How lucky that this last business trip to Tokyo put me smack dab in the peak of koyo or autumn leaves viewing. Like cherry blossoms, koyo or autumn leaves are much loved by the Japanese for their exquisite but brief season.
I had done some research and found out that there were quite a number of recommended koyo viewing spots within Tokyo. One of the most recommended is Rikugi-en Garden. It is easily reached by taking the JR Yamanote Line to Komagome station.
The main entrance of the garden is a 10 minute walk from the station but during autumn and spring when more people visit the park, the Someimon gate, which is much closer, is opened to the public.
There is a long line that's briskly moving when we get to Rikugi-en at 9 in the morning.
Upon entering, I am immediately greeted by this burst of red which stands tall amidst a riot of green shrubbery. I cannot wait to see what else will Rikugi-en will dazzle me with.
Rikugi-en is a beautifully landscaped garden right in the heart of modern, bustling Tokyo.
For me, it is a prime example of "wabi sabi" that quintessentially Japanese aesthetic that sees beauty in simplicity and imperfection. Trees and branches and shrubs seemingly run riot until you notice the plan and symmetry in their perfect disorder.
The garden sprawls across nine hectares and was created in the 18th century by one of the shoguns. It was later bought by the founder of Mitsubishi who used it as his second residence until he donated it to the government in the 1950s.
There are 88 sections in the garden that were created from scenes in famous Japanese poems. Each of these has a marker inviting the visitor to stop and contemplate the particular spot of beauty before him.
Rikugi-en is perhaps the loveliest garden I have seen. To take in and enjoy all the beauty, your steps slow down, you stop more often, you breathe a little deeper and time seems to stand still.
I come upon this small shrub with deep purple berries. This plant is very appropriately called Japanese beauty berry.
I think autumn with its various shades of reds and golds is even more of a show stopper than spring or sakura season. After the initial impact, masses and masses of pink and white sakura make me want to rest my eyes.
But I could sit in a garden such as this and meditate on these autumn leaves for as long as I could.
This large pond is the centrepiece of Rikugi-en Garden. There are two small islands on the pond which symbolise the male and female deities. I am grateful that except for a few buildings in the far background, there are no massive skyscrapers to ruin the effect.
What a show-off! This Japanese maple with its vibrant red leaves stands in the middle of a wide expanse of lawn, preening as everyone snaps away on their cameras.
It had started to drizzle quite steadily. We found a bench, shaded from the rain by a large tree and sat and enjoyed the quiet splendour of Rikugi-en Garden. No conversation is needed -- just quiet and peaceful yet companionable silence.
Unfortunately, from a drizzle, the skies soon opened and then came the downpour.
The ducks came out to enjoy the rain but the people had to scurry for cover.
Our tree's branches could no longer shield us so with much reluctance, we left Rikugi-en Garden.
It was a grace filled interlude that is completely etched in my memory.