Often neglected – but outstanding nevertheless
While the Hama Rikyū Garden is on everybody’s standard tourist programme, the vast majority of visitors passes unnoticed the jewel I am going to talk about here that provides a much more impressive example for feudal horticulture. That may be due to the fact that the Kyū Shiba Rikyū Teien (旧芝離宮庭園 / きゅうしばりきゅうていえん) is among the smaller onces with its 4.3 hectare – the “smaller brother” of the Hama Rikyū Teien, so to speak.
But one has to keep in mind that the Kyū Shiba Rikyū Teien is one of the oldest daimyō-gardens (of the times when Tōkyō was still called Edo) and – next to the Koishikawa Kōrakuen – the only one that has retained its original shape. Only the mode of water supply has been changed since the old days: Whilst the garden’s pond was originally supplied with water from the Tōkyō Bay, it is now being provided as fresh water. That’s why you’ll find gorgeous carps here (which wouldn’t survive in the brackish soup of the Hama Rikyū Teien’s pond, that is still filled with sea water).
The area on which the park is located was only reclaimed from the Tōkyō Bay in the middle of the 17th century. In 1678 it became the official residence of Tadatomo Okubo (大久保忠朝 / おおくぼただとも), who, from 1686 to 1698, ruled the region of Odawara (“Kanagawa” in our days), as ordered by the Tokugawa-Shōgun.
After his death, ownership of the property changed for a few times, until it was made part of the Meiji emperor’s assets in 1875. The Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 destroyed not only the palace building on these premised but also parts of the park’s beauty – virtually all trees were lost. In 1924 the garden was handed over to the city of Tōkyō (to commemorate the wedding of the later Shōwa Tennō in Januar of the following year), was restored and made accessible to the public in April.
Back in 1875, when the Emperor of Japan (the Meiji Tennō) visited his new property, the park was still located in direct vicinty of the Tōkyō Bay – which allowed the emperor to enjoy the view of the sea from one of the not really high “mountains” of the area (the Kyūshakudai/九尺台). In our days there is more than half a kilometre of new land between the garden and the piers of the Takeshiba Sanbashi (竹芝桟橋) – land that is presently being “graced” with the construction of a new giant building complex.
The most outstanding features of the Kyū Shiba Rikyū Teien are its various landscaps and its expanse. In fact, you’ll hardly find a garden that could be called a peer to it – the large pond, the rock gardens and the diversified topography are quite unique. No wonder the Kyū Shiba Rikyū Teien was recognised as a place of particular scenic beauty and made a cultural heritage in 1979.
Opening Hours / Admittance Fees:
Daily from 9 am to 5 pm (last entry at 4.30 pm) (closed during the New Year holidays, 29 December to 3 January).
Adults*: 150 ¥
Senior Citizens (65 years and older): 70 ¥
Children (elementary school or younger): free
* Junior highschool students residing in Tōkyō or studying in Tōkyō: free
How to get there:
JR station Hamamatsu-chō (浜松町 / はままつちょう), north exit, less than 1 minute walk in eastern direction.
Toei Subway, Ōedo line (都営大江戸線 / とえいおおえどせん) or Asakusa line (都営浅草線 / とえいあさくさせん) to Daimon station (大門 / だいもん) and from there about 5 minutes walk (or, while still underground, go to exit no. B2 and then about 1 minute in eastern direction).
Yurikamome line (新交通ゆりかもめ / しんこうつうゆりかもめ) to Takeshiba (竹芝 / たけしば), about 5 minutes walk in western direction.
Kyū Shiba Rikyū Onshi Teien (旧芝離宮恩賜庭園 / きゅうしばりきゅうおんしていえん)
1-4-1 Kaigan, Minato-ku, Tōkyō 105-0022