Green spaces may not be as clearly visible on the Tokyo map as in other world cities but dig deep enough (not literally!) and you’ll discover that Japan’s capital city possesses an array of fairly small gardens to offer a (cliché alert!) bit of respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
The likes of Hama-rikyu, Rikugien, Showa Kinen Park and Shinjuku-gyoen are all fairly well known gardens but there are actually a couple of dozen more and they are all far more quiet and relaxing than those more famous ones. I should add that two or three of these may be more familiar than the others. That’s just the way things go and no doubt there will be some people reading this who knows all of them! If that’s you then well done! If not, then enjoy.
Please note that these gardens all look far better than shown by my photography. Also, I visited many of these out of season so you’ll have to replace all the brown and green in your mind with red, yellow, pink or purple depending on the season!
1. Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens @ 3-18-3 Higashi-Mukojima, Sumida-ku (¥150) – With Tokyo Sky Tree visibly clear in the background, these gardens have a nice bonus for some pictures. This flower garden was built in the early 19th century with the help of literary people rather than feudal lords.
2. Mejiro Garden @ 3-20-18 Mejiro, Toshima-ku (Free) – This really is a hidden gem and I emphasise the word hidden as this is difficult to find on some quiet back streets along the tracks between Mejiro and Ikebukuro stations. Unlike many other gardens, this is relatively new having been built by Toshima ward in 1990.
3. Higo-Hosokawa Garden @ 1-1-22 Mejirodai, Bunkyo-ku (Free) – These impressive circular-style gardens make the most of the varied landforms to create a multi-dimensional landscape. There are plenty of paths to wander round in this serenity of calm.
4. Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens @ 1-4-1 Kaigan, minato-ku (¥150) – Very much living in the shadow of the far more famous and popular Hama-rikyu Gardens, these are a good alternative. It is a typical Japanese garden with a pond surrounded by a path, featuring some fine ground and stone work.
5. Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens @ 1-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku (¥300) – Located right next to Tokyo Dome (your peace and quiet may well be interrupted by the noise coming from there!), these gardens date back to the 17th century. The garden is centred on a larger pond but has many stone pathways leading off to more calm and scenic spots. More details here
6. Kyu Furukawa Gardens @ 1-27-39 Nishigahara, Kita-ku (¥150) – The “other gardens” near Komagome Station are in the opposite direction of Rikugien Gardens but can easily be combined. A Western-style mansion sits atop the hill on the north side and, along with that, there is also a bright western garden as well as a wonderful Japanese one too. More details here
7. Kiyosumi Gardens @ 3-3-9 Kiyosumi, Koto-ku (¥150) – Maybe the most widely-known garden in this post. They are a fine example of Meiji-era gardens with a large pond playing the central scenic role with an arrangement of three islets inside. More details here
8. Ikedayama Park @ 5-4-35 Higashi-Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku (Free) – Containing a highland and lowland area, this relaxing place contains a gourd-shaped pond with a circuit-style garden round it. The chances of seeing more than a couple of people here are very remote!
9. Keio Mogusaen @ 560 Mogusa, Hino-shi (¥300) – The thatch roofed Shoren-an is surrounded by peaceful scenery including a pond in the shape of the Japanese character for heart. Maple leaves in Autumn, wisteria in May and plum blossoms in February and early March are the highlights.
10. Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens @ 1-3-34 Ikenohata, Taito-ku (¥400) – It may have the word gardens in the title but this place is not worth visiting for those. It’s just a basic lawn with a couple of small landscapes amidst some beautiful buildings on sight including a Western Residence, a Japanese residence and a billiard room.
Bonus: Yakushi-ike Park @ 3270 Nozuta-machi, Machida-shi (Free) – This spacious garden (it’s not really a park!) centring on a vast lake surrounded by plum, camellia, maple and cherry trees are just over the road from Machida Squirrel Garden which of course is not a garden!
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Temple Garden Of Philosophy
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