When my time in Matsuyama came to an end I traveled next to the city of Takamatsu in the northeastern corner of Shikoku. I would be spending three nights there and I arrived early enough that I would be able to get in one bit of sightseeing in the late afternoon before the sun went down. The closest attraction was the Ritsurin Koen, so I made my way over to it.
Ritsurin Koen is a large landscape garden that was first built in the 1600s by Takamatsu’s feudal lords and in 1875 it was opened to the public. I entered Ritsurin Koen from the north side, and in that northern part of the garden you can find open lawns, groves of plumb trees, small streams, ponds, carefully manicured black pine trees, and even a small museum. The northern half of Ritsurin Koen has some noticeable Western influences and this is because in the late 1800s this area of the garden was redesigned.
The southern half of Ritsurin Koen still retains its traditional Japanese style and it is this part of the garden that has made Ritsurin Koen famous in Japan. With its beautiful ponds and carefully sculpted scenery, Ritsurin Koen has become regarded as one of the best landscape gardens in the country and many people have advocated that it should be ranked alongside the three great gardens of Japan found in Kanazawa, Okayama, and Mito (a week prior to this I had visited Okayama’s Korakuen Garden, which you can read about here). Personally, I haven’t made up my mind as to how I would rank the Ritsurin Koen compared to the big three gardens of Japan but I would definitely agree that it is in the same league as them.
At the main pond of the Ritsurin Koen you can buy fish food to throw to the koi that swim through the garden’s waters. The koi have learned that when humans stand above the pond at a particular spot that means that food is about to be tossed into the water and if you walk up to the water’s edge they’ll start swarming in anticipation.
Before the garden closed for the day I managed to explore most of the southern region. The large teahouse on the pond had closed just a few minutes before I got to it so I’ll have to come back some day to experience that. When I was first entering Ritsurin Koen I figured I would only spend about 30-45 minutes in it but the garden has a lot to see and I ended up staying there right up to closing time.