I first found out about the Koishikawa Korakuen in my 2005 edition of Lonely Planet. For the most part, I think Lonely Planet is pretty hit or miss, but they definitely nailed this one. They described it as one of those seldom visited places in Tokyo - which automatically means it's one of those places that I NEED to go to.
After traversing the concrete jungle that is Tokyo weekend after weekend, it was really refreshing to go to a neatly manicured traditional Japanese garden. I almost forgot I was in Tokyo, save for the buildings peeping up over the treetops bordering the garden. Not to mention the bulbous roof of Tokyo Dome that looms next door.
The garden was constructed in 1629 by Tokugawa Yorifusa. According to the pamphlet the garden's design incorporates some Confucian concepts from a Chinese scholar named Shushunsui, including a reproduction of a lake from China called Seiko, a full moon bridge and other Chinese ornamental features... like koma-inu & some karahafu-type gates.
The Koishikawa Korakuen is designated as an 'important cultural asset' and site of 'special historical significance.' Basically they only give these kind of titles to really old stuff; there's lots of them in Kyoto & Nara, but not so many in Tokyo, mostly because the entire city was destroyed after the war. What makes it special is that it has both titles. There are only 6 other locations (Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji, & the Sampo-in in Kyoto, Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima, Nibo-no-miya in Nara, and Hamarikyu in Tokyo) that have the dual appointments by law.
Also. Admission is dirt cheap. 300 yen! I could stay in this place all day!! There was a woman painting in the Naitei section of the garden... I totally bet you a million yens that she had been there all day. Can you see her in the photo at the one end of the bridge?
That same morning I was in Akihabara getting a new Skype headset, but I met up with Taryn and we went to the Korakuen together. It is most definitely a great place to take some absolutely gorgeous photographs in. However, I did manage to get bitten by every mosquito in the greater Tokyo metropolitain area. I guess they just think I'm a delicious gaijin.
Later that night I did some shopping with Taryn in her neck of the woods that is Tokyo and we made some kickass French toast for breakfast on Sunday. Later that day we met up with Take and went to the park in Kasai near the bay. It was kind of cloudy, but we still got to ride the awesome ferris wheel there. Apparently it is the biggest one in Japan! My camera's batteries died, so when I get a chance I will post the photos that I took from my cell phone on facebook and share them with you. In the meantime, you can enjoy the Koraku-en photos!