rikugien garden in tokyo   6 comments

Sunday, July 9:  This hot Sunday, following my exhausting trip to Kawagoe yesterday, I decide I will keep it simple and visit Rikugien Garden.  I’m not going to take a long walk, nor will I visit more than one place.  I’m going straight to the garden and coming straight home.

I take the Romancecar from Machida to Shinjuku, then I get on the Yamanote Line to Komagome.  Somewhere along the way from Shinjuku to Komagome, I find myself sitting across from this man reading the newspaper on the train.

Man on the train

I have to walk several blocks once I leave the station to find the garden, enclosed as it is within an expansive stone wall.  Rikugien is considered by many to be Tokyo’s most beautiful Japanese landscape garden, alongside Koishikawa Korakuen. It is a kaiyu-style (circuit style) daimyo garden with man-made hills and ponds that reflect the tastes and flavor of the world of Waka poetry.

Built around 1702 by the lord of Kawagoe domain, Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, for the 5th Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Rikugien literally means “Garden of the Six Principles of Poetry” and reproduces in miniature 88 scenes from famous poems. It is a good example of an Edo Period strolling garden and features a large central pond surrounded by man-made hills, stone bridges, stone lanterns, streams and forested areas.

stone lantern at Rikugien Garden

Rikugien became the second home of the founder of Mitsubishi, Iwasaki Yataro in the Meiji era.  It was donated by the Iwasaki family to the City of Tokyo in 1938.  The garden is a valuable cultural heritage that was designated as a Special Places of Scenic Beauty in Japan in 1953.

Rikugien Garden’s extensive trails wind around the gardens, through forests and open lawns, and lead to several tea houses which are open to the public (Tokyo Travel: Rikugien Garden).

Some of the tea houses in the gardens are not open to the public, including Shinsen-tei and Gishun-tei, shown below.

Shinsen-tei at Rikugien Garden

Gishun-tei at Rikugien Garden

In this garden, a big pond with some islands is surrounded by trees, offering imitations of famous beautiful Japanese spots such as Wakanoura in Kishuu (Wakayama Prefecture) (Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association: Rikugien Garden).

Rikugien Garden

Deshio-no-minato is the name of one of the pond shores, rich in perspective, with Naka-no-shima to the right, Horai-jima to the left, and Fukiage-no-hama on the opposite shore.  The man-made hills on Naka-no-shima, the islet in the pond of Daisensui, are known as Imo-no-yama and Se-no-yama and represent a male-female relationship.  “Imo” means “woman” and “Se” means “man” in ancient expression.

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

maple leaves

maple leaves

Rikugien Garden

I’m not sure exactly what the cones below are, but it seems someone has been collecting them.  (According to Lynn from Bluebrightly: the cones are from a Magnolia tree, probably…, Magnolia grandiflora, or Southern magnolia. This is what’s left after the petals fall off the flowers, it slowly matures into this interesting-looking seedhead…the large, smooth brown leaves near the cones are magnolia leaves).

pine cones at Rikugien Garden

pine cones

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

Togetsukyo is a stone bridge that was named after a famous poem, “Shadow of the moon moving at night and cry of a crane in a marsh of reed on the shore of Waka, makes me feel so lonely.”  Two massive slabs of stone give a distinctive effect to the landscape.

Togetsukyo at Rikugien Garden

polka dots

Tsutsuji-chaya teahouse was built using wood materials of azalea in the Meiji period. It managed to escape damage during the war, passing on its rare style to the present day. The whole area today is planted with large numbers of azaleas.

Tsutsuji-chaya at Rikugien Garden

When the garden was first built, it was surrounded by large numbers of cherry trees and other flowering plants. It was used as a site for enjoying food and drink and viewing the blossoms. The Iwasaki family also had a building called the Ginka-tei, near the location shown below.

Rikugien Garden

foliage at Rikugien Garden

reflections at Rikugien Garden

The Horai-jima is a stone arch-shaped islet based on the main theme of Taoist immortality.


Horai-jima at Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden

stone lantern at Rikugien Garden

It’s just as hot here in the garden as it was yesterday at Kawagoe, so after strolling around and sweating profusely, I get back on the train.  I take the Romancecar back to Machida, where I stop at Dai Trattoria Pizzeria for dinner; here, I enjoy a glass of chilled white wine with a Sicilian Pizza.  This is the first time I’ve visited this place; my friend Graham described its location to me some time ago, and though I’ve been wanting to come for a while, I simply haven’t made it here before tonight. I’m happy to have a new place to add to my other favorite restaurants.

Total steps today: 14,936 (6.33 miles).

6 responses to “rikugien garden in tokyo

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  1. Yet another beautiful garden, Cathy. I really like all the different shapes of the lanterns. They are so ornamental.

    • Thanks, Carol. I’m sure this garden is much prettier in the fall, when the leaves are colorful. All I know is that it was hot and muggy. I did like the landscape, but I didn’t quite see the “most beautiful landscape garden in Tokyo” designation. 🙂

  2. What a gorgeous garden, Cathy. It’s a pleasure to see the “real thing” and to see bigger features than I’m used to, settling comfortably over the landscape. Also, the genesis was so interesting – I didn’t know about the custom of gardens following literature like that. Very cool! But terribly hot, I know!!
    The cones are from a Magnolia tree, probably the same type you’re used to in VA, Magnolia grandiflora, or Southern magnolia. This is what’s left after the petals fall off the flowers, it slowly matures into this interesting-looking seedhead.. See the large, smooth brown leaves near the cones? Those are magnolia leaves.
    Thank you for braving the heat and reporting on all the local treasures! Are you about to return? Or maybe you’re already back?

    • Thanks, Lynn. I thought it was interesting about the garden reflecting poetry. I think the garden would be beautiful in the fall with the changing leaves.

      It was so miserably hot in Tokyo in summer. The worst thing that there wasn’t much escape from the heat unless I was in my apartment, where I could turn on the A/C full blast! That’s good to know those are seedheads from the Magnolia tree. I’ll have to add that to the blog.

      I see by your other comment that you know I’m home now. I still have a lot to post about Japan though; I hope I can get a lot of it done before we go to Hungary, Austria and Czech Republic in about 17 days! 🙂

  3. You can feel the peaceful nature of those gardens through your photos. It’s lovely.

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