To enjoy afterwards

Koishikawa Korakuen

A pause in updating, for the prosaic reason that I keep using up my bandwidth quota by the middle of the month, which limits what I can do, especially regarding photos. Still, nearly the end of January, so I can chance it…

Tokyo is not the easiest place to see traditional Japan. The damage Tokyo sustained in World War II, and the staggering amount of wealth it generated in the years after mean that its temples are all skyscrapers. Kyoto has the Zen gardens and rice-paper screens: in Tokyo, it’s shopping mazes and LED screens. Peaceful contemplation has given way to the wisdom of crowds. But you can still seek out more traditional aspects of Japan in the captial – one of the last places I visited was a stroll garden: Koishikawa Korakuen.

Construction was begun in 1629, by the founder of the powerful Tokugawa family. It was completed by the Tokugawa’s second clan ruler, Mitsukuni Tokugawa.

“The name of the garden, “Korakuen”, came from a Chinese text… admired by Mitsukuni which said that there is “a need for those in power to worry about maintaining power first and then enjoy power later on.” Thus, the name Korakuen, “the garden for enjoying power later on” was chosen.” – Koishikawa Korakuen English guide.

It’s a strange and beautiful place, with a bridge whose reflection forms a full moon shape, and some fabulous Japanese maple trees. It also happens to be right next to the Tokyo Dome, one of the capital’s biggest concert venues, and an amusement park. As you walk round Korakuen, you can hear the clatter of rollercoasters and the big rich rock bands soundchecking, drifting through the leaves. There is a big contrast between how we enjoy power in the 21st century, and how people in the 17th century enjoyed it.

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