Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens is a Tokyo park I adore. There are many things to see – a beautiful pond, history, bridges, flowers, and even a temple. Some might say it is perfect. Well, if it’s not, it is very close.
Let’s start with the centerpiece, the pond. Most Edo-period parks in Tokyo have one. The name of this one is Daisensui. Fantastic paths wend and wind around it. With each turn, you get a different perspective. Places like this rarely have a straight line. They keep your eyes busy.
As you make your way through the grounds, you’ll see much. In it are many replicas of famous landmarks found in Japan and China. The builders made copies, in miniature, of mountains and rivers. They even put in a temple from a Chinese classical text. It is brilliant.
It’s a park of the seasons. Each one has something worth photographing. Throughout the year, you will find beautiful flowers and trees there.
So yes, it gets very high marks. A perfect 10? I don’t know about that, but it comes very close. You’ll have to be the final judge.
A brief history of Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens
Yorifusa Mito began building Koishikawa Kōrakuen in 1629, but it was up to his son Yorifusa to complete it. For the last phase of the work, he employed the Chinese scholar Shu Shunsui as his advisor.
There is another park with the same name in Okayama prefecture. In both cases, the name came from a poem. It was a poem that encouraged rulers to look after their subjects first and then themselves.
Photography at the park
- I don’t know where to start in this case. There is so much to photograph. You would need many hours to shoot everything. On top of the list are its two bridges, Tsuten-Kyo and Engetsu-Kyo.
- The vermillion-colored, Tsuten-Kyo is hard to miss! It stretches across a small ravine deep in trees. In autumn, it is gorgeous. Sometimes it can be hard to photograph because its shadows are so dark.
- Engetsu-Kyo (or Full Moon Bridge) is the original, not a replica. It is of the drum type, made of stone, and goes over a small stream. Look into the water, and you’ll realize why it got its name. The arch joins with its reflection in the water to form a circle, like the moon. I’d love to see this at night!
- Around the park, you’ll find a few historic buildings. Unlike the bridges, many have been rebuilt or are the remains (usually a few blocks), so nothing is original. The most interesting one is Tokujin-do (a temple). Unfortunately, the doors are always closed, but nothing is inside.
- And I love the miniature replicas of famous places from different parts of Japan. My favorite is “Atagozaka” (“Slopes of Mt. Atago”), built in imitation of the mountain near Kyoto. Underneath is a rice field. For an urban park, the scenery is very picturesque.
- The other interesting one is next to the park, not in it. It is Tokyo Dome, and you can see its top peak over the trees of Koishikawa! It can make for lovely pictures. Photograph it from the Naitei, the inner garden with a lily-filled pond! Do that, and you’ll get the dome behind the trees reflecting in the water.
- For those with very long lenses, the island in the middle of the main pond is unique. It is home to some kingfishers that are pretty famous. Most weekends will see birders with their cameras trying to photograph it. And then on the island itself is a little shrine to the god Benzaiten.
- And last, the flowers. This park has so many. It is most famous for its plum blossoms (2019 article here) and cherry blossoms. There are also hydrangeas, Japanese irises, autumn leaves, and even a rice field! You might think that winter misses out. That season isn’t famous for flowers, is it? True, but it does have yukitsuri, the ropes covering trees to protect them from snow.
When is the best time to go?
Every season at Koishikawa Korakuen is excellent. It’s one of the rare places where I enjoy summer. I love photographing its big iris field. That is something I try to photograph every year. Of course, spring is good too, with plum and cherry blossoms. And don’t forget autumn with its marvelous leaves. It is so hard to pick only one season here!
Where is Koishikawa Korakuen?
There are three stations nearby, Iidabashi, Korakuen, and Suidobashi. The length of each walk from them ranges from five to ten minutes. Here is a Google map to give you an idea:
Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens is open from 9 am to 5 pm (with last entry at 4:30 pm). It is closed over the New Year period (from December 26 to February 7, 2021).
General entry to Koishikawa for adults is 300 yen.
Other photo spots near Koishikawa Korakuen
- Bunkyo Civic Hall (with one of my favorite observatories)
- Koishikawa Botanical Gardens (research facility and park)
- Tokyo Dome (baseball stadium with an amusement park next to it)
- Ushi Tenjin Kitano Shrine (famous for plum blossoms)
Did I miss anything? I hope not, but Koishikawa Korakuen is a huge place. Anyway, I’m sure I covered most of it. If you had to choose one park to visit in Tokyo, you couldn’t go wrong with this one. It has something for everyone and every season. You can see its website here. Questions and comments can be left below.