One of the many reasons why I love Japan is that you can experience all the seasons with all their robust colours! While there’s a lot of hype and fuss about spring and the cherry-blossom season here, autumn is equally beautiful and there’s a subtle charm about the way every leaf looks like a bright and beaming flower.
Autumn in Tokyo
If you do a quick internet search for places to see in Tokyo during autumn, you’ll come across these popular ones:
- Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑)
- Hibiya Park (日比谷公園)
- Ueno Park (上野公園)
- Imperial Palace Gardens (皇居外苑)
- Rikugi-en (六義園)
I have visited 3 out of these 5 parks for hanami (花見, cherry blossom viewing) or family picnics and while each of these places were alluring and largely forested with vibrant trees, we couldn’t soak in their beauty because they were heavily crowded!
Beat the crowds
This year, the prediction for autumn to reach Tokyo is from mid-November. If you are like me and enjoy the classic combination of nature and solitude, it would require some planning. The ultimate way to beat the crowds is to wake up early, reach your choice of destination, unwind and immerse yourself in the autumnal charm, click some gorgeous pictures and leave as soon as the crowds start pouring in.
However, another simpler way to beat the crowds is to plan a trip to a lesser known place. We happened to follow this second route last year and stumbled upon a quaint and peaceful place in Tokyo – Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園).
This surreal park is a 17th century garden located in Bunkyo, Tokyo and is a perfect blend of Chinese and Japanese landscaping patterns. It’s situated in the vicinity of the Tokyo Dome (which we were actually visiting). The vivacious, deep orange-red maple leaves in the backdrop of the Tokyo Dome caught our eye and we were drawn to explore this place. What surprised us the most was that while this was an exquisite place to enjoy the fall season in all its glory, there were hardly any people like you would expect in a garden like this. And it’s located in the heart of Tokyo!
A natural escape from urban Tokyo
The fast-paced, power-nap dependent, metropolitan city life can be stressful. This garden is a natural escape from the urban life and provides all the tranquility you require for your mind to rejuvenate. Like its namesake in Okayama, this garden was named Korakuen after a poem, encouraging its rulers to enjoy pleasure only after achieving happiness for the its people. And, that’s exactly what you can do. Work hard throughout the year and plan a pleasure trip during autumn for your tired souls here. Experiencing autumn in this park made me forget about the daily hassles of life or the to-do lists still waiting to be taken care of, and helped me realise the significance of enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
The park has a lake which is lined with neatly manicured and brightly coloured maple trees. Occasionally, you can spot a duck from a distance going in for a dive only to come up and swim in the cool waters. The entire scene is very surreal and surely a sight to behold! Throughout the park, there are meandering trails and signs that help you take a tour of the entire place without missing out on any of the natural beauty. There is also a small and hidden grove of gingko trees near the southeast corner of the gardens that turn a golden yellow during autumn.
Tips for parents
Although this place is extremely picturesque, it is not stroller friendly. The narrow, meandering trails are lined with rubble, making it difficult for strollers to move easily. Do make sure to carry your babies in baby carriers. It’s also a good workout!
We were very happy that our impromptu plan turned out to be so successful! I would definitely go back this year and would highly recommend this place to anyone who appreciates the surreal colours of fall, the muffled sound of footsteps on dry, fallen leaves, the faint smell of maple leaves in the air and an undercurrent of tranquility.
Koishikawa Korakuen Information
Koishikawa Korakuen is a five-minute walk from Iidabashi Station on the JR Chuo Line (local trains only) or the Tozai, Yurakucho, Namboku and Oedo Subway Lines.
A ten-minute walk from Korakuen Sstation on the Marunochi and Namboku Subway Llines.
Hours and Fees
Opening Hours: from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission fees: ¥300