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Snow Transforms Tokyo's Best Formal Gardens into a New Landscape

Metropolitan Tokyo received a rare dusting of snow in early February, turning two of its best formal gardens into a photographer's wonderland.

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The mansion at Kyu Furukawa Gardens, designed by architect Josiah Condor, was dusted in snow on February 6, 2024. (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)

Snow is not a notable feature of Tokyo weather. Even including the mountainous western part of Tokyo (東京都) the average number of snowy days per month is in the low single digits with most snow coming in February and March. The probability of anything more than snow flurries in the metropolitan area (23区) is even lower.

When snow does come, it is mostly a bother. Especially for commuters who face delays, cancelled trains, and in a recent case a half-kilometer hike from a stalled train to the nearest station.

For non-commuting people, especially photographers, snow in Tokyo is an opportunity. We can capture scenes that, while common in Japan's snow country, are rare in Tokyo.

My SOHO is situated in easy walking distance from two notable formal gardens (庭園) in Tokyo. I have also covered both Kyu Furukawa-teien (Furukawa Gardens) and Rikugien (Rikugien Gardens) in previous JAPAN Forward articles.

The formal garden at Kyu Furukawa-teien on February 6, 2024.

Furukawa Gardens

Kyu Furukawa-teien has a special appeal for me because its centerpiece is a mansion designed by Josiah Condor. It resembles some to be seen in Sheffield, England, where I am a homeowner.

An English rose garden and a Japanese formal garden are among its notable features. The former was covered in snow with only a few hardy blossoms visible. Parts of the latter were visible and accessible. Though few in number, there was a steady stream of visitors.

Furukawa-Teien's tea house in the snow.

Rikugien Gardens

Rikugien dates from the early 18th century and is one of the top formal gardens in Japan. When sakura are in bloom and when autumn colors are at their best, entrance queues extend for 100 meters or more.

There were no such queues when I visited on February 6, the day after the snowstorm. However, even more so than the Furukawa-teien, there was a goodly number of visitors attracted to the snow-covered garden.

This is a favorite spot for selfies when the weather is warmer.
This small rest house also looks out on a pond at Rikugien.
On warmer days visitors can enjoy Japanese tea at the tea house with a view of the large pond.
Rikugien's gardens attract waterfowl year round, especially ducks.
Heron seemed cold although the ducks appeared comfortable.
Features of the main pond at Rikugien also change in the snow.
The main pond at Rikugien from another angle.

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Author: Earl H Kinmonth
All photographs (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth). Find other stories about Tokyo gardens and nearby areas by Dr Kinmonth on JAPAN Forward.

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