Considered to be one of Japan's finest gardens and designated as a special place of scenic beauty, Ritsurin Koen Park is located in the city of Takamatsu. Set against the backdrop of Mt. Shuin, the park features six ponds and 13 landscaped hills. The park is designed so that the scenery around you changes with each step you take.
Bursting with seasonal flowers, special illumination events take place for viewing the trees after dark during the cherry blossom season. In fall, visitors are treated to the rich and vibrant hues of maple leaves and other autumnal foliage. Ritsurin Koen Park is a must for those wanting to experience a traditional Japanese garden without the crowds of some of the other famous gardens.
Ritsurin Koen Park lies roughly two kilometers from JR Takamatsu Station. Visitors can walk most of the way via a covered shopping arcade. You can also reach the gardens by train.
By train, take the Kotoden train from Takamatsu-Chikko Station to Ritsurin Koen Station; the park's main entrance is approximately a 10-minute walk away. Alternatively, take a local JR train from Takamatsu Station to Ritsurinkoen-Kitaguchi. You can reach the park's northern entrance in about five minutes.
A private retreat for generations since landscaping began in 1642 under local clan leaders, Ritsurin Koen Park opened to the public in 1875. Rent an audio guide (available in seven languages) and take a leisurely stroll to learn more about the park's fascinating history. Maps explaining the backstory behind specific trees, sites and Kikugetsu-tei teahouse are also available at park entrances.
For a small admission fee visitors can enter the Kikugetsu-tei teahouse. Sit down on traditional tatami flooring and enjoy drinking powdered green tea on the veranda, while overlooking the main pond.
Embrace the role of a feudal lord and relax on a guided traditional wasen boat ride. Afterwards stop by the Sanuki Folk Craft Museum and learn about the local folk crafts on display, such as ceramic and wood products.
There are several scenic viewing points around Ritsurin Koen Park, but one of the best vistas is from Hirai-ho Hill. This landscaped hill is one of the highest points in the gardens and is said to resemble Mt. Fuji.
Also worth a visit is Hanashobu-en, home to around 4000 irises. The park has many beautiful trees, including over 1000 perfectly pruned pines. The most famous of these is the Neagari Goyo-matsu white Pine, originally a bonsai tree presented as a gift from the Tokugawa Shogun in 1833.
A top tip for visitors to Ritsurin Koen Park is to go early in the morning. You can access the park from 7am, the best time to catch a glimpse of the eerie mist that hangs over the ponds. Afterwards stop by the Hana Zen-tei building for a hot bowl of morning porridge (reservations required).