Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens is one of Tokyo’s most interesting and photogenic parks. Built in 1629, it has history, nature and beauty – everything a photographer could want. And the park reproduces some famous, but scaled down, landmarks from the Edo period. With every season and every step, you see something quite different.
As with all of the Edo-period parks, Koishikawa Korakuen has a pond with a winding path around it. Move along the path a bit and the perspective will change. That’s the purpose of such a path, change the perspective. It’s very rare to see straight lines in this type of park.
In the middle of the pond there is an island. The island has a shrine and a couple of residents. The residents are a couple of kingfishers that are quite famous! Whenever I’ve been to Koishikawa on a weekend, there has always been a community of photographers on the shore waiting for the birds to appear so they can get their shots. Maybe they are the most famous birds in Tokyo? I don’t know, but they certainly have a fan club. The cameramen there carry some serious photographic equipment, really big cameras, tripods and some enormous lenses.
I think Koishikawa Koruakuen is most famous for its two bridges, Tsuten-kyo and Engetsu-kyo. Tsuten-kyo is an wooden bridge that stretches across a small ravine and is vermillion in colour, extremely beautiful especially during autumn. Engetsu-kyo (or Full Moon Bridge) is completely different. It is made of stone and goes over a small stream. Look into the water and you will see the bridge’s reflection and you guessed it! It it looks like the moon – very nice!
Through the rest of Koishikawa you’ll see so much, a shrine, a rice field, plum and cherry blossoms, little hills that offer good vantage points for a view. For example, they recreated, "Atagozaka" (or the, "Slopes of Mt. Atago"), built in imitation of the mountain is found near Kyoto. Underneath, you can see a rice field. Really good stuff.
My favourite part of Koishikawa Korakuen is, "Naitei" (or Inner garden). It was where the Mito clan had a guesthouse. It’s really nice. Like the larger pond it has its own pond with a small island in the middle. There are two bridges that go over to the island but they are gated off. The garden is surrounded by trees and is rather quiet and secluded, giving it a real feeling of privacy. Sit on one of the benches there and just relax. Bring along a cup of tea and the world will be perfect.
Around the park, you’ll find a few buildings – all historical. Unfortunately they have all been rebuilt or are just the remains (usually a few blocks), so nothing there is original. There is another building there that is rather interesting, but it is next to the park, not it in. Over the tops of Koishikawa’s trees you can see Tokyo Dome! Just put it behind the ponds and you can get some interesting shots as it pops up over the trees.
How to get to Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens
The simplest way to get there for most people will be by using the Sobu line to get to Iidabashi station and then it is just an easy ten minute walk. Also going to the same station are the Tokyo-metro Tozai, Yurakucho and Nanboku lines. You can also use the Toei Oedo subway line, from which it is about 2 minute walk.
Here is a Google map to give you an idea:
Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens is open from 9am to 5pm (with last entry at 4:30pm). It is closed over the New Year period (from December 29 to January 1).
General entry to Koishikawa for adults is 300 yen.
Tours of Koishikawa Korakuen
There are tours in English of Korakuen on every Saturday throughout the year. They start at 10am and last approximately one hour. Bookings aren't required, but they won’t happen if there is rain.
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