Ritsurin Park – Uncover One of Japan’s Secret Get-Aways For Travelers In The Know
Navel high on the table before me my teacup steamed. The bitter sweet fragrance of macha wafted on the spring breeze into my nose. The sky reflected on the gazing pond just beyond the sand and stone “zen” garden. The tatami underneath me seemed to groan as I shifted my weight from one leg to the other. Far from mastering seiza, my legs felt like hedgehogs were practicing ukemi, somersaulting down my calves and feet. Low murmurs of fellow park-goers chattering and distant ducks quacking stirred the otherwise quite tea house. My heart felt content. My mind rested, calm and tranquil.
After three hours exploring Takamatsu City's must-see Ritusurin Park the park's traditional Japanese tea house eased my body and relaxed my mind. Mid-spring proved to be one of the best times to visit the famous park. (Autumn another.) A joyous resurrection was unfolding all around. Plants and trees burst back to life from their winter repose. Buds, blooms, and blossoms painted vibrant pastels against the green canvas of the gardens.
Hopping off the train, finding a place to stay was my first priority. It was getting late in the day. The ANA Hotel Clement towered above, and drew me in first. A quick budget check revealed that it was a tad too luxurious for this impromptu trip.
I meandered along the sho ten gai (shopping arcades) in search of a more budget-friendly place to stay. The ever-reliable Toyoko Inn fit the bill perfectly. For less than 6000 yen a night for a single room, I got a safe, impeccably clean room with modern amenities and a comfortable bed. A morning breakfast is included. And only 8 minutes walk from Takamatsu JR Station, I was in the perfect location for exploring deeper into the city and heading out of it as well.
After check-in and dropping off my backpack, I set out to devour a bowl of the famous sanuki udon. I'd love to tell you the nuances which sets this delicacy apart from the other udon noodles across Japan, but to be honest, I couldn't really see how it was different, nor why it is so famous. Perhaps my pallet is not so evolved.
As the last bit of noodles slurped into my mouth, and with a full belly, drowsiness set in quickly. I went back to my trusty hotel, showered, and slept deeply.
At the breakfast table, I considered the possibilities of the day. Browsing the travel literature at the front desk, I discovered my day's destination: Ritsurin Park.
Traveling south along Chuo Dori (a.k.a Route 30), I walked about 1.6 kilometers (about a mile) to Ritsurin Park.
Highlights And Features of Ritsurin Park
Ritsurin Park consumes a massive 75 hectares (750,000 square meters, about 185 acres). Constructed in the mid-1600s, it has been a place for the public to seek tranquility since 1875.
- Kikugetsu-tei (Moon Scooping Pavilion): This tea house located in the southern section of the garden was built in the early years of the Edo period (around 1640).
- Hakomatsu: Carefully cultivated black pine trees; their branches, twigs, and needles are elaborately trimmed into geometrical shapes and figures.
- Wild Duck Hunting Moat
- Sai-ko (Western Lake)
- Nan-ko (Southern Lake)
Some sources say it only takes one or two hours. I'd say give yourself at least four hours. Bring a bento, and linger. No need to rush through this scenic paradise. You'll be in good company of the dozens and dozens of daily visitors – Japanese and non-native – who find sanctuary in this legendary park. Take time. Observe your fellow sojourners. Strike up a conversation. And be sure your camera batteries are charged and you have plenty of available memory on your media card.
How To Get to Ritsurin Park
JR Shikoku: Kōtoku Line, Ritsurin-Kōen-Kitaguchi Station
Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad (Kotoden): Ritsurin Kōen Station
Kotoden Bus: Ritsurin Kōen Mae stop
Kōsoku Bus Ritsurin Kōen Mae stop