Guide To The Best Japanese Gardens In Tokyo

Tokyo is a mega metropolis of steel and stone, yet people forget it also hosts some of the world’s most beautiful gardens. The Japanese have elevated the art of landscaping to a level few other countries can reach. For a small fee you can stroll through these magnificent and meticulously designed gardens. The placement of every bush, flower, tree or boulder is purposeful and thought out. Walking through these stunning spaces brings a meditative quiet to the spirit as you sit back and enjoy your surroundings.

Below is my list of the top gardens that Tokyo has to offer. Make sure to visit a few on your next visit and take in the beauty that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

 

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku is one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular gardens. It sprawls over 58 hectares and blends three distinct styles: French Formal, English Landscape and Japanese traditional. There are over 20,000 trees in this garden and over 1,500 are cherry trees. In the spring time Shinjuku is one of the best places to see the cherry blossoms.

Directions: There are three gates into this garden. (1) Shinjuku Gate is a ten minute walk east from the “New South Exit” of JR Shinjuku Station or a five minute walk from Shinjukugyoenmae Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line.  (2) Okido Gate is also a five minute walk from Shinjukugyoenmae Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line.  (3) Sendagaya Gate is a five minute walk from JR Sendagaya Station on the local Chuo/Sobu Line.

Hours: 9:00 to 16:30 (entry until 16:00)

Fees: 200 yen

photo credit: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden via photopin (license)
photo credit: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden via photopin (license)
photo credit: Docomo Tower @ Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden via photopin (license)
photo credit: Docomo Tower @ Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden via photopin (license)

 

Kiyosumi Garden

This isn’t the biggest or grandest garden in Tokyo, but it’s my favorite. It’s a traditional Japanese garden that’s framed around a large pond which has a small island in it. The walkways of this garden guide its visitors around the lake allowing them to take in the beautiful landscaping from different perspectives. I also love the use of stones and boulders throughout the garden. The landscaped stones and water worn boulders add character. There’s also a beautiful teahouse that rests near the lake.

Direction: The park is a short walk from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station on the Hanzomon and Oedo Subway Lines.

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)

Fees: 150 yen

Kiyosumi Garden
Kiyosumi Garden
Kiyosumi Garden
Kiyosumi Garden


Rikugien Garden

Rikugien is a gorgeous Edo Period strolling garden that features a large central pond surrounded by man made hills and a forested area. As with most Japanese gardens, autumn (with the leaves turning red) and spring (with the shrubs blooming and the cherry blossoming) provide the best viewing experiences.

Directions: Rikugien is a 5-10 minute walk south of Komagome Station on the JR Yamanote Line or Namboku Subway Line.

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)

Fee: 300 yen

photo credit: Rikugien Garden via photopin (license)
photo credit: Rikugien Garden via photopin (license)
photo credit: Rikugien Garden via photopin (license)
photo credit: Rikugien Garden via photopin (license)

 

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

The Koishikawa Korakuen provides its visitors with a serene setting to escape the manic pace of urban life in Tokyo. Like most traditional gardens it attempts to reproduce miniature landscapes using ponds, stones, trees and man made hills. In this expansive garden (sprawling over 70,000 square meters) plum, cherry, wisteria and iris trees have been planted.  The garden also contains rocks and bridges which depict scenic sights from Japan and China such as Togetsu-kyo bridge, Byobu-iwa rock formation and Tsuten-kyo bridge.

Directions:  5-10 minute walk from Iidabashi Station along the JR Chuo Line. 

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)

Fees: 300 yen

Koishikawa Korakuen
Koishikawa Korakuen


Hama Rikyu Gardens

Hama Rikyu was a feudal lord’s retreat during the Edo period. There’s an old-style teahouse on a tidal pond, a 300-year-old pine, a grove of plum trees and a peony field. This is a beautiful garden, but unlike its peers, it has a more subdued beauty during the spring and autumn seasons.

Directions: It’s a 10-15 minute walk from JR Shimbashi Station or a 5-10 minute walk from Shiodome Station on the Oedo Subway Line.

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)

Fees: 300 yen

photo credit: Hama-rikyū Gardens (浜離宮恩賜庭園) via photopin (license)
photo credit: Hama-rikyū Gardens (浜離宮恩賜庭園) via photopin (license)
 photo credit: Hamarikyu Gardens via photopin (license)
photo credit: Hamarikyu Gardens via photopin (license)

 


Below is a video I shot during the turning of leaves in Kyoto that will give you a feel of what it’s like to visit a Japanese Garden.