Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Gardens

Rikugien Garden

Thursday was another beautiful Autumn day that warranted getting out for a little leaf peeping. I caught a morning train to the Bunkyo area on the north side of Tokyo. Once again, I arrived with an onigiri and was able to eat lunch at the garden. Simultaneously, thanks to modern technology, I could chat on my phone untethered to wifi and for free with my friend Sara in the U.S. all while sitting on a bench in a Tokyo garden. It was great catching up with you, my friend!! 

Now, back to the beautiful garden. The Rikugien Garden is a traditional Japanese garden. The garden highlighted the natural landscape of the area and incorporated water elements. This small section of water was actually part of a very large pond. 


Bridges over the water are also important elements of a Japanese garden. 


Here is the pond from another angle. From this picture, you can see the large size of the pond. 


Another part of a traditional Japanese garden pond, is the presence of koi. Check out the giant orange koi and group of dark ones on the left side of this picture!


I spent about an hour and a half wandering through the many paths within the garden. One path took me up a small hill. The view from the top was beautiful. I was a little early to see the peak Autumn foliage. Instead I only had a peek. 


Another path took me along the back of the pond. It was so quiet and serene.  

The island is also an important part of the traditional Japanese garden. Typically, entry to the island is not permitted. The large island in Rikugien is made of weathered rocks with a single pine tree. This island represents Mount Horai, the legendary home of the Eight Immortals.


I took a close up picture of the bridge to access the island. The Obana (Japanese pompas grass) is one of my favorite signs of Autumn in Japan. 


Stone lanterns are also significant in a traditional Japanese garden. Originally, they were used to line the path to a shrine. Within the garden, they are decorations used to remind visitors of the passing of time. 


I truly enjoyed my afternoon. Please don’t get mad at me for saying this, I’m starting to get into the Christmas spirit! I know, it’s not Thanksgiving yet. However, the Japanese don’t observe Thanksgiving. Instead, it’s straight to Christmas and Christmas decorations. Christmas decorations are starting to appear everywhere and I just can’t help but get excited when I see this Christmas tree! 

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens – Fall Edition

I went to visit the Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens in June. This garden made the list of five gardens to experience wabi-sabi in Japan. I recently read an article published on savvytokyo.com, identifying eight places to visit in and around Tokyo to see beautiful Autumn foliage. To my surprise and joy, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens was listed in the article! I took that as a sign to go and visit the garden again! It was beautiful. I arrived around lunchtime and enjoyed a tuna onigiri with green tea while sitting on a bench in the shade enjoying this view. 


After my lunch, I took a stroll around the garden. So much fall color! 


Up close, the vermilion bridge stood out in the still very green tree undergrowth. 


From further away, the bridge was almost swallowed in the upper layer of slowly changing leaves. 


The view across the pond might have been my favorite. Just to be clear, those are Japanese maple leaves. 🍁🍁🍁


From the other side of the pond, the view was lovely as well. The pond was so still.  


Part of the reason I love this Garden is the serenity it provides in the middle of Tokyo. The other reason is the beautiful plants, ponds, and paths. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch followed by an afternoon stroll. What do you think about my new exploring shoes? Kawaii! 


Perhaps, this will become the Garden I stalk and visit at some point each season! My attempt to capture its year round beauty. 

Enoshima Sea Candles

Last week, I went out to Enoshima Island and during my visit, I saw an advertisement for a candle illumination display. Wednesday evening was the perfect opportunity for me to revisit the Enoshima Garden, Sea Candle, and candle illumination. I arrived a little before sunset and was very happy I did! I was able to capture a few pictures of the sunset and Mt. Fuji. 


I purchased my ticket and quickly went up into the Sea Candle before the sunset was complete. I wanted a few more pictures! 


I returned to ground level and I tilted my phone to capture Mt. Fuji and the Sea Candle. A very gorgeous evening! 


After watching sunset, I returned to the candle illumination. The path leading to the Sea Candle was illuminated with white votives. 


The candles were placed with great care throughout the garden. 

The Shrine seemed majestic with the red votives lining the path. 


The candles were beautiful and it was so quiet. It wasn’t very crowded, but still a good number of people snapping pictures from every angle. As couples spoke, they whispered. The silence truly set a peaceful tone for the evening. 

This is my fourth visit to Enoshima Island. It is moving up on my list of favorite places near where we live. Even though it takes a little while to get there, the train ride is nice along the coast. Also, there are a lot of shops leading up to the Shrine that can be fun to explore. The Shrine is beautiful and there are a lot of stairs! On a clear day, the island provides a fantastic view of Mt. Fuji. It is worth a visit during cool (remember- lots of stairs!) and clear weather.  One last picture of Mt. Fuji as I walked back to the train station. 


One more funny story about the Enoshima Sea Candle. In America, we would refer to this structure as a lighthouse. I call it the  Enoshima Sea Candle because those are the English words written on the signs on the island. Even Google Maps refers to it as the Enoshima Sea Candle. 

The funny thing is, I have told both of my English classes about my visits to Enoshima Island and the Enoshima Sea Candle and they respond with confusion. They will say to me, “you call it Sea Candle?” Clearly, confused by the silly American who isn’t familiar with lighthouses. I try to explain I call it that because that’s what the sign says- in English. Normally, I would call it a lighthouse. “Oh, yes, lighthouse. Yes, very beautiful.” Yes, very beautiful. For now on, I will always giggle when I see a lighthouse aka Sea Candle. 

