3 Best Japanese Traditional Gardens in Tokyo

by Shiori Fukuda

What kind of impressions do you have about Tokyo? An urban city with tons of skyscrapers? Subway trains crazily crowded? Well those are all true. However, Tokyo also has beautiful places rich in nature that can give you inner peace. Moreover, you can be exposed to traditional Japanese culture there. Today, we are going to take a look at Japanese traditional gardens in Tokyo.

Japanese Traditional Garden
Japanese Traditional Garden in Tokyo

Traditional gardens in Tokyo were originally created between the 17th and 19th century by the people who held political and economic power at that time such as the lords of local governments or wealthy merchants. They deeply appreciated natural beauty and tried to make big gardens where they could enjoy nature in all four seasons. Today most of them are owned and managed by local or national government, so you can enter these gardens at reasonable rates. I would like to introduce my three favorite Japanese gardens in Tokyo.

1. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑)

With 58.3 hectare (144 acres) in size and a circumference of 3.5 km, Shinjuku Gyoen blends three distinct styles: French Formal Garden, English Landscape Garden, and Japanese Traditional Garden. So you can enjoy not only Japanese traditional garden style, but also Western ones.

Shinjuku Gyoen
French Formal Garden at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Because there are many kinds of trees and plants in Shinjuku Gyoen, you can see beautiful scenery anytime. In my opinion, the best season of this garden is spring! Although Japan is famous for cherry blossoms in the spring season, they only bloom for a short while. However, you can enjoy cherry blossoms for a long time at Shinjuku Gyoen (from mid-February to the end of April) because there are 65 species of cherry blossoms (the timing of being in full bloom depends on species).

Shinjuku Gyoen in Spring
Cherry Blossoms at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

As you can see in this picture above, this garden is close to Shinjuku, which is one of the major commercial areas in Tokyo. Therefore, it’s easy to get there even for tourists by public transportation.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Admission Fee:
¥200 (about $2.00) for adults
¥50 (about $0.50) for elementary or junior high school students
Free for infants

2. Rikugien Gardens (六義園)

Rikugien Gardens was made in 1695 by a feudal lord named Yoshiyasu Yanagisawa (柳沢吉保). He was deeply passionate about literature, so this garden was created based on the theme of “Waka” (和歌) poetry. It is said that this garden is characteristic of the famous gardens of Edo Period.

Rikugien contains more than thirty thousand trees and a myriad of beautiful plants. In the autumn season, you can enjoy brightly-colored red and yellow fall foliage, which are beautifully illuminated at night. This garden is also famous for hydrangea in the rainy season in June.

Rikugien Fall Foliage at Rikugien Gardens

Similar to other Japanese traditional gardens, Rikugien has a historical building that is used as a Chaya (茶屋), which means traditional teahouse in Japanese. After walking around the garden, you can take a rest and view the beautiful pond while drinking hot Matcha and eating Wagashi (Japanese traditional dessert). I am sure that this will give you inner peace. A cup of Matcha with small Wagashi costs ¥510 (about $5) at this Chaya named “Fukiage Chaya” (吹上茶屋).

Rikugien2The Pond at Fukiage Chaya

Rikugien Gardens
Admission Fee:
¥300 (about $3.00)
¥150 (about $1.50) for senior citizens

3. Kiyosumi Gardens (清澄庭園)

Designed in “Kaiyu-style” (回遊式庭園) to facilitate wandering around, Kiyosumi Gardens is also very characteristic of Japanese traditional gardens from the Edo Period. Although Japan also has another type of traditional garden (this type of garden is supposed to be viewed from inside buildings) people began to build more Kaiyu-style gardens from Edo Period onwards. Like other Kaiyu-style gardens, Kiyosumi Gardens has a big pond in the center of it, and you can enjoy this pond walking along the paths that snake around it.

Kiyosumi Gardens Kiyosumi Gardens

In this garden, you can also walk on the rocks around the pond. These rocks are called “Iso Watari” (磯渡り). Walking on the rocks gives you a different view from the paths, and more surprisingly, these rocks are located carefully so that the scenery you can see changes at every step. Although it’s absolutely exciting and enjoyable to try Iso Watari, be careful not to fall into the pond!

Iso Watari The Biggest Iso Watari in Kiyosumi Gardens

Kiyosumi Gardens is also known as the place where you can see a variety of wild birds. If you are interested in bird watching, you should definitely go to Kiyosumi Gardens to find beautiful birds such as spot-billed ducks, brown-eared bulbuls, gray herons, and more.
Kiyosumi Gardens
Admission Fee:
¥150 (about $1.50)
¥70 (about $0.70) for senior citizens

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