Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園) is a Japanese stroll garden in Bunkyo, Tokyo, near Tokyo Dome City. It is a short walk away from Iidabashi station. I visited at the start of December and the colour of the leaves were just stunning. I love how the seasons are so clearly expressed in Japan. Now I just have to go back around April to see all the sakura and join in hanami parties, but I am fully content this time getting to catch the fall colours!
Koishikawa Korakuen dates back to the Edo period and seems to be nicely maintained, it costs 300 yen ($3 AUD) to enter. While the rest of its surroundings have been developed into tall concrete buildings the garden is like a little pocket of paradise. Strolling through the garden in a loop like fashion I could hear a pop concert belting out english songs in the adjacent Tokyo dome. Interesting how the soundscape changes – with regard to sound even though the garden is designed with key visual ‘scenes’ in mind there are also key ‘sounds’. For example waterfalls, brooks, the changes in textures you walk – from pavement, to stepping-stones, to timber, gravel etc. The weather inclinations, the intensity of the wind, the elements, wild life, birds, ducks, insects. And then there are the sounds that humans make; laughter, voices. These soundscape add richness in addition to our visual experience.
I learnt about the concept of Shakkei recently which translates to “borrowed landscape” referring to a strategy Japanese garden designers use to create elusive expansions of often very small gardens. For example the distant mountain is framed into a view making the mountain appear to be part of the garden. However in modern-day city settings, the distant mountains are the skyscrapers and Tokyo dome, similar to the Shinjuku Gyoen where you see tall buildings as the backdrop to all the greenery. Slightly out of place juxtapositions but somehow not that strange, maybe I am too used to the life of living in the city. The garden was also full of people due to the popular autumn season which only lasts about two weeks.
Thinking about gardens and sound, the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu once likened music to gardens saying, “A garden is composed of various different elements and sophisticated details that converge to form a harmonious whole”. The scenery changes as the listener moves through time.
More info on the garden can be found here.