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Monday, July 4, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Ritsurin Koen 栗林公園, Kikugetsu-tei 菊月亭

Visited 13.11.2014 (Thu)

North entrance of Ritsurin Garden - where our exploration begun!
History. Ritsurin Garden has been around for more than four centuries. Strategically located with Mount Shiun (紫雲山) in the backdrop, it was constructed as a feudal lord garden during 1620s by Takatoshi Ikoma who ruled Sanuki (the former name of Kagawa) at that time. Matsudaira family inherited the garden in 1642 and expanded the garden by successive generations to its current state in 1754. Ritsurin Garden became open to public on March 16, 1875 and was designated as a "National Place of Special Scenic Beauty" in 1953. Ritsurin Garden was also ranked three stars (the highest possible) alongside Dogo Onsen in Michelin Green Guide Japan in 2009. 
Michelin Green Guide Japan: http://travelguide.michelin.com/asia/japan/shikoku


Ritsurin Garden itself is an artistic masterpiece originated from the past. One will exclaim at meticulous and well thought out landscaping features while strolling in the garden. More than a thousand resilient pine trees, some have been around for more than a century, are carefully tended by the gardeners here. And it was because of Ritsurin Garden, I developed a liking for parks/gardens and from then onward, started to plan visits to parks/gardens on subsequent trips to Japan (such as Kourakoen in Okayama and Adachi Museum of Art in Shimane). May sound a bit exaggerated here but seeing is believing and I will sincerely recommend all to pay here a visit to fully appreciate the beauty of such garden for yourselves. 

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Highlights:

Tsurukame-matsu (鶴亀松).
Started our exploration of this 16 hectares sized garden from the north gate. Ritsurin Garden is divided into two areas - North and South, and it takes at least an hour and a half to complete both routes. Tsurukame-matsu (鶴亀松), otherwise known as the crane and turtle pine tree, is one of the most precious pine tree in the garden, made up of a black pine with 110 stones. The combination resembled a fluttering crane standing on the back of a turtle, which explained how its name came about. As there are numerous maple trees planted here, the garden is also beautifully decorated by shades of red during the autumn season.

Autumn foliage; though not at its best state yet.
Hokko (北湖).
Hokko (北湖), or North Pond, has a surface area of 7000 m2 and is located in the South Garden. Photo was taken while standing on Bairin-kyo bridge (梅林橋). The largest pond in the South Garden in Nanko (南湖), or South Pond, with a surface area of 7,900 m2 and a 30 minutes traditional boat ride known as wasen can be enjoyed in this pond. Boat ride cost 610 yen for an adult and tickets can be purchased from ticket counter at the east gate. Gave the boat ride a miss due to time constraint.

Leisure boat ride in Nanko (南湖).
Best view of Ritsurin Garden from Hiraiho.
Climbed up Hiraiho (飛来峰), a landscaped hill which commands the best view of Ritsurin Garden, overlooking the South Pond with Mount Shiun in the background. From here, capture the view of a symmetrical reflection of Engetsukyo (偃月橋), otherwise known as the crescent moon bridge, in the waters and a love shaped azalea bush on one of the small islands in the pond. Was totally blown away by this picturesque scenery at the very first sight and even waited for the overcast to move away in order to capture a well illuminated picture of the view! Though it was already the autumn season, we were still one week early before the leaves turned completely red; could imagine in my mind how mesmersing the scenery would have been... 

Can you spot a heart shaped bush?
Experience tea ceremony at Kikugetsu-tei.
Stopped by at Kikugetsu-tei (菊月亭), a traditional Japanese sukiya style tea house to rest our legs. Sat down to enjoy a bowl of matcha accompanied with a biscuit filled with chestnut paste (set cost 700 yen) and indulge into a laidback moment, soaking into the tranquility and admiring the refined landscaping right in front of the tea house. Ended our exploration at the east gate. There is a local souvenir shop named Ritsurin-an (栗林庵), located just outside the east gate, stocked up with a wide range of products (agricultural items, wine, sweets, handicrafts, etc) originated from Kagawa Prefecture.

Nothing beats having a bowl of hot matcha in this cold weather.
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Ritsurin Koen 栗林公園
1-20-16,Ritsurin-cho,Takamatsu-city,Kagawa Prefecture 760-0073
http://ritsuringarden.jp/jp/
Opening hours differs from month to month, please check the schedule on their website: http://ritsuringarden.jp/jp/?page_id=80
Admission fee: 410 yen

How to get there?

(1) Train
- 10 mins walk from Ritsurin Koen Kotoden Station.
- 3 mins walk from Ritsurin Koen Kitaguchi JR Station.

(2) Bus
Take the Shopping Rainbow Bus ショッピングレインポー  (Anticlockwise route 反時計廻り or Nishi Mawari 西廻り) from the bus terminal at Takamatsu JR Station and alight at the bus stop in front of Ritsurin Koen.
Bus schedule: http://www.kotoden.co.jp/publichtm/bus/rosen/community/shopping.html



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Video: Scroll to 2:00 for feature on Ritsurin Garden.

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