When you go to the Japanese capital for the first time, the gardens are a must that you must visit. These public spaces will allow you to immerse yourself in Japanese culture in a relaxing atmosphere, all while enjoying the beauty of the sakuras and even having a picnic with friends if you wish! Japanese gardens are also often accompanied by streams/ponds as well as Shinto shrines. You will find some of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in Tokyo and here are 20 that you can visit, all seasons of the year. 🎋
The most beautiful Japanese gardens in spring (cherry blossom season)
Shinjuku Imperial Garden
The Shinjuku Imperial Garden is one of the largest (58 hectares) and most famous in Tokyo. It is divided into three different styles of gardens, French, English and Japanese. With its more than 1,500 cherry trees, it is a destination of choice for enjoying the hanami season and all the beauty of Japanese sakuras. Be careful though, if you decide to go there, know that others will certainly have had the same idea as you because every year the Shinjuku Imperial Garden receives a huge crowd of visitors. You will also find in this garden a greenhouse filled with tropical plants as well as a tea house called Rakuutei which will allow you to attend a tea ceremony. Finally, allow enough time to visit this garden because it is so large that it is easy to spend the entire day there.
The gardens of the Denpoin temple
In the heart of Asakusa itself, this small hidden garden is the image of traditional Chinese paintings. There is a magnificent lotus pond, a small waterfall and of course cherry trees. You can also take the opportunity to take beautiful photos of the Goju-no-to Pagoda and the Tokyo Skytree. However, this garden is not open to the public all year round so if you are planning to go there, be sure to find out its opening dates in advance.
Tokyo National Museum
You will have to go north of the Tokyo National Museum to access its garden, however the latter is only open a few weeks per year in April and November so that it is only exhibited when its sakuras are in flower as well as when the leaves fall in autumn. It has more than ten different species of sakura, making it a destination of choice during the hanami period. It also includes six tea rooms which can be hired for ceremonies.
The garden of Chinzan-so
The garden of this 700-year-old hotel is closely linked to haiku master Matsuo Basho as well as Prime Minister Aritomo. It is one of the most popular gardens in Tokyo and it is no coincidence that it includes all the elements necessary for a traditional Japanese garden. You will also find Shinto shrines with their Torii gates, old Shinto statues but also water features which make the atmosphere of this garden unique in its kind. Naturally, to fully enjoy this garden the best time remains that of hanami.
The Rikugi-en Garden, also called the “Garden of Six Poems,” is inspired by the traditional short poem Waka. It was laid out in the 17th century in 1695 and is also considered by many to be the most beautiful Japanese garden in Tokyo. We can easily walk its many paths without getting lost since each one takes us back to its central point which is the pond as well as the hill which serves as a viewpoint. The park extends its opening hours in spring and autumn so you can enjoy its zen atmosphere and relaxing setting at night. It is also considered one of the best places to watch sakuras in bloom, with the best viewing points being along the Togetsukyo Bridge and around the Tsutsuji no Chaya tea house.
The most beautiful Japanese gardens in summer
The Nezu Museum
The Nezu Museum is a rather attractive place for all art enthusiasts as it offers ever-changing works comprising various types of traditional Japanese arts. However, if there's one thing that doesn't change, it's its gardens. You will be able to access it after having appreciated the works of the museum, you will only have to let yourself be guided by the garden path and appreciate its lush landscape and its Buddhist statues. According to tradition, it brings good luck to leave a coin there. To conclude, this garden is an excellent way to discover the history of Japanese art while contemplating the beauty of traditional Japanese gardens.
The garden of Mukōjima-Hyakkaen
Inspired by Japanese and Chinese literature, the Mukōjima-Hyakkaen garden includes more than a hundred different flowers, allowing them to be enjoyed all seasons of the year. However, summer remains the best time to admire its efflorescent landscape. This garden dates back over a century and what makes it so unique is that although it is in the heart of Tokyo, once you find yourself in its center you feel like you are surrounded by nature. It also has a structure called the clover tunnel which is a bamboo frame covered with green leaves, a must-see in this garden. Finally, although summer remains the best season to visit this garden, in spring you will find more than 360 plum trees in flower which is not a little elegant to admire either!
Developed more than a century ago, the Tonogayato garden is located in Kokobunji. It is particularly renowned for its slightly steep terrain, but that is precisely what makes this garden so beautiful. It also has magnificent lush vegetation that grows wild on the steep slopes around the central pond of the garden. There are also small goldfish in the pond and also a tea house to calmly enjoy the Zen atmosphere of this garden.
The Kyū-Furukawa Garden
If this garden is particularly beautiful in summer, it is mainly because of the flowering of its numerous roses, peonies and azaleas which compose it. However, it is also splendid during the hanami period because, like all traditional Japanese gardens, it also has sakuras. However, spring and summer are not the only times when you can appreciate the beauty of this garden. It indeed has a pond, a basin, a waterfall and a noble villa bordered by numerous maple trees which do not need to wait for the hanami period or the summer heat to show themselves in their most beautiful form.
