In a city renowned for its modern architecture and busy railways, the places where one can escape Tokyo’s clamor can be a blessing. Fortunately, Tokyo is filled with calming gardens tucked away in various corners of the enormous metropolis. Many as old as 400 years old.
Whether you want to lounge under sakura trees, stroll past well-trimmed greenery, or sit reflectively by a koi pond, the gardens of Tokyo have something for everyone.
Let’s take a look at five of the most calming gardens in Tokyo.
1) Hamarikyu Gardens
Hamarikyu Garden is an oasis that manages to maintain its pristine and calming atmosphere despite its central location.
The foliage changes from season to season, with Yoshino cherry blossoms and Japanese wisteria during springtime, and cosmos and hydrangeas in summer. A 300-year old pine tree also exists within the grounds. Its thick, imposing branches can catch anyone’s eye, regardless of the season.
A pond that responds to the ebb and flow of the tide of Tokyo Bay overlooks the gardens from the north. There’s also an island teahouse in the middle of the pond that serves hot green tea, beside the 118-year-old bridge that connects the teahouse to the main shore.
The stark contrast between nature and the city, less than a mile away, is perhaps the feature I find the most fascinating about this garden. For reference, the garden’s location is just a stone’s throw away from the world-famous Tsukiji wet fish market and towering skyscrapers of Shinbashi.
If you don’t want to go off the beaten track, this garden is worth a visit.
It’s a 5-10 minute walk from Shiodome station. The garden is open from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and costs ¥300 (about $3) for adults under 65.
2) Koishikawa Gardens
The Koishikawa Korakuen, which was established in 1632 by the ruling Tokugawa family of that time, is recognized as one of Tokyo’s first gardens. It’s well known for its depiction of Japanese and Chinese scenery using miniature plants and manmade hills.
Most people would say that visiting the Koishikawa gardens during fall is the best time. The colors reflecting off its three ponds turn an auburn red, adding a vibrant layer to the garden’s already intricate composition. A grove of maidenhair trees also turns a bright yellow during the autumn season.
If you’re in Tokyo during the spring, especially in late March or early April, you’ll be greeted with a dazzling sight of weeping cherry trees by the garden entrance. Pink leaves are abundant within the grounds, too, which is a great backdrop and picnic spot for residents and tourists alike.
If you’re fond of seeing new views every couple of steps, you’ll enjoy taking a detour from the busy streets and into the Koishikawa gardens.
It’s a 5-10 minute walk from Iidabashi station. The garden is open from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and costs ¥300 (about $3) for adults under 65.
3) Rikugien Gardens
Located in Bunkyo Ward’s Komagome, Rikugien Gardens is one of Tokyo’s more beautiful and spacious gardens. It can take up to an hour to cover the entire area on foot. Beyond its gorgeous ponds and tranquil spots, Rikugien carries with it a fascinating history as well.
The garden was donated by the Iwasaki family during the Showa era in 1938, and 15 years later, it was deemed an important cultural asset by the city of Tokyo. Perhaps the most distinctive piece of history of this garden, however, is that 88 stone markers once dotted the landscape of the gardens in 1702. 32 of those markers can still be found today.
The garden draws its style from the classical Edo period, featuring rolling hills and a vast pond that covers the span of the garden from north to south. The highest peak, Fujishiro-toge (“Fuji-view peak”) provides an unobstructed view of the scenic landscape beneath it.
One other cool feature of the garden is the Garyu-Seiki (Sleeping Dragon Rock), a half-submerged rock that resembles a sleeping dragon.
The combined effect of these elements makes Rikugien Gardens one of Tokyo’s most picturesque and unique places.
The garden’s a 7-minute walk from Komagome station. Admission to the garden is open from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and costs ¥300 (about $3) for adults under 65.
4) Kiyosumi Gardens
Pine, azalea, hydrangea, iris, and Taiwan cherry are some of the most frequent plants you’ll see once you step foot in this garden.
But perhaps the most remarkable landmark of this landscape garden is the presence of decorative stones set around the grounds and pond. There also once stood a Tudor-brick building built by an English architect a generation ago. However, it didn’t survive the Great Kanto Earthquake that devastated the city in 1923.
The stones in the pond double as stepping stone paths as well, allowing you to cross the water while admiring the turtles and koi fish swimming about.
Within the gardens, the Taisho Memorial Museum displays an original collection of Izu Buddhist art to visitors for a fee. You can also find a restaurant here, although you’ll need a reservation to dine there.
The garden’s a 3-minute walk from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station. Admission to the garden is open from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and costs ¥150 (about $1.50) for adults under 65.
5) Kyushibarikyu Gardens
Set against a contemporary urban backdrop, the Kyushibarikyu garden is another popular attraction that features a gorgeous pond, low bonsais, and old stone lanterns.
The garden pond is divided by a stone path cut at the center, where visitors can trek to and fro as they please. In the middle, a small island circle provides a nice vantage point where one can see the entirety of the garden in a single spin.
The garden also features a circular path around the edges where visitors can see sandy rocks in one corner and an organized line of trees and shrubs in the next.
The garden’s a 1-minute walk from Hamamatsu-cho station. Admission to the garden is open from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and costs ¥150 (about $1.50) for adults under 65.