Rikugi-en: A Purely Japanese Garden in Tokyo Built by a Poetry Lover
Tokyo was the center of power in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868) as the shogun resided. And today there are many scenic spots and famous landmarks reminiscent of the power of influential daimyo lords.
Rikugi-en is well known among them as a grand garden once belonged to a powerful daimyo, Yoshiyasu Yanagisawa (1659-1714), who was a close entourage of the fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa (1646-1709). It is in Toshima Ward of Tokyo and known as Garden of Waka Poetry, where you can enjoy beautiful scenery from season to season while walking around the pond.
This time I would like to bring to your attention the charm of Rikugi-en, which is rich with beauty of nature together with the mood of Edo culture. It is a popular sightseeing spot in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, and surely interesting for foreign people, too.
What is Rikugi-en?
You would probably like to know how this name came about and what it means.
Waka is a form of classic Japanese poetry that started around 8th century, in which words are grouped in short phrases that consist of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 sounds.
“Rikugi” of Rikugi-en refers to 6 types of waka, a classical concept of dividing waka poetry into 6 groups. One group is expressing emotion, another is describing objects and observations directly, yet another is using analogy, and so on.
This pattern of grouping was derived from a classification method used in the study of poetry in ancient China, and Yoshiyasu Yanagisawa, who commissioned the construction of the garden, loved writing waka himself and authored a book titled “Rikugi-en-no-ki” (Story of Rikugi-en).
After the Edo period ended (1868) and the Meiji period started, Yataro Iwasaki, the founder of Mitsubishi zaibatsu group purchased the garden as his secondary residence.
Later in 1938, Iwasaki family donated the garden to Tokyo municipal government, and it was designated as a special scenic spot of the country in 1953.
It is now loved by tourists from all over the world as a valuable cultural asset showing beauty of the pure Japanese style remaining from the Edo period.
Wonderful View from So-called Fujimiyama
Fujishiro-toge ridge is at the highest altitude in the garden and it is also known as Fujimiyama. From the altitude of 35 meters above sea level, you can capture the whole view of tree-lined beautiful garden and modern buildings of Tokyo in the background all at once.
With a concert of the nature and modern in front of your eyes, you will surely taste the depths of Edo culture.
Shinjuku Gyoen; Nature within the Heart of the City
Tired? Drop by Tea Houses
When you feel like taking a break from walking in the garden, let’s visit one of the three tea houses I will describe next. All of them offer elegant rest spaces that are unique to the garden.
1. Tsutsuji Chaya (Azalea Tea House)
2. Fukiage Chaya
If you feel like filling your stomach lightly, you should go to Fukiage Chaya. You can relax and enjoy the deep taste of green tea and dango dumpling while treating your eyes with the view of the pond.
3. Takimi no Chaya
This tea house is a gazebo built near a creek. The stream runs through rocks that divide the flow and there is Chidori-bashi Bridge in front of you. It is known as one of the most scenic spots in the garden.
Recommended for Foreigners! Wear Happi Coat and Take Pictures
There is a place in Rikugi-en where you can take a picture with a happi coat on.
Happi is a short coat worn by gardeners and firefighters in the Edo period, and it will let you enjoy the feeling of Edo culture just by wearing it.
It is especially recommended for those who love traditional Japanese culture.
Rokugi-en is a place where you can enjoy the view of the seasons and world view expressed in Japanese gardens. You can learn about unique Japanese culture and its healing effects on tired mind/heart is outstanding, too. When you visit Tokyo for sightseeing, please don’t forget making a stop here.
Access: Tokyo Station on JR Yamanote Line -> Komagome Station (about 18 minutes), Map
Open: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Entry is up to 4: 30 PM)
Closed: Around New Year (12/29-1/1)
Guide in Japanese: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. (Twice a day at 11 AM and 2 PM)
Guide in English: First and third Sundays of the month (Twice a day at 11 AM and 2 PM)