Tokyo's Hidden Gardens for Fall Foliage

Tokyo's Hidden Gardens for Fall Foliage

Every year in late November Tokyo becomes ablaze with color as the autumn leaves begin to change. Fiery maples and golden ginkgos transform the prefecture into a fall wonderland that can be enjoyed through early December. Koyo (colorful leaves) are the cherry blossoms of autumn, drawing huge crowds to Tokyo's parks and gardens for leaf-peeping. To get in on the fun, I joined a fall foliage tour provided by Alpine International of three lesser-known Tokyo gardens for koyo. Read on for a look inside each garden - all worthy of a visit if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Japan this time of year! 

Note: This travel guide is available as a GPS-enabled map with offline navigation. Click here to download the guide and receive turn-by-turn walking directions between sights -  no data plan or WIFI required!  

Tonogayato Garden

One of nine Metropolitan Heritage Gardens in Tokyo, Tonogayato Garden was originally the grounds of a garden villa belonging to a Japanese railway executive, and later, the founder of Mitsubishi. The garden is quite expansive and features a bamboo grove, Hagi-covered trellis tunnel, beautiful river terraces and a tea ceremony house overlooking Japanese maples. 

Admission: ¥150 (approx. $1.25 USD)
Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Access: Kokubunji Station via the JR Chuo, Seibu-Kokubunji and Seibu Tama-ko lines. The garden is a 3-minute walk from the south exit of the station.

thumb_IMG_0865_1024.jpg

Otaguro Park

Named after the music composer and critic whose former home still remains on site, this smaller Japanese garden features a stone-paved walkway lined with ginkgo trees, a sukiya-style teahouse and a pond teeming with colorful koi fish.

Admission: Free
Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Access: Ogikubo Station via the JR Chuo, JR Chuo-Sobu and Tokyo Metro Marunouchi lines. The park is a 6-minute walk from the station.

Mejiro Garden

A soft rain had begun to fall by the time we reached Mejiro Garden, making it that much more atmospheric. The park is centered around a large pond where you can spot bathing ducks and, of course, koi fish. Along the perimeter of the pond you'll find waterfalls and stepping stones as well as a gazebo for resting tired feet. During our visit we came across a young Japanese woman dressed in kimono who was being photographed - this park is a smart choice of a backdrop.

Admission: Free
Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Access: Mejiro Station (5-minute walk) via the JR Yamanote Line OR Ikebukuro Station (15-minute walk) via the JR Yamanote and Saikyo lines, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi, Fukutoshin and Yurakucho lines, Seibu Ikebukuro line and the Tobu Tojo line.

For a detailed timeline of autumn leaves throughout the country, I like this guide. Fall colors in Japan generally kick off on the northernmost island of Hokkaido around mid-September and spread southwards over the span of three months. For a unique leaf-peeping experience, be sure to check out an autumn illumination - pictured here and here on my Insta!

Maui: Quick Guide + Photo Journal

Maui: Quick Guide + Photo Journal

A Day Trip to Kamakura

A Day Trip to Kamakura