On the Way to Rikugien Gardens

stone bridge

On my final Autumn Leaves outing for the season, I went to the Rikugien Gardens, which is in north Tokyo (between Komagome and Sugamo stations on the northern end of the Yamanote Line). It’s probably the final outing because at the park, the leaves were gently drifting down en masse.

The park is so well designed that I decided then and there that it was my favorite Tokyo park. The central feature is a large pond with several islands in it. And though it’s compact and relatively small, the views are constantly varied as you walk around. Also, it’s one of the few gardens in the city that doesn’t have skyscrapers sullying the view.

The textures and colors of the trees are layered in pleasing ways. The gardens were designed to depict famous poems and I could easily feel the poetic sensibilities throughout the grounds. Oh don’t hesitate to visit while it still has leaves.

A Little Detour
I’d never stopped off at Sugamo and Komagome stations so I decided to walk around. These are some of the interesting things I saw on the way to Rikugien .

A street of markets with solar panels.
solar panels

The Sugamo Jizo Street Market, apparently where all the cool seniors go shopping, for such things as terribly unstylish shoes, granny snacks and dried fish shavings in bulk.
shaved fishcrackers

On one end of the street was an empty temple billowing in incense smoke.

Further down the street there was a crowd of people patiently waiting in line at another temple…

…to take turns pouring water on, cleaning, and wiping a black statue of the goddess of compassion.

Closer to the park there was a neighborhood of large estates, houses that are as big as any in California. And out of nowhere an enormous building with impressive columns emerged, which I gathered was the headquarters of a syncretic religion. It sure as heck wasn’t Buddhist.

And finally Rikugien Gardens. My favorite spot was the highest point at the center where the yellow leaves of an ancient tree steadily rained down. All manner of emotional buttons were pushed. It was so damn poetic and beautiful I almost cried. Another year gently dropping its leaves.