We've visited Rikugien in Bunkyo Ward before and thoroughly enjoyed our walk through this serene garden park. With that walk firmly in mind we set out for the 30 minute drive to Bunkyo Ku (Ward) to enjoy this warm and sunny autumn day with a repeat walk and a view of the autumn leaves reflecting in the park's pond.
See this posting in this blog for my past review: Rikugien - The Waka Poetry Garden
Turning the corner the first thing we noticed, to our surprise, was the long line of people stretching more than halfway down the long block from the entrance gate of the park. The line was moving along okay as people paid their entry fee and entered the garden. Since it was moving along we figured we'd go ahead and give it another tour. The next surprise was that the large parking lot we'd used before was now an apartment building. Okay, no worries, let's cruise around and find something in one of the coin parking lots dotting the area. Coin lot number one, full. Moving on to number two, full. And so forth for the next four or five lots we saw. But wait, there's one with a green light indicating an open space. Too late! The car that just turned the corner took that slot. Then, a quick glance to our left, and there was another green sign telling us there's an open spot. Let's grab it! These coin parking lots are often very small and this one was no exception. Only three slots in total and luckily for us slot number 1 was open. Yes! Parking accomplised.
Walking around the corner from the parking lot we decided to grab a bit to eat before crossing the street to the park. Restaurant number one, full. No problem, there are more restaurants along the street. Number two, full. Number three - yep, you guessed it, full and a waiting list of names hanging on the board outside that didn't seem to be diminishing even though other customers were coming out.
Turning back we spotted a table outside the same small bakery where we had eaten in the past so my wife quickly plopped down and claimed the table while I went inside to get some items to eat and drink.
Enjoying our meal we watched the line entering the park and although people continued to go in through the gate the line never seemed to grow shorter as more and more people lined up.
We discussed it and decided that (a) we've been to the park before, (b) the wait would be 20 to 30 minutes to enter, and (c) it was likely to be so crowded in the park, which isn't very big, that walking the park's paths would be like warily weaving our way through Shinjuku Train Station at rush hour (for the unaware Shinjuku Station gets over one million commuters per day). Our conclusion was to scratch the visit to the park and drive through some of the local neighborhoods on our way home since it's a part of Tokyo we don't normally venture through.
Lesson learned: when it's a sunny autumn day, and the leaves are in full autumn dress, don't try to visit one of the most popular parks in Tokyo. Unless, that is, you just want to sit at a sidewalk table enjoying your pastry, sipping a cup of coffee, and watching the hordes hurry by.