The rather unknown one among the feudal gardens
The relatively small(ish) Kiyosumi Teien (清澄庭園 / きよすみていえん) (8.1 hectare, that is – even the experts seem to have difficulties to be precise when it comes to the extent of this garden: Wikipedia, for example, is of the opinion that it’s just 4.6 hectare, whilst the Park- and Garden Administration of Tōkyō boasts 8.1 hectare – let’s assume they know their property best) is one of the less known of its kind in Tōkyō, but, maybe therefore, it is also one of the most worth seeing. There are only a few others that provide such a representative example of a Japanese landscape garden.
It is said that already in the early 18th century there was a feudal estate here (depending on the source, different names of owners are being stated). There is, however, definite proof that the founder of the Mitsubishi Group, Yatarō Iwasaki (岩崎・弥太郎 / いわさき・やたろう), bought the property in 1878 and had a park created that was supposed to be dedicated to the recreation of his staff and to the entertainment of clients. Depending on how one looks at it, building this garden took two to thirteen years – it was obviously usable after two years, but the large pond in the center of the garden was only created later. This pond’s water was direclty connected to the nearby Sumida river (at that time also the tides could be watched on the lake’s watersides).
The most impressive elements of the garden are the landscapes and waterfalls that had been created from rocks brought here from all over the country.
Yatarō Iwasaki didn’t live to see the day, when his successor had various buildings erected in the garden. One of those buildings is said to were designed by Josiah Conder, a British architect of the Meiji era (1868-1912) who is generally highly regarded, but whose work I usually don’t appreciate (in his days he was responsible for too many “cries for demolition expressed in stone” – the Kyū Iwasaki-Tei (旧岩崎低 / ゆういわさきてい), built for the founding family of the Mitsubishi group as all, and the western style villa at the Kyū Furukawa Teien (旧古川庭園 / きゅうふるかわていえん) in Tōkyō are rather “successful” examples of his work). However, his building at the Kiyosumi Teien has not survived the great earthquake of 1923 – during which the garden itself was still able to provide refuge of those in need. In 1931 Mitsubishi donated the garden to the city of Tōkyō, and was handed over to the public in the same year.
One of the gems in the garden is the Ryōtei (料亭 / りょうてい) (restaurant/tea house) at the pond, built in 1909 and sole survivor of both, the earthquake of 1923 and the air raids of World War II.
The perhaps greatest of all haiku poets,Bashō Matsuo (松尾・芭蕉 / まつお・ばしょう) (1644 – 1694) is being honored in this park by a large memorial stone. This stone’s inscription includes one of his most famous haiku poems: “an ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the splash of water”. The original text reads even more profane: „古池や蛙飛び込む水の音” (furu ike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto) – haiku is just like the Japanese language as such: Its charm is expressed in what one doesn’t explicitly say.
And if you are not interested in Japanese poetry, the corner of the garden close to the haiku stone is of particular beauty in June, when a bed of irises is blossoming here. But the other seasons are just as interesting, as the flowers of early autumn impressively document below.
Also have a look at the buddha sculptures made of stone, the “Sekibutsugun” (石仏群 / せきぶつぐん), which can be found near the southeastern shore of the pond. These little sculptures may not look like much at first glance, but some of them are far more than 300 years old (and even the “youngest” have seen at least 200 springtimes).
Opening hours / Admission fees:
Daily from 9 am to 5 pm (last entry: 4.30 pm)
Closed during the New Year holidays, 29th of December to 1st of January.
Adults*: 150 ¥
Seniors (65 year of age and older): 70 ¥
Children (including elementary school students): free of charge
* Junior highschool students living or studying in Tōkyō: free of charge
20% discount for groups of 20 or more persons.
How to get there:
Toei Ōedo line (都営大江戸線 / とえいおおえどせん) or Tōkyō Metro Hanzōmon line (東京メトロ半蔵門線 / とうきょうメトロはんぞうもんせん) respectively to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa station (清澄白川 / きよすみしらかわ) and from there via Exit A3 across the street.
3-3-9 Kiyosumi, Koto-ku, Tōkyō 135-0024
Fukagawa Edo Museum (深川江戸資料館)
– A trip back in time to the old Edo
Fukagawa Fudōdō (深川不動堂)
– Where Ācala is protecting the wisdom of the Shingon School of Buddhism
Tomioka Hachimangū (富岡八幡宮)
– Deities’ palanquins and Sumō wrestlers