Tokyo’s Japanese Gardens

ByMichael Stigall
Jan 30, 2023

Tokyo’s Japanese Gardens

Let’s be honest for a moment: Tokyo is an amazing place, but sometimes all that concrete and urban bustle can get to even the best of us. What does a person do on those kinds of days? Well, there is always a train out of town somewhere quieter, or maybe a visit to the nearest onsen or even one of Tokyo’s many larger parks (which might be packed full of people). However, there is an often overlooked answer in Tokyo’s many traditional Japanese gardens. Here, you can find an oasis of calm from all of that and all those advertisements, and usually, they can be pretty sparse for other visitors if you go at the right time. So, have a cup of tea, follow me along this list, and get ready to plan for the next time you’d rather not remember you live in one of the largest cities in the world.

Shinjuku Gyoen – Shinjuku

Of course, Shinjuku Gyoen gets a mention. In addition to their wonderful Japanese garden, there is a French and English garden to enjoy. This one is more crowded than many other options on our list, but its location in Shinjuku also makes it one of the more accessible places to visit, and the fee is next to nothing. Like most gardens on our list, Shinjuku Gyoen is worth a visit year-round, but its size makes it that much more rewarding simply strolling the grounds can take up quite some time, and there are quite a few places to stop for a snack or even a cup of coffee.

Shinjuku Gyoen
11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo
Admission: Adults: 500 yen, Seniors and Students: 250 yen

Kiyosumi Garden – Kiyosumi Shirakawa

I am admittedly a big fan of this garden since I try to visit it fairly often. This used to be a private estate and was built by the founder of Mitsubishi, Iwasaki Yataro, in the late 1800s. While it is one of the smaller gardens, the fact it is in a relatively quieter area of town means that it is much more tranquil but still reasonably easy to get to. Enjoy the many creatures you’ll find throughout the park, such as koi, turtles, and ducks. There are also plenty of hidden gems around the park, including Blue Bottle Coffee’s flagship shop, although you will probably be more in the mood for some tea. If you don’t visit this part of town often, it is worth making a day of it and poking your head around this underrated neighborhood after visiting the garden.

Kiyosumi Garden
3-3-9 Kiyosumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Admission: Adults: 150 yen, Seniors: 70 yen

Hama-rikyu Gardens – Shiodome

Hama-rikyu Gardens are just a short walk from the Shiodome and Shimbashi Station. The garden is an easy addition to this list for its size and incorporation of water into its design. Simply put, it is the most aquatic-themed garden you will find. It incorporates part of the coastline, tidal pools, and wetlands, which gives it a different feel. There’s some great history behind this garden, too. It started as a private duck hunting ground for the Tokugawa Family before being turned into a palatial retreat before finally becoming a garden for the Emperor. It’s only been open to the public in the modern era. Seeing as this used to be one of the more exclusive spots in Tokyo, how can one not be interested in seeing more?

Hama-rikyu Gardens
1-1 Hama Rikyu-teien, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Admission: General admission of 300 yen, Seniors: 150 yen

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens – Suidobashi

Next time you visit Tokyo Dome or go to the neighboring amusement park, you might be surprised to realize that a spacious 17th-century Japanese garden is located almost next door. This park is only a fraction of its original size but comes through with scenery. There are bridges, beautiful walkways, miniaturized landscapes, and impressive foliage. As the residence of the Mito branch of the Tokugawa family, this was a garden for some of the highest levels of aristocracy, and it shows. Bring your camera and pick a season because this garden will not disappoint you.

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens
1-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Admission: General admission of 300 yen, Seniors: 150 yen

Rikugien Gardens – Komagome

This one is further out than some of the other options on this list but is still easily accessible via the Yamanote Line. Located in the relatively quiet neighborhood of Komagome, this garden is perhaps one of the best examples of a Japanese Garden from the Edo Period. There is even an ongoing debate over whether this is the best Japanese Garden in Tokyo, so it definitely belongs on this list, although I will leave it up to the readers to pick their favorites. Perhaps best of all is the teahouse, which makes a lovely matcha green tea. The best seasons for this garden are said to be fall and spring. 

Rikugien Gardens
6-16-3 Hon-komagome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Admission: General admission of 300 yen, Seniors: 150 yen

Tonogayato Gardens – Kokubunji

I realize that some of the gardens on the list may not satisfy those who want to feel like the city is but a memory. For those readers, who I am assuming don’t want to travel all the way to the countryside, might I recommend Tonogayato Gardens? This garden was used as a place of residence by Mitsubishi’s founder, and Japanese garden aficionado, Iwasaki Yataro. You may remember him from the entry to the Kiyosumi Garden. Since 1974, nearly 50 years now, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has managed the garden, which turns 100 in a few years. As it is a relatively new garden, there is a mixture of Japanese and Western elements. Like all the options on our list, it’s worth a visit and will take your mind off the noise and crowds of this megalopolis.

Tonogayato Gardens
2-16 Minami-machi, Kokubunji City, Tokyo
Admission: General admission of 150 yen, Seniors: 70 yen

公益財団法人 東京都公園協会, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Michael Stigall editor

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