Covering just over 160m2, the Koishikawa Botanical Garden is not only the oldest in Japan, but also by world standards. The Botanical Garden can be traced back to the Koishikawa Medicinal Herb Garden, which was established in 1684 by Tsunayoshi Tokunaga, the fifth Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, who wanted to start producing Japan-grown medical herbs rather than importing from herbs from China. The abundant water source at this location was a perfect place for growth of the herbs. Soon after, a medical institution was established within the precincts of the Botanical Garden, called the Koishikawa Yojosho. It was a hospital for the city’s most vulnerable, and many patients were treated here as the city of Edo (modern day Tokyo) became one of the most populated cities in the world.
When the University of Tokyo was founded in 1877, the Botanical Garden became a research center for Botanical studies under the University of Tokyo. Since then, it has been the birthplace of modern scientific research in botany in Japan.
You will first be welcomed by a giant and very famous Gingko tree. In 1896, Sakugoro Hirase, a researcher of the University of Tokyo discovered sperms of this Gingko tree. Sakugoro was born into a Samurai family in Fukui. With the Meiji restoration, the Samurai were deprived of their swords, and many Samurai became active in various fields. Sakugoro became an oil paint artist, and he started to work at the Botanical Research Institute at the University of Tokyo as a botanic painter. He eventually developed an interest in botanic studies, and started the research of Gingko trees in 1893. The discovery of the sperm of Gingko was a significant scientific contribution to the world of botanic research on a worldwide scale.
As you walk up the garden, you will be greeted by a beautiful maple tunnel. The various colors of maple are magnificent, and will leave you in awe.
The contrast of the different colors was really beautiful at the height of the foliage season, with burning maple leaves on the trees and the golden carpet of gingko leaves on the ground.
You can also enjoy reddened azaleas all over the gardens.
Compared to other foliage hot spots, the Koishikawa Botanical Garden is lesser known and thus very quiet with much fewer people. It is a true hidden gem of the city, and I highly recommend this garden for a momiji (foliage) hunting excursion!
3-7-1 Hakusan, Bunkyo-ku,Tokyo, 112-0001 JAPAN
Koishikawa Botanical Garden is a 10-15 minute walk from either Myogadani Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line or Hakusan Station on the Mita Subway Line.
9:00 to 16:30 (entry until 16:00)
Mondays (or following day if Monday is a public holiday), Dec 29 to Jan 3