Spring may have its sakura, but fall has its own display: the vibrant autumn leaves, called kōyō in Japanese. For all its skyscrapers and pavement, Tokyo has an impressive number of places for viewing autumn leaves. In particular, the gardens boast gorgeous yellow and red fall colors.
Very few, however, are open after dark and this is one of the reasons for the popularity of the Rikugien Gardens.
Rikugien is normally open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but during fall (until December 6, 2015), the garden is open until 9 p.m. Although some of the trails are closed after 4:30 p.m., going through all the open sections of this Edo-era garden will still take an hour or more at a leisurely pace.
If you have a little more time than that to spare, you may want to try the matcha (green tea) and wagashi (Japanese sweets) set for 510 yen at one of the garden’s tea houses. The tea houses, souvenir shops and food stalls around the park also have extended hours during autumn, so you can snack on dango (sweet dumplings) or have a beer while taking in the vivid colors of the star-like momiji leaves.
In addition to the longer hours, the real highlight of Rikugien in this period is the stunning lighting around the garden. Four spots around the garden are designated as special “light-up areas” where the view is especially beautiful.
These specially lit areas include a dramatically illuminated bamboo grove, the 300-year-old pine called Fukiage-no-matsu surrounded by fishing lanterns and the islands in Deshio-no-minato pond lit so that they reflect on the pond’s surface.
The fourth display is the most dream-like: whitish lights illuminate the trees while a mist rolls through the blue LED lights along the ground. This area, called Suikōnoe, used to be a lotus pond where, during lotus season, even the water was said to smell heavenly. The pond is now gone, but the blue mist is a reminder of its past beauty.
The lights and extended hours are only for a short period, so the garden may be crowded at times. If you arrive at Rikugien before 4:30 p.m., you’ll be able to explore the parts of the garden open only during the day and will be around for the light-up from sunset.
Rikugien’s breathtaking fall colors may be ephemeral, but the memory of a visit is guaranteed not to be.
Rikugien Gardens 14th Annual Fall Light-Up
Extended Hours: November 19 -December 6, 2015, 9:00-21:00
Entry fee: ¥300 for adults, ¥150 for seniors, free for elementary school students, Tokyo-area junior high students and the handicapped; group rates, combined rates and annual rates available
Address: 6-16-3 Hon-komagome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0021
Closest Stations: Komagome Station (7 minutes on foot), Sengoku Station (10 minutes on foot)
Rikugien Gardens Official Website