For those seeking tradition and simplicity, step into Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens and wander in its peaceful premises. Located in the Bunkyo ward of Tokyo, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens creates an elegant and serene sanctuary in the hectic scramble of Tokyo. This traditional Japanese garden shows its diverse faces accordingly to the seasons, with plum trees blossoming in the spring and falling leaves embellishing the grounds in the fall. Take a step into Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens for a much-needed refreshment away from the city life.
About Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden in autumn
Koishikawa Korakuen is a city-managed Japanese garden, in the Korakuen area of Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward. The garden was constructed in the early Edo area, and has been state-registered as a special historical heritage site, and scenic spot since 1952. Out of all city-managed gardens, this and the Hamarikyu Gardens are the only ones to receive both designations. Koishikawa Korakuen garden is also said to be the oldest of all Japanese gardens in Tokyo.
The garden is composed around a central pond, and visitors are intended to enjoy the change in scenery as they walk the trail around it. This Japanese garden is also characterized by the names of its sceneries, many of which have taken influence from famous locations in China. Look at the way the garden expresses Japan’s many beautiful sceneries of lakes, mountains, rivers and rice fields!
This massive Japanese garden with an area of over 70,000m2, displays a different beauty at every turn of the season with a colorful diorama of plum trees, cherry blossoms, azalea and irises that surround the pond.
History of Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden takes influence from Chinese culture
The land on which Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens sits today first belonged to Tokugawa Yorifusa, the founder of the Mito branch (present day Ibaraki prefecture) of the ruling Tokugawa Clan. His son, Mitsukuni, completed the construction of the residence and garden in 1629. Mitsukuni conceptualized Confucian teachings when planning this garden, taking inspiration from important Chinese Confucian scholars and their sayings. In fact, the name of the garden, “Korakuen”, derives from a quote from a book by Fan Zhongyan, a scholar from the Song Dynasty of ancient China.
Shidare-Zakura (Weeping Cherry Blossoms)
The weeping cherry tree, or shidare-zakura in Japanese, can be found right as you enter the garden. This particular tree is over 60 years old, and boasts a charming pink scene in the spring.
The weeping cherry trees of Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
Daisensui (The Grand Pond)
The Daisensui pond of Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
The pond in the center of the garden is the Daisensui. Inspired by Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, the pond plays the role of the main attraction in the gardens. The man-made island, named Horai-jima, and the rocks in the pond coordinate well with the surrounding atmosphere to create graceful scenery. In its earlier days, the pond was used for sailing as well.
To the north of the pond is Shorozan, a hill resembling Mount Lu (Lushan) in China. Ruscus leaf bamboos cover the round man-made hill. From the top of the hill is a breathtaking view of the entire garden.
Tsutenbashi Bridge and Oigawa in Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
The capacious stream running towards the western side of the park is the Oi-gawa river. The Oi-gawa River is a real river in Kyoto prefecture, and the one here is a smaller replica of the original. The water in it used to be pulled straight from Kanda Aqueduct.
The bridge arching over the Oi-gawa River is Engetsukyo. Confucian scholar Zhu Zhiyu, who Mitsunari greatly welcomed and endeared, planned the design of the bridge. The name of the bridge translates to “Round Moon”, since the bridge and its reflection in the river connects to form a full moon.
Naitei (The Inner Garden)
The lotus leaves of Koishikawa Korakuen's inner garden
The inner garden, or "naitei", sits at the southern end of the garden. While the garden was under Tokugawa possession, the naitei was a separate facility from the rest of the garden. This area was used as a private cram school during the Tokugawa days.
Inada (Rice Paddy Field)
Rice paddy field
At the very eastern end of the garden is the rice paddy, or inada. The rice paddy area has an abundance of plum trees, irises and wisterias. Mitsukuni decided to place a rice paddy within his garden grounds to teach his wife and child the hardships of farming and peasant life.
Plum Blossom Festival (Spring)
The plum blossoms of Koishikawa Korakuen
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden has approximately 90 plum trees of 35 types, which reach their prime season around late February to early March. Tokugawa Mitsukuni who was responsible for the completion of this garden, is said to have loved plum trees so much that he took on the pseudonym "Bairi" (梅里 = land of plums) when he took part in creative activities such as calligraphy and painting.
Bamboo Crafts Workshop (May)
Held on Children’s Day (May 5th), the Bamboo Crafts Workshop is a family-friendly event. From 10:00a.m. to 3:00a.m., with only a participation fee of ¥50, you and your child can experience traditional Japanese arts and crafts.
Fall Foliage Festival (Autumn)
Fall foliage at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens
The Fall Foliage Festival will have you feeling fall with every single one of your senses. Autumn in Japan is already stunning to begin with, but it is exceptional at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens with the traditional Japanese garden supporting the fall foliage scenery. From the end of November to the beginning of December the gardens will be adorned in autumn hues.
Koishikawa Korakuen in the winter
To prevent snow from weighing the trees branches down, yuki-tsuri are placed over the trees. Yuki-tsuri ropes carefully situate on the trees, and resemble an empty Christmas tree. During the winter months, you can see the trees in Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens with the traditional Japanese technology, yuki-tsuri over them.
Nearest station: Iidabashi Station (JR Chuo Sobu Line JB16, Toei Oedo Line E06, Tokyo Metro Tozai Line T06/Yurakucho Line Y13/Namboku Line N10)
From Shinjuku Station
【Shinjuku Sta.】JR Chuo Sobu Line / for Tsudanuma
→【Iidabashi Sta.】from the East Exit → about a 8-minute walk
From Tokyo Station
【Tokyo Sta.】JR Chuo Line / for Takao
→【Ochanomizu Sta.】JR Chuo Sobu Line / for Nakano
→【JR Iidabashi Sta.】from the East Exit → about a 8-minute walk
From Narita Airport
【Narita Airport Sta.】Skyliner / for Keisei Ueno
→【Keisei Ueno Sta.】→ about a 5-minute walk
→【Ueno Okachimachi Sta.】Toei Oedo Line / for Tochomae
→【Iidabashi Sta.】from Exit C3 → about a 3-minute walk
From Haneda Airport
【Haneda Airport Sta.】Tokyo Monorail / for Hamamatsucho
→【Hamamatsucho Sta.】Keihin Tohoku Line / for Minami-urawa
→【Akihabara Sta.】JR Chuo Sobu Line / for Nakano
→【JR Iidabashi Sta.】from the East Exit → about a 8-minute walk