Rikugien Gardens: a park born from poems

Rikugien Gardens is another of Tokyo’s Edo-period parks. It’s near the quiet Komagome station. And many people consider it to be one of the city’s best. It isn’t big, but it is beautiful. If you like pretty places, this one won’t disappoint! It was also born from waka poems.

I like Rikugien for many reasons. The first one is at the entrance. You get a pleasant surprise when you walk in the main gate. There is a huge, beautiful, weeping cherry blossom tree to greet you. It is quite famous, and swarms of photographers surround it in spring. To photograph this tree entirely, you’ll need a wide-angle lens!

Another reason is that it is a Japanese garden/park from the Edo period. I love those. Many have a pond in the middle with other features around it. This one has a couple of islands.  One is quite large, while the other, named Horaijima, is tiny but cute.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Rikugien Gardens has many winding paths from which you can enjoy the view. Some pass through a small forest. Others go over beautiful lawns. You can easily spend a lot of time walking them.

Then there are little bridges that cross the canals that drain water from the pond.  And if you need to get a different perspective, climb Fujishiro-toge.  It’s the tallest hill there.  With so much to explore, you can have a lot of fun.

And what Japanese garden would be complete without a teahouse or three? Two, Takimi-no-chaya and Tsutsu-no-chaya are now rest houses. Another Fukiage-no-chaya still serves matcha (green tea) with wagashi (Japanese sweets). You can have your tea hot or cold, costing 500 yen.

It’s lovely, sitting next to the water, enjoying the view. On a sunny day, you can sip your tea and watch birds fly across the pond as they did back in the old days. If you have a long lens, you can snap shots while you rest!

naka no shima at night
In November, the park lights up.

A Brief History of the park

The fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi, loved waka poems. He read about a garden in one of them and wanted to recreate it in real life. In 1700 he commissioned Yoshiyau Yanagisawa to build it for him. The result was a park that contained eighty-eight miniature poetic scenes. About half of them remain.

Photography at Rikugien Gardens

It is wonderful for flower photography.  Each season has something special. Spring sees the weeping cherry tree come into bloom. Autumn has fabulous leaves and a nighttime light-up. Summer and winter have their flowers, too (please look at the park’s website for full details).

Horajima island with azalea and people
Horajima is a tiny island.

With flowers, islands, wildlife, and hills, every type of lens will have its use, long or short. One thing you need to be aware of when using macros is that tripods are not allowed. That is a pity.

Other photo spots near Rikugien

When is the best time to go?

Go in autumn. There is a special evening event in that season. The staff light the leaves which transforms the grounds. Rikugien Gardens becomes surreal. You need to experience it (2022 photos here). If you go beware because it gets crowded.

Spring is also good. It has many beautiful flowers, including cherry blossoms and hydrangeas. It is a very colorful time of the year.

rikugien takimi no chaya teahouse
The Takimi-no-chaya teahouse.

Rikugien Gardens details

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

Wrapping Up

I like Rikugien Gardens a lot. It is a beautiful place for photographers. There is a lot to capture with a camera. And it is gorgeous in autumn and spring, the flower seasons. Those two are fantastic.

And with the Yamanote line so close, you can get to parts of the city with no problems. The only thing you need to worry about might be mosquitoes. In the hotter months, they can get thick in several places.

I’m sure you’d enjoy Rikugien Gardens. It’s been a favorite of mine in Tokyo for many years. If you go, pick up a pamphlet (in English) from the reception. It will give you full details of what is inside.

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