Tokyo’s ichō namiki
Gingko trees are beautiful in every season—there’s a reason their unique leaves have been celebrated in kimonos, pottery, lacquer, and all the traditional arts for centuries—but catching them just as they turn into towering torches and blaze away for a few days in late fall is one of my favorite sights in all of Japan.
At the end of every November, Japan celebrates the brief glory of gingko trees in all their autumn splendor in ways that never fail to bring a smile to my face. Come with me, and let me share some of my favorite spots with you!
It’s easy to spot them among other trees for the few days they’re at their peak, because no other tree is so huge and so perfectly yellow (these are at the Nezu Shrine)
But that’s just the beginning—they deliver an encore that’s almost better than the main attraction. Once the leaves begin to fall (like these beauties in Yoyogi Park), they carpet the ground in a sea of gold, and even when the branches above are bare, their glory is still all around.
But my very favorite way to see gingko trees in Japan is to see them planted along a street or walkway in two magnificent rows in an ichō namiki
There are two kinds of gingko alleys, and it’s hard to know which is more spectacular. This one near the Meiji Shrine (the most famous ichō namiki in Tokyo) is tall and stately, the sort of promenade that makes me feel like something grand awaits me at the end…
…while this one at Showa Kinen Park is more intimate, and walking down it feels like heading through a magical tunnel into an enchanted land beyond.
You can stumble across these “gingko alleys” all over the place (like these, near Hikarigaoka Station) because Japanese people like walking through them as much as I do.
They can be planted in the most formal of promenades (this one with the reflecting pool doubles the delight at Showa Kinen park)…
…or be left to grow naturally, and deliver a different kind of gandeur. This ichō namiki is also at Showa Kinen Park, and as you can see, it’s worth the schlep to see it lit up at night!
I think of the gingkos as a sort of autumn bookend to the cherry trees that suddenly reveal themselves as princesses in spring. Both suddenly set themselves apart from all the ordinary trees surrounding them, and deliver a surprise that never fails to delight.
If you happen to be in Tokyo in the last half of November or early December, you can catch these gingkos at
Showa Kinen Park, near Aoyama-Itchome station, near Hikarigaoka Station, in Yoyogi Park, and at the Nezu Shrine.
I used the Japan Navigation phone app to get around Tokyo, and you can easily use it to get where you want to go, searching with your actual date and preferred arrival time. Here’s
where to get the app and how to use it.
Click here for more
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Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at and Only In Japan The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had