Once you visit this tranquil garden you will want to keep going back, again and again. In 1695 Tokugawa shogunate official and samurai Yoshiyasu Yanagisawa was given the land by the fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, and took seven years to build the garden. Its name comes from a poem in the ancient Chinese poetry classic Book of Odes, which sets out six principles of poetry. These greatly influenced Ki no Tsurayuki and other compilers of the ancient classic Kokin Wakashu (“Collection of Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times”) in formulating the six elements of waka poetry. Water for the lake was drawn from the Sen river aqueduct, and an artificial island with two hills, Imoyama and Seyama, was built. Scenic views evoking the world of waka were created around the lake; the Deshio no minato harbor, the Fujishiro Pass, and the Sasaganino Path that winds like a spider’s web, as well as a recreation of the famous scenic view Waka no Ura in Wakayama, mentioned in the Manyoshu (oldest collection of Japanese poetry) and Kokin Wakashu. The garden is a changing palette of colors with the weeping cherry blooming in spring, followed by azaleas, and autumn leaves in fall.
A map of Rikugien (from the Yanagisawa archives) showing the Rikugi mansion near the gardens, the villa of Yanagisawa, and the daimyo’s residences. Only the gardens are still in existence.
Location: Hon-komagome 6-chome, Bunkyo Ward
Closed: December 29 to January 1
Hours: 9 am to 4.30 pm (gates close 5 pm)
Admission: 300 yen, 150 yen for those 65 and older, free for elementary students and Tokyo middle school students