Near quiet Komagome station in Tokyo is another Edo-period park, Rikugien. It isn’t very big, but it is beautiful. And many people consider it to be one of the best in the city. If you like pretty places, this one won’t disappoint! It was also born from poems.
I like Rikugien for many reasons. The first one is right at the entrance. As soon as you walk in the main gate, you get a pleasant surprise. There is a huge, beautiful, weeping cherry blossom tree to greet you. It is quite famous, swarms of photographers surround it in spring. To get a photograph of this tree in its entirety, you’ll need a wide-angle lens!
Another reason is that it is a Japanese garden/park from the Edo period. I love those. A pond in the middle is the main attraction, and the other features of the park are around it. You then walk along the winding paths and admire everything from the water’s side. And in the middle are a couple of islands. One is quite large, while the other, named Horaijima, is tiny but so cute. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Other areas include a small forest; rambling narrow paths, and near the entrance, lawns. And 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, and it costs 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, I bet. If you have a long lens, you can snap a few shots while you rest!
A brief history of Rikugien Gardens
The fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi, loved waka poems. He read about a garden in one of them and decided to recreate it in real life. In 1700 he commissioned Yoshiyau Yanagisawa to build it for him. The end result was a park that contained eighty-eight miniature poetic scenes. Unfortunately, only about half remain.
Photography at the park
It is a wonderful place 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 (click here for pictures of the 2016 event). Summer and winter have their flowers, too (please look at the park’s website for full details).
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.
Best time to go
Without a doubt, autumn. In that season, there are the leaves, and in the early evening, the park lights up. Beware, if you go to that event, it can get crowded.
Spring is also very good. You can see a lot of nice flowers in that season, including cherry blossoms and hydrangeas. It is a very colorful time of year.
Where are Rikugien Gardens?
Three stations are within walking distance: Komagome, Sengoku, and Sugamo. They are within easy walking distance of the park, but Komagome might be most convenient. Here is a Google map here to help you:
Rikugien is open from 9 am to 5 pm (the last entry is at 4:30 pm). As with all parks run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association, it is closed from December 29 to January 3.
Other photo spots near Rikugien Gardens
- Koishikawa Botanical Garden
- Kyu-Furukawa Gardens
- Sky Circus Sunshine 60 Observatory
- Somei Cemetery
I like this park 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 the mosquitoes. In the hotter months, they can get rather thick in a couple of places.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy Rikugien Gardens. It’s been a favorite of mine in Tokyo for many years. You can see its website here. If you go, make sure to pick up a pamphlet (in English) from the reception. It will give you full details of what is inside.