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Koishikawa Botanical Garden is for flower photographers

Koishikawa Botanical Garden is another of Tokyo’s lesser-known parks.  The University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Science operates it.  So, even though it is open to the public, it is a place for serious academic research and botanical work.  That makes it the perfect place for flower photography. 

University of Tokyo Koishikawa Annex Museum

If you don’t have the time to do that in the country, this is the place to go.  In some parts of Koishikawa’s forest-like areas, you might think you’re hiking!  Well, that’s a slight exaggeration.  But, there will be moments when you might feel some sturdy footwear is necessary!  The grass can be high, the trees thick, and the mud can be pretty bad!!  I like to think of it as a (mini-)Todoroki Valley in Setagaya.

Turtle at Koishikawa Botanical Garden

It’s not all like that.  Some areas are almost farm-like in appearance.  Trees are lined up like they are ready for harvest.  Under them, people are curled up asleep.  Some might even have a book next to them.  A short distance away, students will be working on a project.

The gardens are also home to the former headquarters of the Tokyo School of Medicine.  You can’t enter the building, but you can enjoy the area around it.  There is a nice lawn with paths, a pond with carp and turtles, benches, azaleas, and pergolas.  It is an excellent place for photographs, especially in spring, when the flowers bloom. 

Japanese woman reading book on bench

As the University of Tokyo runs the garden, it has a greenhouse.  The original one was demolished in the late 2000s.  This new building is magnificent, with lots of glass and very modern.  

Rhododendron dilatatum at Koishikawa Botanical Garden

A brief history of Koishikawa Botanical Garden

  • Koishikawa dates from 1684.  The fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi, established the Koishikawa Medicinal Herb Garden there;
  • The eighth shogun, Yoshimune Tokugawa, established a hospital there in 1722.  It no longer exists, but its well does;
  • the gardens were the site for the headquarters of the Tokyo School of Medicine;
  • Sir Isaac Newton has ties to the Koishikawa too.  A graft of the very apple tree from which his apple fell was gifted to the garden.  It is still there today.

Why do photographers like this park?

  • It has excellent plum and cherry blossoms.
  • It’s a botanical garden, so flowers and trees abound.  The greenhouse displays change regularly.
  • It has some rare plants and trees you can’t see anywhere else.  For example, there is a Metasequoia, a fossil tree.  There is also a Ziziphus jujube, a medicinal tree brought from China in 1727.
  • A graft of Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree.
  • The former headquarters of the Tokyo School of Medicine.
cherry blossoms

General tips

  • As there are lots of flowers, a macro lens might be useful.
  • Tripods are okay. 
  • In some areas of the park, there will be mud after heavy rain.  Be careful when you walk through it.
  • In the warmer months, mosquitoes will be in most areas.

Where is Koishikawa Botanical Garden?

There are two subway stations nearby:

  1. Hakusan (use exit A1) on the Mita line
  2. Myogadani on the Marunouchi line.  

From both stations, the park is about a 10-minute walk.  Here is a Google map:

Opening hours

Koishikawa is open from January 4th to December 28th from 9 am to 4:30 pm, with the last entry at 4 pm.  The park closes on Mondays except if it is a public holiday, then it closes the following day.

The Shibata Memorial Annex (gift shop) is open from 10:30 am to 4 pm and is closed on Thursdays.

cherry blossoms at Koishikawa Botanical

Admission costs

500 yen.

Other photo spots near Koishikawa Botanical Garden

Wrapping up

Koishikawa Botanical Garden has no nearby skyscrapers like Shinjuku Gyoen.  There is no Edo-period central pond with scenic elements like Koishikawa Korakuen.  Stunning vistas are definitely missing. 

This park is about flowers and trees.  There are lots of those.  That is why photographers go there.  Of course, there are the bugs, turtles and carp too!

bellflower cherry blossom tree

If you enjoy flower or macro photography, I recommend this garden.  And as a bonus, you can use tripods.  Parks that allow those are rare in Tokyo.   You can see its website here. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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