The Kyu-Yasuda Garden
Originally built as a daimyo garden (a garden belonging to powerful lords used for receptions), Kyu-Yasuda Garden dates from the Edo period (1603-1868). It borders Yokoamicho Park and you can therefore extend your walk there by visiting it and the memorial in tribute to the victims of the Kanto earthquake and the bombings of Tokyo. Inside Kyu-Yasuda you will find a magnificent view of the garden's red bridge and its blooming flowers in summer. A lantern festival also takes place in August, Noryo-no-yube, where you can enjoy the music played and taste tea. Ideal for fully appreciating the relaxing atmosphere of this garden.
The name of this garden comes from the Kanda River in Tokyo which was formerly called Edogawa. He also had links with the Hosokawa samurai clan during the Edo period. In this garden we find magnificent water features, bamboo fences and stone lanterns which are also an iconic element of traditional Japanese gardens. The garden is closed at night but entry is free and it would therefore be a shame to deprive yourself of visiting it.
The most beautiful Japanese gardens in autumn
Koishikawa Kōraku-en Garden
The Koishikawa Kōraku-en garden is one of the oldest in Tokyo. It was developed during the Edo period (1603-1868) and there are traditional Japanese landscapes, but also Chinese ones with trails to explore throughout the park. It is particularly resplendent in autumn because the maple trees that compose it create a red and orange reflection on the three ponds in the garden. We also find in the south-east of the park a magnificent yellow carpet of ginkgo, also flowering during the autumn period.
The garden of Happo-en
Built in the 17th century, the Happo-en garden is characterized by its century-old bonsai trees and koi carp that live in its pond. It is a little piece of natural paradise in Tokyo and it is also popular for serving as a wedding venue, already over 2000 have taken place. There are sakuras there, but also maples which give a rather unique atmosphere to the garden in autumn. A traditional Japanese restaurant is also located there as well as a tea room and there are many places to sit to fully enjoy the atmosphere of this park.
The Hama-Rikyū Garden
There was a time when this park served as the residence of a feudal lord as well as a hunting ground for hunting ducks. It was also bombed but its tea houses survived. In this garden there are three ponds whose water level changes depending on the tides as well as a magnificent view when the maple trees are in flower. A tea house called Nakajima no Ochaya is located on an island in the middle of the garden's main pond, Shioiri-no-ike, which you can access via a bridge. All this gives this garden an almost magical atmosphere which is well worth the detour if you have the opportunity.
The Mejiro Garden
Although Mejiro Garden is relatively hidden in Ikebukuro, it is a great place to view Japanese gardens at night since it closes much later than its peers, at 9 p.m. Night lighting is even installed there, which allows us to escape the hustle and bustle of the city at the end of the day by taking the time to admire the lush landscape that it has to offer us. In this garden there is a pond and a waterfall, but also, as in many other Japanese gardens, a tea house and Shinto shrines.
The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
Although we can admire the foundations of the keep and its entrance doors from the outside, the garden is the only place open to the public to which we can access. In the secondary circle of the defense zone we find a small traditional Japanese garden accompanied by a pond and a bridge, which is ideal for taking a walk and enjoying the zen atmosphere of the site. However, it does not have many trees and therefore it can be quite stuffy to go there in summer. The Imperial Collections Museum is also located right next door and can be a good destination to continue the walk. There you will find a collection of more than 9,500 pieces of art all belonging to the imperial family.
The most beautiful Japanese gardens in winter
The Kiyosumi garden is particularly famous for its numerous stones which come from all over Japan. They are used to create a path on the water and this is precisely what makes this garden so unique. With a little luck you might even have the chance to see fish and turtles swimming in its ponds. The park is made up of three major islands and there is even a restaurant on one of them which allows you to fully enjoy the heavenly setting of the garden. For tea lovers, a tea house is also present there and it also offers a very beautiful view of the entire garden and its ponds. If this garden is particularly beautiful to visit in winter it is because it has many evergreen trees and the pond freezes over, thus offering a magnificent view of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo.
The garden of Kyū Shiba Rikyū
Built on Tokyo Bay, Kyū Shiba Rikyū Garden offers breathtaking views of Sensui Pond which is inspired by Hangzhou West Lake in China. There are two small islands to visit in the heart of the pond, named Ukishima for the smallest and Nakajima for the largest. You will also find a magnificent view of the entire garden on Oyama Hill which is the highest point of the site. While cherry trees will take care of the beauty of this garden in spring, apricot trees will do so in winter and irises in summer.
The gardens of the New Otani hotel
More than 400 years old and covering more than four hectares, the garden of the luxury hotel New Otani is located in its center, but it is nevertheless possible to visit it without being a resident. There you will find a very large waterfall as well as a beautiful traditional arch bridge. The pond has more than 300 carp and the restaurant which borders the garden will offer you a magical view of the entire site.
Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome Garden
More modern than the gardens presented previously, the Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome Garden is a spectacle of more than 1,000 tropical plants gathered in a giant greenhouse made up of three domes. There are plants there that are much more unusual than the cherry trees and maples found in traditional Japanese outdoor gardens. In addition, a path is laid out so as to take full advantage of the flora that the site offers, which also offers a restaurant, a café, an exhibition room and a theater.