Nogeyama Zoo & Park

Dina and I both needed a trip to the Daiso and we wanted to visit the four-story Daiso in Hinodechō. I thought we would make a detour to help entertain the little person acompanying us. The Nogeyama Zoo is a small and free zoo about a 10 minute walk from the Hinodechō train station. First stop at the zoo was the ice cream stand for a vanilla, apple, and mango swirl. 


There were a couple cool animals at the zoo. The red panda, the peacock, and the giraffe were our favorites. 


After visiting the zoo, we went to the park. From my research, I learned the park had a a variety of flower gardens and this time of year we should expect to see the hydrangeas in bloom. There were several hydrangeas and they were absolutely stunning. 

A couple of my favorites because they include my beautiful friend and one her sweet daughters. 



There were two small rose gardens that deserve a picture or two as well. 


The zoo and park were a pleasant detour. I continue to be amazed at how many quiet parks / gardens are tucked away throughout the major cities. I truly love how the Japanese incorporate natural beauty into urban settings. I look forward to sharing these hidden gems with you when you visit. 

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden

The second garden I was able to visit on my Wabi-Sabi list was the Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden. The garden is located on the south side of Tokyo and only about an hour and fifteen minute train ride. 

On my walk from the train station to he garden I was passed several times by the Shinkansen. Seeing the train still makes me happy. I can’t wait to plan another trip! 


Also, on my walk to the garden, I passed several beautiful hydrangeas blooming along the street. The hydrangeas alternated blue and purple. They were stunning. 


The garden was a bit smaller than the Hamarikyu Garden and again nestled in the middle of the surrounding city. The garden centers around a pond with a designated path to travel around and across the pond. 


Along your journey around the pond, there are many beautiful land and rock formations to look at and perhaps contemplate the passing of time. 


There was also one beautiful hydrangea blooming in the garden. 


As I was walking through the garden, I came across these interesting rock stairs. 

Originally, I thought they were just a cute path to follow. While reading the brochure, I realized they were there to simulate a “waterless waterfall.” The intention was to remind visitors of water coming off the mountains and flowing into the pond. Can you see it? 


On the far side of the pond was a group of artist painting the garden with watercolors. For every artist you see in this picture, there are two tucked in somewhere else. They obviously found their wabi-sabi. 


There were so many different features along the path. I enjoyed the stones and islands. 

Can you see the turtles? 

A beautiful view! Without a doubt, I was able to experience wabi-sabi in this lovely little garden. When you visit, if we need a quiet break from the hustle and bustle of the city, we can take a detour. It was worth the ¥150. 

Hama-rikyu Gardens

Recently, I read an article discussing five different gardens in Tokyo to discover wabi-sabi. I bookmarked the article and added all five of the gardens to my saved places in Google Maps. I found the definition of wabi-sabi used in the article interesting. “To Japanese people, there is a peculiar sense of aesthetics called “Wabi-sabi” where it is key to find the beauty in silence and the passing of time.” Other definitions I have found describe wabi-sabi as finding the beauty in the imperfections and also accepting transience. Accepting the passing of time and change is similar in both these descriptions. I also appreciate the ability to beauty in silence. Each of the gardens listed are located in a Tokyo and surrounded by the city. Visiting Hama-rikyu today, the sights and sounds of the city were all around. Finding a quiet spot in the garden was easy. Many people were enjoying their lunch as I arrived.


A couple things about the Hama-rikyu Gardens makes it very unique. It has a large pond that is fed by seawater from the Tokyo Bay. The pond has several lock gates that are opened and closed with the rise and fall of the tides of the Tokyo Bay. This creates a tidal affect within the pond.


The other unique thing about the garden were the two Kamoba or Duck hunting sites. They were both built in the late 1700s. The sites consisted of a large pond used to attract the ducks.


The hunters would lure the ducks into the pond with grasses and domesticated ducks while they hid in deep trenches.


Another hunter would stand watch in a wooden shack and watch the pond.

I took this picture looking out the peep holes in the hunting shack out over the pond.


On cue, someone would make a loud noise or distraction causing the ducks to take flight. The hunters would catch the ducks with long nets! Here was the sign that accompanied the explanation.


In true Japanese kindness, there is now a shrine dedicated to the ducks who were hunted.


The main pond of the garden was beautiful. The view of the Tokyo skyline provided a dynamic contrast with the natural setting of the garden.


There were a couple iris gardens blooming and one hydrangea bush in full bloom. The rest of the hydrangeas were not quite blooming yet.


Another notable mention within the garden was the 300 year old pine tree. It was gigantic and well supported with numerous wood braces and stantions.


The O-tsutai-bashi is the 118m long bridge over the center of the lake was renovated in 2012. The wisteria trellis are beautiful and make me want to visit again next spring to see them in bloom!

The garden did help me find my own definition of wabi-sabi. The way the garden was nestled in with so many city skyscrapers helped me to see and appreciate the beauty of nature and industry. Simultaneously, the city sounds of construction work, trains, and traffic helped me to experience and be settled with time passing. It was an enjoyable adventure to discover a beautiful garden in an urban environment with the intentions of experiencing wabi-sabi.

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