Rikugien a beautiful park born from poems

Near the quiet Komagome station in Tokyo is another Edo-period park, Rikugien Gardens. It isn’t big, but it is beautiful. And many people consider it to be one of the city’s best. 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 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, and swarms of photographers surround it in spring.  To photograph 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 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 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 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 end result was a park that contained eighty-eight miniature poetic scenes. Unfortunately, only about half 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?

Without a doubt, autumn. In that season, there are the leaves, and in the early evening, the park lights up (2022 photos here). If you go beware of the crowds.

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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