Every year, Tokyo hosts the “Autumn Foliage Tour Stamp Rally”. Visitors are encouraged to visit five of the nine beautiful metropolitan gardens. And if you may collect five stamps, the first 10,000 persons can receive a gift of the Metropolitan garden calendar 2017. The campaign also allows you to enter a lottery to win prizes such as a gift card, towel, tote bag, and coupon for a green tea ceremony.
With the advent of autumn, it’s a great way to get outdoors and to know Tokyo’s gardens while enjoying the foliage turn into hues of red and yellow.
Though should I explain that this stamp rally, it is a kind of marketing gimmick often used in Japan to encourage people to visit sites and collect stamps for a reward gift and participate in the lottery. In order to participate in the rally, one needs to find the 2016 Autumn Foliage brochure with a page that has five blank spaces to be ink stamped. The stamp is usually a rubber kind that we wet with ink and stamp onto blank spaces on a sheet. The stamp and ink can be found after entering the garden.
Robin Ching and I decided to join the stamp rally for the free 2017 garden calendar.
Here are the five gardens we visited and collected stamps:
1. The Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
This garden was built in 1629. It used to be a part of a family residence. The garden features a pond and hills. The garden incorporates some concepts of the Chinese landscape of lakes, rivers, mountains and the countryside. There are bridges crossing the imagined lakes and rivers. The Togetsukyo was built to resemble the setting in Arashiyama, Kyoto and Tsutenkyo Bridge known as the Full Moon Bridge are especially beautiful. There are 480 maple trees in the park and we could enjoy the start of autumn foliage in Tokyo.
Robin and I thought this garden was the loveliest of all the five gardens that we visited for the stamp rally.
2. The Rikugien Garden
This garden was created sometime in the late 1600’s and opened to the public in 1938. The Rikujien was designated as a special site of exceptional beauty of Japan in 1953.
It’s a strolling kind of garden with the landscape of a small pond, trees, and a hill. The garden is created based on the theme of Waka poetry. It’s named Rikujien means Garden of the Six Principles of Poetry.
The autumn foliage is everywhere. The surrounding of the tea houses and the Togetsukyo bridge are lovely sights of this garden. Robin and I saw bamboo groves lit up.
3. The Hama-rikyu Garden
This garden has a tidal pond which means that the pond is infused with seawater to change its appearance by the flow of the tide. The landscape is common with those coastal types of gardens in Japan during the late 1600’s. And there remain two old wild duck hunting sites to view and learn about Japanese hunting style. Robin and I thought the techniques interesting.
The garden is surrounded by high-rise buildings that offer a spectacular backdrop of natural greenery and the buildings. The garden also has a dock also for the waterbuses/taxis. Passengers get off the boats and walk through the garden to get out. Robin and I enjoyed foliage along with the buildings, and the 300-year-old pine tree.
4. The Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens
This garden is a pond garden featuring rock and land formations. There’s a man-made hill by the name Oyama in the garden that provides a magnificent view of the pond and islet, Nakajima that is the focal point of the garden view. The landscape and layout around the pond are excellent.
The Kyu-Shiba-rykyu was a private garden for a long time. It opened to the public in 1924 and was appointed as the place of scenic beauty in Japan in 1979.
The Japanese wax tree is the main of autumn foliage at this garden. The maple, zelkova, and euonymus are also found too.
5. The Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens
The place is rather a 49,500 square meters residential property. It was passed to various important Japanese people. At one time there were more than 20 buildings on the grounds.
In 1896 the Iwasaki family, founder of Mitsubishi Financial Group, purchased this land and built a huge residence, a western-style and a Japanese-style complex. The two houses were connected as one residence building. A billiard house was also built with Swiss architecture and was separated from the house. Both of the house and the billiard house designated important cultural assets in 1969. The whole premises were appointed as important cultural assets of Japan in 1999.
Robin and I went inside the house. It was very interesting to explore the western-style part of the residence and then walk into a Japanese-style residence without needing to leave the house.
Highlights of the autumn foliage of the garden is a large ginkgo which is said to be estimated age 400 years.
Robin and I did not take very many photos of the place for two reasons. First, the building was under renovation and covered, secondly we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the building. And by the time we got out it was turning dark and about to rain. Though the tour of the house was really fascinating. We will post a few pictures and a link to the official website. Here’s the link. http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-iwasaki/