Everyone’s heard about Tokyo’s big gardens—the Kiyosumi Teien in Fukagawa, the Hamarikyu near Sumida River in Chuo Ward, the Rikugien near Komagome or those around the Imperial Palace and in the Meiji Jingu park. But if you happen to be in Tokyo from March 13 until May 7, why not go for something really rare: a stroll in the garden of Denpoin Temple, right in the heart of Asakusa.
It’s not big—about 10,000 square meters (~2.5 acres) but it is beautiful in the way a Japanese garden usually is: every part of it is carefully made to look as an image of some classic Chinese painting or actual landscape, it has a small pond, lots of flowers and trees (yes, even cherry trees), a couple of stone bridges, a small waterfall and some spectacular views of Sensoji’s Goju no To (five-storied pagoda) and the Tokyo SkyTree for those mandatory pictures of the old next to the new.
What makes this garden a rarity is that it is the private garden of Sensoji Temple’s abbot, which is usually closed to the public; it only opens once or twice a year, and only for a limited number of days. To make the ¥300 you will spend for the ticket more worthwhile, the Sensoji authorities usually throw in a visit to an exhibition in the Tokubetsu Tenjikan building which also doubles as the entrance to the garden—with 1400 years of history, Sensoji has amassed thousands of works of art and every year they select a couple of dozens of them to exhibit to visitors.
A visit to a spot even most Tokyoites aren’t aware of, a look at some great art, a stroll in a beautiful garden and a chance to drink a hot cup of the abbot’s tea (he’s buying) when you need a rest—not a bad bang for your yen, right?
How to get there?
Take the Ginza or the Asakusa Line of the metro, get off at Asakusa, go straight up to Sensoji, turn left at the pagoda and walk for about 30 yards—you’ll see the entrance to the Tokubetsu Tenjikan. It’s open every day from 10:00 to 16:00.