Koishikawa Botanical Garden: A photo guide

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 perfect for flower photography.

Some people like to visit the country for flowers. But if you don’t have the time to do that, Koishikawa is the place to go. You might think you’re hiking in some of its forest-like areas. There are so many trees.

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. Some parts remind me of Todoroki Valley in Setagaya.

Other areas are 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.

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 is very modern.

A brief history of Koishikawa Botanical Garden

  • Koishikawa dates from 1684. That’s when the fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi, established its medicinal herb garden.
  • The eighth shogun, Yoshimune Tokugawa, established a hospital there in 1722. It no longer exists, but its water well does.
  • The Tokyo School of Medicine had its headquarters in the gardens.
  • Sir Isaac Newton has ties to the Koishikawa. A graft of the original apple tree from which his apple fell was gifted to the garden. It is still there today.

What 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 rare plants and trees. There is a Metasequoia, a fossil tree. Another example is a Ziziphus jujube. It came from China in 1727.
  • A graft of Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree.
  • The former headquarters of the Tokyo School of Medicine.

What is my favorite?

I have two. One is the Prunus Incisa, a type of cherry blossom. It is known as the Fuji cherry because it is abundant around Mount Fuji. The other is Rhododendron dilatatum Miq., an azalea native to Japan.

If you are a pink lover, you need to see these flowers. They bloom in spring. The colors are so stunning and vibrant. Spring is incredible at Koishikawa Botanical Gardens.

General tips

  • As there are lots of flowers, a macro lens might be useful.
  • Tripods are okay
  • Some areas of the park become muddy after heavy rain. Be careful.
  • In the warmer months, mosquitoes will be in most areas.

Koishikawa Botanical Garden details

See the park’s location and opening hours on the official website.

Other photo spots near Koishikawa Botanical Gardens

Wrapping up

Koishikawa Botanical Garden has no nearby skyscrapers like Shinjuku Gyoen. Nor is there an Edo-period central pond with scenic elements like Koishikawa Korakuen. There are no stunning vistas.

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.

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. Please leave questions and comments below.

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