You know that picture in your head you have of Japan? Maybe you imagine lush green Japanese gardens, with impeccably manicured trees, zen gardens, traditional teahouses, tranquil ponds and moss everywhere… at least that’s what I pictured before I came here. I recently visited Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu, and my imaginary picture came to life!
At the entrance, there are special attendants who have “I Speak English!” buttons, but all you really need to do is hold up the number of fingers for how many tickets you want. They’re Y400 (About $4) per adult for entrance. Once you’re in, there’s maps to show you around or you can get an English one from the attendant. We were firmly in the “wander around and see what we find” camp.
Ritsurin Garden is stunning. We spent an entire afternoon exploring every nook and cranny we could find, often doubling back to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Though the park was full of visitors, as it was a Sunday afternoon, it still wasn’t too busy. There was lots of space for everyone. (Just steer clear of anyone carrying a flag – they’re leading a tour group, and if you’ve ever been to Asia you know there is no such thing as a non-obnoxious tour group!)
The whole park had a really relaxing vibe, and the twisty pine trees and water features really felt like we were in Japan!
One of my favorite places in Ritsurin Garden was next to the big pond, where koi fish were swimming everywhere. We found a little side stream and were watching the koi, when suddenly an older man with a park uniform came up to us and shyly handed us bread to feed the fish. It was a really sweet gesture, and while I don’t condone feeding wildlife (especially feeding them bread, it’s terrible for them)… I wasn’t gonna say no to this super nice old dude. So we threw some snacks in for the fish and giggled over them fighting for crumbs.
Also on the edge of the pond is a little snack stop. It was too cold for ice cream, but we settled on dango (mochi rice balls on a stick) being grilled over an open fire. I got sakura + shiso (cherry blossom and Japanese mint leaf) topped with miso sauce. We ate them on a big rock near the pond and watched tourists float by in traditional boats.
All in all this was one of my favorite afternoons. It was so peaceful and green. There were lots of English signs around the garden talking about the history of certain trees or buildings. The garden is from the 1600s, with lots of original stuff left, so reading the historical background was amazing. The Wikipedia page has a good rundown of the history. My friend went in one of the teahouses and watched a traditional tea ceremony. I opted out as a giant noisy tour group was barging in and I didn’t feel like ruining my chill vibe, but she said it was really nice. At about $5, it’s worth a go if you’ve never done it before
Ritsurin Garden is a must if you’re anywhere near Kagawa prefecture! Go, get zen, thank me later.
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Brilliant Blog!! I appreciate your blog, this garden is stunning and pictures so pretty.
Glad you enjoyed it, but I gotta to warn you, if Ritsurin Garden was your first Japanese garden, every other garden after this one will be somewhat disappointing (there are just a few in Kyoto that can “compete” with it). 🙂
Concerning the koi, don’t worry. First they’re not “wildlife” they’re a part of the garden (and there’s nothing “wild” about the garden), and they constantly eat bread, you can even buy some to feed it to them. Koi can eat bread fine. Maybe not every kind of bread, but the Ritsurin koi have been eating that bread for decades probably. (and as a kid, I constantly fed my dad’s fish pond goldfish and koi – they’re roughly the same species – with bread and nothing ever happened to them).
Hi David, thanks for the comment! Ritsurin was not my first or last Japanese garden, don’t worry 🙂 I really enjoyed it and was happy to discover something so lovely only an hour away from where I live. I still can’t be swayed about feeding the fish bread though – they are definitely not designed to eat that! – but I am glad to hear they are living nice long lives despite it haha 😛