On looking through the Tokyo Fox archive it’s quite apparent that I’ve never really written much about these gardens in Komagome. Rikugien has had brief mentions when I cycled Tokyo’s top 25 sights…in one day and when my friend Hugo visited (both in 2010) but despite going there half a dozen times it’s never had an entry all to itself…..until now!
This pleasant traditional Japanese garden is actually open during the cherry blossom season until 9pm offering visitors the chance to see the sakura illuminated with floodlights. My girlfriend and I did this a few years ago but I wasn’t that bothered by yozakura (night sakura) instead preferring the place in daylight.
With other commitments and haphazard weather, the window of opportunity for seeing sakura this year has been very limited so I had to venture on up to Komagome last Wednesday before work. On entering the garden (300 yen) you encounter a weeping cherry tree and I was expecting much more from there on in but was a tad disappointed to realise that beyond that initial tree, the sakura was fairly scarce! I can only guess that it looks at its very best during the koyo (Autumn leave) season.
However, there’s far more to Rikugien than its brief flirtation with sakura for it is very much a beautiful and tranquil place to wander and collect your thoughts without too much exterior traffic noise. The tallest hill in the garden is called Fujishiro-toge and its a whopping 35 metres high! The views from the top really are quite wonderful.
For the record, it was laid out in 1695 though nothing too much seemed to happen for a couple of centuries before it was properly created in 1938.
The name rikugien is taken from the six principles of waka poetry and the landscaping is inspired by Japanese and Chinese poetic references which of course I know nothing whatsoever about! Six is usually read as ‘roku‘ but the ‘riku‘ part of the name is derived from the Chinese pronunciation of the word.
It should be noted that these gardens may look quite natural in appearance but they are actually artificial. It is supposedly typical of an Edo-period garden and it features a large central pond surrounded by hills, open lawns, forested areas and a teahouse or three. All of these are connected by a network of trails and it takes about an hour to stroll around.