also an integral part of the garden-viewing experience. One tour included a tea ceremony; another, lunch in a Buddhist temple. Mark’s professionalism and expertise enhanced immeasurably my enjoyment of visiting Kyoto’s gardens.”

Art Historian
New York City

“In early Autumn 2008 a long-cherished desire to wonder through Kyoto’s Zen gardens was realised, and it’s thanks to a personally-styled walk with a learned guide in Mark Hovane that the experience remains rich in my memory.

“I had high expectations of sinking my senses into the visual perfection I’d so admired in photographs, and had I selected gardens at random, their beauty would no doubt have offered something of that immersion. But with scant time and knowledge of the city’s geography, fate could not have been kinder in bringing Mark to my notice, with his offer of a structured half-day amble to famous destinations alongside local incidental discoveries. The plan was confidence-inspiring from the start, and the walk — with enough time for calm reflection while the magic of place was indeed immersive — could not have been more delightful.

“Mark’s commentary was articulate and expressive, embodying the respect and admiration he obviously holds for centuries of Zen Garden tradition in addition to his understanding of contemporary Japan. Always engaging, Mark’s company is that of a friendly connoisseur.

“Carl Jung once remarked, ‘It all depends on how we look at things, not how they are in themselves.’ In praise of the added dimension the right guide can provide, I commend Mark’s accomplishment in aiding me to really look at these exquisite garden environments and to feel ongoing enrichment through that visual and sensory experience.”

Arts Queensland Regional Manager
Cairns, Australia

“It was my first visit to Kyoto and indeed to Japan. I have always loved Zen gardens and felt that this should be the focal point of my trip. I just needed to find the right guide.

“Luckily on googling ‘Zen Gardens Kyoto,’ Mark Hovane’s arresting images popped up on his website. The photographs alone were enough to make me book a tour right away.

“Mark is that rare find — a genuine passionate expert. He drew from his wealth of garden expertise and knowledge of the history of Kyoto, a perfect blend of information and anecdote. I found him ideally suited to unfold the subtleties of the gardens and temples we visited. He opened the gates of cultural history of Kyoto and gave me enough information and encouragement so that I could seek out what I most enjoyed.

“A tour with Mark is a magical and uplifting experience that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the gardens of Kyoto.”

New York

“Mark’s command of the language and his love and knowledge of the gardens in Kyoto and Japanese culture in general, made my visit truly a special experience. The memories of this trip will continue to rekindle my inspiration for garden design for many years to come.”

Landscape Architect
Honolulu Hawaii U.S.A

“Mark’s knowledge of the gardens and the historical culture surrounding them were fascinating. His passion for the Japanese aesthetic is obvious. My only regret is that I didn’t have someone like Mark to guide me through Tokyo.”

Sydney Australia

“We visited Kyoto for 6 days in October 2008 and found it a wonderful city and the main highlights were the gardens. We thought we had done them all until we booked with Mark to do a half-day tour. Not only did he show us lovely gardens we hadn’t seen before, but he brought them to life with his knowledgeable explanations of why everything was where it was. He also helped bring new angles on life in Japan. All done in a lovely relaxed peaceful manner. We can thoroughly recommend spending some time with Mark.”

Devon, England

On ikebana:

“Mark made the art of ikebana come to life by balancing theory with contemplative action. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop coming away with an understanding of how to practice ikebana in my daily life. It was fun and easy to do, I was inspired to get back home and play!”

Sacred Japan Tour Participant
Melbourne Australia

“My ikebana experience was both an experience of adventure,and contemplation, of stillness and yet effort, of new knowings about how people , heaven and earth can be connected and woven together in this form of arranging flowers, leaves, stems and branches….”

New Zealand