Ni-no-maru Imperial Gardens

Amazing flower displays…without the crowds!

I didn’t discover this hidden gem among the Imperial Palace East Gardens (which I’d dismissed as boring! boring! boring! since I’d only been to the one on top of the stone wall), until I spied a shot of the lower garden during azalea season.

Okay, so I was wrong.
During azalea season, ordinary paths are transformed into gateways to wonderland
Does this not look like the most divine place to eat your lunch in the whole world?
You can see them azaleas from all the way across the pond

And once I started visiting it, I discovered that the Ni-no-maru garden is actually delightful in other seasons too. Because despite being in the midst of the Imperial Palace (one of the biggest tourist checklist destinations in Tokyo WHY?), the lower garden is always quiet and uncrowded. I mean, go figure.

Where else will you find paths this uncrowded during cherry blossom season?
There aren’t a lot of trees, but they’re nice ones. And double the pleasure if there’s no wind and you see them reflected in the pond
If you’re lucky enough to be there on a rainy day, you’ll have the place to yourself, and the colors are brilliant
Of course there are carp, but these are the emperor’s carp, so they’re much prettier than hoi polloi carp
Every flower season is represented in this little garden – the wisteria arbor will bloom in May, and these iris will bloom in June
The upper garden isn’t very exciting…
…except in April, when the late-blooming cherry blossoms burst forth. These are next to the tea bushes, which have been pruned in the traditional tea farming style
Naturally, it being the Imperial Palace, there are some rare varieties of cherry trees, like this one with green flowers near the rest house on the way from the entrance to Ni-no-maru
And don’t forget to take a walk around the outside of the moat – each cherry tree lining the sidewalk is a rare variety, and the cranky swans might even cooperate for a photo
Around the corner toward Takebashi, the late-blooming cherries really put on a show
And when the petals begin to fall, there is no nicer place to enjoy them
Am I right, or am I right?

Open: Every day except closed Mondays and Fridays, and Dec 28 – Jan 3

Hours: Apr-Aug 9:00 – 17:00, Sep-Oct 9:00 – 16:30, Dec-Feb 9:00 – 16:00

Admission: Free


How to go to the Imperial Palace gardens

1: The Otemon Gate is closest to Ni-no-maru. Show the security staff the inside of your purse/backpack, then they’ll wave you through the giant gates.

2: Follow the signs to the checkpoint, where the uniformed guard behind the window will hand you a free plastic token. Be sure you keep track of where you put it, because you’ll have to hand it back on your way out.

3: Continue on past the treasure house museum, rest house and souvenir stand (and bathroom), and the old wooden building (all on your right). Follow the path as it U-turns around the big stone wall, pass the map (on your right), and you’ll soon come to the entrance to the Ni-no-maru lower garden.

4: The path will take you through a foresty bit before you reach the gardens proper.

5: If you want to see the upper gardens, go back out to the main, wide road and take any of the steep ramps heading up to your left

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

 For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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