We set our agenda for Japan: No rushing about; no long days of sightseeing; no pursuing the best dining in the best restaurants. What we needed more than anything was to chill out and relax after a hectic last month of preparations for this trip.
Every morning, we spread the map out and plotted a walk. Walks restore us. Our first stroll took us to Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, a large park combining several themed gardens as well as a large greenhouse for tropical plants.
“Muggy” described the day, very warm with stifling humidity. A few hours in this large park of gardens meant that we were able to concentrate only on its traditional Japanese gardens and the greenhouse. After those, we collapsed onto benches by the French formal garden and enjoyed the view before acknowledging the heat had done us in. We slowly made our way home.
Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, one of the most popular of Tokyo’s gardens, disappointed us a little. We had expected “artistic” and didn’t see that. The garden looked in need of some maintenance and care. Perhaps, early September is not the right time to visit. On the other hand, it was a far better park than many we have visited in other countries.
For our next walk on another day, we took a pleasant shady stroll in a park setting along the Kanda river and headed towards Koishikawa Korakuen Garden. A volunteer guide met us as we entered. He was giving a (free!) one-hour tour, in English and Japanese. The original garden dates back almost 400 years and was four times its current 20 acres of today. The theme of the garden was based on the Chinese teaching that a ruler’s happiness should come after the people’s.
We were not surprised to find out later that Koishikawa Korakuen Garden is one of the few places in Japan designated for its scenic beauty as well as historical importance. Here our expectations were met, even with renovations and construction in some places.
Despite the increasing heat and humidity of the day, we found it hard to leave. The garden was just that beautiful.