Located far off from the action in quiet Komagome/Sugamo, the Rikugien Gardens takes its place as one of the top gardens in Tokyo. However upon first entering you wouldn't suspect it. Like most gardens you begin in a dark wooded area with trees and a dirt path, nothing noteworthy, but then as you make your way you reach a clearing and behold the garden's true beauty and features. The same is with the Rikugien.
The Garden is so cleverly designed (intentionally or not) that every few steps along the banks of the lake will give you a dazzling new perspective and view. It is ironic to note that in 1702 when the garden was built, 88 stone markers were placed at various points throughout the garden which were deemed "views of beauty or interest", today only 32 remain. This is a testament to this garden's mysterious ability to transform and posses so many views.
The journey starts off at the Deshio-no-minato, a wide clearing which stretches along half of the lake, giving you the opportunity to walk the banks and watch the landscape transform.
In the center of the lake is the Imo-yama, a well kept island with a land bridge, which unfortunately is not open for visitors. Perfectly trimmed bushes of pink and red azalea's dot the shore and line the meandering paths (between May and July they will be in bloom).
At the shore or any of the various bridges (there are six in total) you can peer down into the water below and watch the koi gather under you, in hopes that you'll toss in some bread for them, and if you look closely you'll also see large turtles, the size of diner plates, swimming amongst the koi.
Another key vantage point offering a view of the opposite shore. This spot also has a charming tea house where you can go, sit down and enjoy some green tea and for the icing on the cake, enjoy some traditional Japanese sweets as well. Of course there is a fee for this extra service, about 500 yen.
The garden is designed to give a maximum impression of space, but still maintain enough wooded areas and back trails to give a feeling of intimacy.
JR Yamanote Line, Komagome Station.
Admission: 300 yen
Hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm (last entry at 4:30)
Closed: Year-end holidays. (Dec 29 - Jan 1)