Taking a moment to stop and appreciate the flowers (or the shifting seasons in general) seems to be pretty ingrained in Japanese culture. You can find all sorts of gardens and temples known for being hotspots to visit at specific times of the year. When I last visited Japan in 2010, I was fortunate to see the insane volume of plum blossoms at Osaka Castle. Hoping to relive those blossoms surrounded by such history, I found a small temple with a modest patch of plum trees to view in the heart of Tokyo: Koshikawa Korakuen.
The history is long and proud at the garden, starting with its conception in 1629. The name Korakuen comes from a Chinese text called “Gakuyo-ki” and the passage roughly translates roughly to “worry before all worries in the world, and enjoy after all enjoyments in the world.” I think something got a bit muddled there, but it seems to be giving a message of “worry about the worries but enjoy all the enjoyments.” The park itself is quite the enjoyment, with patches of different flowers that bloom at various times during the year, giving the gardens a unique look depending on when you visit.
Bonus fact: This is only one of a handful of sites that has the distinction of being both a Special Historic Site of Japan and a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and by the Cultural Assets Preservation Act. Nice!
Plum Blossom Viewing
Plum blossom season typically stretches from mid/late February into early March, with the peak viewing time changing each year, depending on climate. We visited around mid-February and saw a fair amount of blooms, but they weren’t yet at peak blossoms. Waiting until you’re a bit further into March, like we did with Ogose, will yield many more blossoms.
It was wonderful to see another historical area with such a dedication to horticulture. Little gardens like these really acts as an oasis in the crowded spaces of Tokyo.