November 06, 2010

A Garden in Tokyo

On my last day in Tokyo I remembered that there was some sort of park just behind the Tokyo Dome. I had to walk along the exterior walls for nearly a mile to find a way inside until I eventually came to a gate down a side street to enter "Koishikawa Korakuen". I paid the fee of 300 yen and was amazed to find a beautiful garden of nearly 18 acres located right there, smack in the middle of Tokyo.

It was like stepping into a different dimension. The noise of the city immediately faded away and the concrete and cars turned into strolling paths and plum trees. All I could hear were the leaves rustling in the wind and the faint cawing of distant crows. There were still the occasional screams from the nearby roller coaster, but the tension of a bustling metropolis had been abruptly transformed into a timeless, relaxed atmosphere of a Japanese garden... one that has existed in that same spot for nearly 400 years.

Designated as an important historical site, Koishikawa Korakuen is a blend of Japanese and Chinese influence. Unfortunately, I left my camera in the hotel room so these are my iphone pics.

This tree has been given special attention for many years using multiple supports on the limbs to help sculpt its wonderful shape.

A central pond is filled with koi and carp that swim up to you and blow bubbles with open mouths for bread crumbs.

Well-placed stones make up the cobbled pathways that wind throughout the garden and follow the meandering streams.

Stepping stones invite you to hop across the shallow end of the lake.

The bold vermilion color of Tsutenkyo Bridge glows in the shady forest.

Green tree trunks and gnarly roots caught my eye and gave a sense of the age of the land.

Nestled on a hill is the oldest structure in the garden, a shrine called Tokujindo. It was built by Tokugawa Mitsukuni, who lived in the 1600's, to house carved wooden statues that represent the characters Hakui and Shukusei from a classic Chinese story.

Its door may make you think it is car-garage size but it is actually only 4 or 5 feet square.

Another picturesque structure invites you to stop, walk up the steps, sit and contemplate the beauty of the area.

My favorite was Engetsu-kyo, or Full Moon bridge, so-called because it has a 180° arch that creates a moonlike circle when reflected in the water.  The circle would have been perfect if not for a couple of ducks playing beneath it.

Unlike the orange of Tsutenkyo Bridge, this one blends seamlessly into the background. The design is enhanced by the patina on its surface where multiple green shades of moss grow and tiny weeds poke out from cracks.

This weathered lion-dog statue still stands guard over a temple that disappeared long ago.

Just outside the garden, I snapped a picture of his bigger and brawnier brother. Carved many years ago from a single stone block, he is one of a pair that stand over 10' tall.