Five minutes’ walk south of Komagome Station on the Yamanote line, Rikugi-en (六義園; daily 9am–5pm; ¥300) is Tokyo’s best surviving example of a classical, Edo-period stroll-garden, designed in the early 18th century by high-ranking feudal lord Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu. Both a perfectionist and a literary scholar, Yanagisawa took seven years to create this celebrated garden – with its 88 allusions to famous scenes, real or imaginary, from ancient Japanese poetry – and then named it Rikugi-en, “garden of the six principles of poetry”, in reference to the rules for composing waka (poems of 31 syllables).
Few of the 88 landscapes have survived – the guide map issued at the entrance identifies a mere eighteen. Nevertheless, Rikugi-en still retains its rhythm and beauty, beginning as you enter with an ancient, spreading cherry tree, then slowly unfolding along paths that meander past secluded arbours and around the indented shoreline of an islet-speckled lake. In contrast, there are also areas of more natural woodland and a hillock from which to admire the whole scene.