Let's Go! Gardens of Japan Part I

The honorable Kikuchi san and Pinson san - international brothers!

This past spring I had the great honor of visiting Japan for my first time. David has been a few times and has gotten to know some very dear people. When we were invited by our wonderful friend Kikuchi san to visit him in Tokyo, he gracefully asked me about my interests. "Gardens!" Was my reply, and Kikuchi being the best tour guide around introduced us to some incredible places. Let's take a tour on Part One of my Gardens of Japan series and meet people we count as our friends across the seas. 

We visited about six different gardens and temples in all, so one or two gardens per post is about right. Let's visit the first one! Come along with Kikuchi san, Pinson san and Tamara san on a Japanese adventure to a lovely (and ancient) Tokyo Garden.

 Our first garden was in the northeast Tokyo area where Kikuchi san grew up, the Bunkyo-ku district. There you will find the Rikugi-en Garden.

 This is a very traditional garden -  here's what their website says about this beautiful place:

This strolling, mountain and pond-style garden was created based on the theme of Waka poetry in the 15th year of the Genroku Period (1702) by the shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi's trusted confidante Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu. This garden is a typical example of the famous gardens of Edo Period. In the Meiji Period, this garden became a second residence of the founder of Mitsubishi, Iwasaki Yataro. Later, in the 13th year of Showa (1938), the Iwasaki family donated this garden to the City of Tokyo, and in Showa 28 (1953) it was designated as a special site of exceptional beauty and an important cultural asset.The name "Rikugien" refers to a system for dividing Chinese poetry into six categories. This system also influenced the division of Japanese Waka poetry as well. Although the number six is usually read "roku," in the case of the garden's name, it is pronounced "riku" in keeping with the Chinese pronunciation of the word.

 It was a cloudy and windy day, but great for visiting gardens. I was surprised at what we saw. I think I was expecting something along the lines of Portland's lush Japanese garden. This was a treat and a lovely, relaxing way to encounter nature in a people-packed city.

 Many familiar foliage types, but with a twist. I have to admit, I have a handicap of not reading Japanese so many of these plants I know intuitively but not all varieties. If anyone wants to fill in the blanks on some of these, I'd love to hear from you.

  These pine trees, so very old, are held up by wooden scaffolds. They rather blend in, don't you think?


 The pond area, the centerpiece of the garden. Cool boat house, too!

   More tree supports.

 I think they are quite elegant.

 At the tea house, we stopped for a treat. Green tea and sweets, so lovely! 

 The pond area again with hills in the background. 

I can imagine this must be the way to the Shire and some cozy Hobbit hole!

 The azaleas were in full bloom, some were quite old. We'll see some that are the size of trees in future posts in this series.

Elegant simplicity.

 What a view! Spring color really shines here.

 Tree pruning by hand, very carefully no doubt.

 The bamboo forest. Kikuchi was telling us that you can eat the very young shoots of the bamboo.

 The largest bee I have ever seen! Looks like he's enjoying some wisteria nectar.

Thus ends our tour of Rikugi-en garden, the first of a few blog posts on our Japanese adventure. Next up we'll visit Meiji Jingu gardens in the heart of Tokyo and some other sites around the city. We'll move on to Kyoto after that to some stunning temple gardens and even a Japanese castle! What a wonderful trip, I can't wait to share the other gardens with you all.

Sayonara until next week! 

**a special thank you to guest-star Kikuchi san

Husband note: We owe the success of our Japan adventure to our dear friend and brother Kikuchi-san. Without his schedule and directions, we'd still be lost in the Tokyo subway!


  1. Anonymous7:11 PM PDT

    Oh Tamara - what a fabulous adventure! I have wanted to visit Japan and its gardens forever, so I'm turning as green as the well-clipped shrubs with envy here.... Anyway, I live vicariously through you, so hank you so much for sharing. Great post!

  2. Oh, creativeflux....I am happy to share and I hope you have the opportunity to visit someday. If you do, I'll send Kikuchi san over to give you the tour, he's the best and he made our trip wonderful. Thank you for your comments!

  3. fifi la fontaine10:37 AM PDT

    Whoa, what a gorgeous and dreamy place, T! I love the elegant shapes the Japanese gardeners train their trees into-and I love the supports too. Thanks for the awesome blog post!

    1. HI Fifii, it IS gorgeous and dreamy, I hope you get to go! I see a lot of artistic inspiration you could draw from. Thanks for your comments!

  4. Oh I will hit Japan soon. I must. This only makes we want to go even more.

    1. You must you must! And as I mentioned to Creativeflux, I will hook you up with the best tour guide around, Kikuchi san. He is such a dear friend and loves doing it. Seriously. Think about it.


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