Ritsurin Koen

It was a lovely sunny warm day as forecasted and due to having so much packed into this day we were up early, out and on the go! The walk to the garden was relatively straight forward taking about 25 minutes, with the walk down the main high street being quite pleasant. We stopped off at a Seven Eleven on the way for a coffee and grabbed some lunch for later. Alternatively, the garden can be reached by taking the local train from Takamatsu station to Ritsurin Koen-Kitaguchi station taking 5 minutes, it is then only a 5 minute walk to the garden.  

The entrance to the Ritsurin Koen garden was easy to find and to enter only costing 410 yen each (about £2.50!), which was extremely reasonable! The garden is massive and spilt into two, a North and a South Garden. Ritsurin is a strolling-style garden built in the Edo period and consist of 6 ponds and 13 landscaped hills which have been strategically placed in front of the green vista of Mt. Shiun. Together with the fantastic rock arrangements, bridges, various plants and trees makes the garden absolutely fantastic. The name Risturin means chestnut grove, but the garden is most famous for its many pine trees, this being one of the main reasons why we wanted to visit the garden. There are 1,400 pine trees in the garden, with a 1000 of them being precisely maintained by the gardeners. Some of the pine trees are over 300 years old! 

Leaflet Map

Following the map, it took us along a path around the stunning 7000 m2 Hokko Pond with two islands in the middle called Zensho (front island) and Kousho (back island).  From there we went over a small bridge following the path around the garden. 

Hokko Pond 002
Bridge 1

From the South Garden we then ventured in the North Garden which was equally as good…though between the two, for us the South Garden was the best, it was fantastic…the many Japanese black, red and white pines were absolutely stunning, certainly the best display of Niwaki (garden trees) we had seen! Combined with the fantastic landscapes, ponds, rocks and bridges it was stunning. We spent the whole morning exploring both the South and North gardens, overall, out of all the gardens we have visited in Japan, this one was the best! I think we’ll let our pictures do the rest of the talking! 

Ritsurin Koen 01
Ritsurin Koen 004

A bit of history…it is believed that Risturin Garden was originally started in the southwest corner of the current garden in the late 16th century by the Sato clan. Then when Takatoshi Ikoma was ruling the province in around 1625, the current area of the main pond Nanko was formed. Yorishige Matsudaira began ruling the Takamatsu domain in around 1642, and so inherited the garden. He and future family generations kept developing the garden over some 100 years, before it was finally completed in 1745! The garden was used as a villa for 228 years, and eventually became a public garden in 1875. The garden was designated in 1953 as one of Japan’s Special Places of Scenic Beauty by the Government.

Ritsurin Koen 007

Ritsurin Koen 008

Please find our other Kyoto articles in the 'Takamatsu' section of the website.

Ritsurin Koen 010

Ritsurin Koen 012

Ritsurin Koen 014

Ritsurin Koen 017

Ritsurin Koen 020

Ritsurin Koen 021

Ritsurin Koen 022

Ritsurin Koen 024

Ritsurin Koen 026

Ritsurin Koen 028

Ritsurin Koen 032
Entrance Map

At the admissions building we received a leaflet that contained a map of the garden, with direction for the best way to view it. So, following the map we decided to start in the South Garden walking in an anti-clockwise direction around the garden. Some of the first set of pine trees we came across were ‘Royal Planted Trees’ Four of which had been planted by the Japanese royal family in 1914 and 1923…but also the central tree being planted by our own Edward VIII in the 1922, when he was the crown prince…which we found quite surprising when reading the plague next to the tree! 

Royal Planted Trees
Hokko Pond 001
Hokko Pond 003

It was certainly an absolute joy, even finding a nice spot for lunch to take it all in. There were loads of fantastic view spots in the garden, with one of best being an elevated view of the 7,900 m2 Nanko pond with the garden in the backdrop. 

Elevated view of Nanko pond 2
Us Ritsurin Koen
Ritsurin Koen 003
Ritsurin Koen 005
Ritsurin Koen 006
Elevated view of Nanko pond 1
Ritsurin Koen 009
Ritsurin Koen 011
Ritsurin Koen 013
Ritsurin Koen 015
Ritsurin Koen 018
Ritsurin Koen 018
Ritsurin Koen 023
Ritsurin Koen 027
Ritsurin Koen 030
Us Ritsurin Koen 2
Ritsurin Koen 025
Ritsurin Koen 029