Monday, August 22nd, 2022

Ritsurin Koen: a walk in tranquil beauty

Photograph of a lake seen from a high angle, with a traditional Japanese bridge in the background and ornate gardens to the fore

What is a Feudal Lord to do when they want to stroll? A visit to the local town involves mixing the lower echelons of the population, while exertions to the mountains risk encountering bandits. Both are fraught with danger.

The solution for many was the "Strolling Gardens". These parks feature engaging pathways that crossed streams and lakes, passed through ornate orchards and were resplendent with flowers and wildlife. They offer a place to reflect, contemplate and consider the many decisions their territory demands.

One of the finest is in the city of Takamatsu. Located on the island of Shikoku, Ritsurin Koen is  75 hectares of tranquil paths and lakes that date back hundreds of years.

Founded on a former river bed in 1625 by Daimyo IKOMA Takatoshi, Ritsurin Koen was steadily expanded and landscaped until it fell into public ownership in 1868 and was opened to the public a few years later. Awareness of its importance and beauty grew steadily as tourists visited. By the early 1950s it was designated a "Special Place of Scenic Beauty".

My visit to the Koen came after my wife and her friend wanted to visit Takamatsu to sample its famous udon noodles. The rainy season was threatening, and the skies were dark and grey. Unaware of the beauty that awaited, my camera had its 35mm lens attached.

I spent a couple of hours meandering along the paths, often pausing to admire some detail that caught my eye. It drew me in, and my camera didn't get as much use as normal. Instead, my mind wandered to problems I was facing, finding answers in the tranquility of tamed nature.

Takamatsu is a little out of the way for many tourist trips. That said, if you are spending more than a couple of weeks in the country, a visit to the city, and in particular Ritsurin Koen, are well worth the diversion.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.