A tour through Korakuen and Tonogayato-teien

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In April, I showed two of Tokyos gardens to three German tourists.
It was so much fun to explain the history behind the different garden styles and elements of the gardens!
I love to talk about Japan! When people are interested and ask questions, it is best. I know they are following my explanations with interest and thinking about what I told them and then more questions are forming in their minds.
This is my personal goal, getting people interested in Japanese culture, traditions and.. of course Japanese gardens!

I had so much fun with those three tourists + one Tokyo resident!
Really want to thank them again for giving me the opportunity to talk about gardens and having a great day together.

Actually, it was not the first time I gave a tour through Tokyo. It was no specific garden tour, but a tour through Akasaka area to Tokyo station and then Shinjuku.

Both times, I was asked a lot of questions. Not only about history, but also about current life in Japan and especially how it is to live in Tokyo as a foreigner.

Oh! That’s when I realized, I talked about that special topic last weekend when five new gardening interns arrived from Germany. Next week they will depart from Tokyo to all over Japan to learn either Japanese gardening or Japanese agriculture.

But back to my garden visit with four fellow Germans.
When I had a test tour with some friends last year, I realized that it is exhausting for some to visit more than three gardens. Especially when they’re not really really interested in Japanese gardens, but only like to visit them to walk around in some greenery and enjoy the calming atmosphere in the always vibrant city.
So I decided to only visit two gardens with the, although garden interested, but not that much attached to Japanese gardens, Germans.

We first head to Koishikawa Korakuen.
Although I do not like it that much, it is one of the gardens I visit most often. That is, because it is one of the greatest examples for a garden of Edo period.
It was reconstructed very well and there are still two original constructions from the time the garden was built.
Due to my latest research about Japanese Garden History, I could really explain a lot about the garden. Why it looks like how it looks like and what thoughts are behind the design.
What is still difficult are questions about special rocks or islands. Like “what does that rock combination in the lake means?”. But I am always giving my best to explain everything well.
There are also information signs beside almost every special construction. I used them to get my voice some rest. People can read by themselves and ask additional questions. Or I am explaining the Kanji in the names, which often give a special meaning to place.
Koishikawa Korakuen is one of the most often visited gardens in Tokyo. There are tons of information in the Internet, but I try to give information, that are not written everywhere else.
The internet is a great place to get information, but one has to be very cautious. So I already found a frequently visited tourist website, where someone wrote about the “Naitei” but showed pictures of a totally different part of the garden. I had a short discussion about that, but gave up.
Please always double-check with different sources!

After explaining the fullmoon-bridge, everyone tried of course!

After explaining the fullmoon-bridge, everyone tried of course!

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Korakuen was empty and I still considered where all visitors were. We found them in Naitei taking pictures.

Korakuen was empty and I still considered where all visitors were. We found them in Naitei taking pictures.

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Between the Koishikawa Korakuen and the next garden, we visited a very cute cafe on top of the remaining of Edo castles moat and then walked through Kagurazaka, an old Geisha district of Tokyo. There are still Geisha working there, but I guess you will never see one. Geisha in Tokyo are rare!
From a small train station, we went to Kokubunji station to visit the Tonogayato teien, a garden from Taisho / Showa period.
This garden is a jewel! It is almost unknown among tourists and there are very few information. I found one great website in English, where the author wrote about one great mistake, almost everyone makes. Yes, I knew about this mistake, because I do my research very well. It is so sad, that this mistake is also written on the official websites and in the pamphlet. So it made me so happy to find a fellow garden lover, who really is into the subject!
The Tonogayato teien is a place where one can sit down and truly can calm down. And so we did. We sit in the Kouyou-tei and looked down at the pond. Sometimes only moved our legs to make room for the children playing at the rift and around the tea house.
When the speaker told us, that the garden would close soon, we sadly got up to finish the route through the garden.

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View from the Kouyou-tei.

View from the Kouyou-tei.

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When first visiting Korakuen, Tonogayato teien is a great example how the gardens changed after Edo period. One can still see the same structure of the gardens, but also the development in a new direction.

With a great dinner at a Yakiniku restaurant, our tour ended. I hope everyone really enjoyed it, as they told me.
And I also hope, the next garden tour will come soon! It is so much fun to directly tell people and get the reactions. It is like writing a guide book life and getting reviews asap 🙂


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