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Rikugien Gardens light up in 2016

Every autumn, Rikugien Gardens light up. The grounds become hauntingly beautiful. It is a must-see event for photographers. I’ve been a few times and love it.  Unfortunately, so does everyone else in Tokyo.  You’ll be there with 1000s of people.  Luckily, the pictures make it worthwhile.

autumn leaves and bridge at night

I went for the first time in 2016.  The night scene knocked me off my feet.  While it wasn’t on the same level as Mount Takao, it was impressive.  Whoever organized the lights did an excellent job.  The trees and pond came alive with colors and reflections.

people photographing autumn leaves
man making dango

It was a pity about the crowd because it is so big.  You needed to decide to wait for your turn for pictures or move on and miss a photo opportunity.  But, there is another alternative.  It can pay to get there later in the night. As the temperature drops, the numbers of people do too.  That can be a good tactic!


Anyway, the pond area was the worst.  Usually, it takes a minute to get to it from the entrance on an average day.  Not in 2016. When the crowd was at its peak, it took about five minutes, which is conservative. The grounds were so thick with people. With so many stopping to take pictures or enjoy the view, minimal movement occurred.  It was a human traffic jam. The security guys told everyone to keep moving, but that didn’t happen. It was understandable.  Everyone wanted to enjoy the autumn leaves under the lights leisurely.

man photographing Rikugien Gardens light up in 2016
Rikugien Gardens main pond at night

On this occasion, I learned something.  For this type of event, a tripod was necessary.  My Pentax K-3 was a nice camera, but not for low-light usage.  It was tough shooting handheld under the mixed and poor lighting conditions.   I had to use a very high ISO, which resulted in a lot of noise.  At home, even Topaz noise reduction software didn’t help. 

The crowds waits for Rikugien Gardens light up in 2016
The crowd starts to build as the sun sets.

Considering how crowded the Rikugien Gardens light up was, I shouldn’t complain too much.  I would like to see wider paths, though.  They might make the flow of people better. I’m not sure if that would be possible as the park is small. 

tree leaves lit up at Rikuguien Gardens

Overall, I had a good time.  It wasn’t the perfect night, but I got some pictures.  By the way, I have a complete article about Rikugien

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