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Hama-rikyu Gardens is a great park in central Tokyo, along the bay. It is very conveniently located, walking distance from Tsukiji Fish Market, Ginza, Hibiya Park, and Shimbashi station.
This large park has a unique history. It was the site of a 1600s villa belonging to the Shogun Tokugawa family. Here, within the large walled, moated compound, they hunted duck in uniquely designed duck blinds and drank tea along the water.
Today the garden contains remants of the Tokugagwa-era villa, such as the huge duck pond, but it also offers many other natural sights for visitors. Te reconstructed tea house is a favorite for many visitors, as are the plum trees and cherry trees which blossom in spring.
Entrance is 300 Yen per person. Closed each year from December 29 to January 1.
To get to the park, use Shiodome Station or take the Sumida River water bus. The cost for the water bus is about 720 Yen each way, but you also have to pay to enter the park.
Hama Rikyu Gardens
I was really pleased that on our first morning of the tour we were able to visit a traditional Japanese garden in the heart of modern Tokyo. These gardens were originally built as part of the Tokyo residence of the Tokugawa Shogun during the Edo Period (1603-1867). They are of the "strolling gardens" style – large gardens with ponds, islands and artificial hills that could be enjoyed from a variety of viewpoints along a circular trail. They were first laid out in 1654 by the brother of the fourth shogun who had part of the Sumida River shallows filled in and built a residence on the land thus reclaimed, with strolling gardens and duck hunting grounds by the river. Over time various shoguns made changes and developed the garden, and it was finally finished under the 11th and has remained more or less the same since then. After the Meiji Revolution the residence became a so-called Detached Palace for the Imperial family. It and the gardens were badly damaged in the air raids of World War Two and after the war the gardens were given to the people of Tokyo and reconstructed, opening to the public in 1952.
So today the gardens retain much of their original appearance despite serving more as city centre park than anything else. For instance, there are several reconstructed duck hunting blinds and you can still see the remains of an old moat. There is even a “duck grave” created in 1935 to console the spirits of the ducks that were once killed here.
One style often employed in these traditional gardens was known as “borrowed scenery”; in this, surrounding scenery was incorporated into a garden’s composition. Of course today the surrounding scenery is of city skyscrapers but for me the contrast they create only served to emphasise the tranquillity of this green haven.
As you stroll around today it’s hard to believe perhaps that every hill here is artificial – it all looks very natural. The pool at the centre of the gardens is an obvious focal point for your wanderings and it is very pretty, with some traditional looking bridges, lovely trees and a teahouse (see next tip) on a small island. But make sure you explore other parts too. One of my favourite spots was on the north side where a large area is devoted to a sort of wild flower meadow, the Flower Field, which changes with the seasons. When we were there in early October it was the turn of the autumn planting of cosmos – beautiful!
Other features include a peony garden and wisteria trellises (we were here too late in the year for these), a 300 year old pine that has needed to be considerably propped up (said to have been planted by the sixth Shogun in the 17th century and apparently the biggest pine tree in Tokyo), and several pavilions. You can easily spend a couple of hours wandering around here, taking photos and maybe relaxing over a bowl of green tea or matcha (powdered green tea) in the teahouse.
Admission to the gardens costs 300¥. If you arrive by river bus, as we did, the admission will be included in your boat fare. If arriving at one of the other gates there is a ticket office nearby. You can get an informative leaflet about the gardens which is available in English.
And next, more about one of the highlights of our visit here, tea at the Nakajima Teahouse.
We didn’t get to attend a full tea ceremony while in Japan, but our visit to this tea house in Hama Rikyu Gardens included many of the main elements – the formal offering of the tea (though the preparation was done elsewhere), the style of the utensils, the accompanying sweetmeats and the detailed instructions on how to drink our tea.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a very prescribed ritual for the ceremonial preparation and offering to guests of matcha, or powdered green tea. It has its origins in Chinese traditions and in Zen thinking. There is a specific order to the events, and responsibilities for both host and guests to follow the particular actions laid down by tradition, from arrival, through the preparation and drinking of the tea, and the clearing away of the (often very precious) utensils. For us, drinking matcha here, there were only a few suggested rules. These involved eating the sweets before drinking the tea, as the sweetness is intended to counteract the bitterness of the tea (I’m afraid I disobeyed and ate part before, part after); and holding the bowl in a particular fashion, turning it a quarter turn before drinking. This latter custom relates to the sharing of a single bowl in some parts of a traditional ceremony I believe.
This powdered tea is rather different to regular green tea and is something of an acquired taste I suspect. For me it was a bit like I imagine drinking grass would be, were that possible! It was certainly interesting to try it, and the traditional setting and sense of occasion made for a great experience which I can certainly recommend even if you aren't too keen on the drink itself.
We paid 500¥ for the tea and sweets. You reach the teahouse by crossing the 118 metre long O-tsutai-bashi, a bridge built from Japanese cedar which affords lovely views of the lake and gardens.
After visiting the gardens we had a walk in the contrasting Shiodome area of the city.
- Arts and Culture
The garden was constructed in 1654 by Matsudaira Tsunashige, a brother of the shogun of the time, and when his son later became the shogun the garden was officially the property of the Tokugawas. The garden was expanded over the years even adding two duck-hunting ponds and later became property of the Imperial Family. Although it was severely damaged in World War II and the Great Kanto Earthquake it was repaired just a year after WWII and opened to the public for the first time.
It's a nice, large strolling garden with quite a few spots to see. When you enter you can take an English audio guide for free that walks you through the garden and tells you information about the sites. If you have the time, it's well worth it. You can learn a lot about the garden and it helps you to not miss any highlights.
Part of the garden overlooks the bay and the opposite side offers a view of Shiodome, a nice contrast to the traditional garden that I don't think takes anything away from the garden. It has a peony garden, a nice plum grove, some wisteria, and other flowers that will enhance its beauty if you come when they're in bloom.
Entrance is 300 yen.
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- Hiking and Walking
Tea ceremony in Hamarikyu Gardens
There are many Japanese gardens in Tokyo but historically this is the most important one. We experienced a tea ceremony in the tea house on the pond - it was wonderful. The gardens close around 4pm.
When you go there, visit Caretta Shiodome building (very close) and eat Japanese beef at the restaurant 'Toraji' on the top floor with the great skyline view. Lunch is an especially good deal.
- Arts and Culture
Hamarikyu Onshi Teien (Garden)
Hamarikyu Garden was constructed as a residence of a feudal lord in 17th century and was an official duck hunting ground for the Tokugawa Shogun. In 1704, it became a second residence for the Shogun. Today the park is government owned and open to the public.
Located on the banks of the Sumida River, the park contains a tidal pond that receives water from the Tokyo Bay. There is a teahouse located on a small island in the pond that serves green tea with Japanese sweets for 500 yen. At the park entrance, there is a large pine tree known as sanbyakunen no matsu, or three hundred years old pine, which is said to have been planted by the 6th Shogun Ienobu himself in the 17th century. This tree is the biggest pine tree in Tokyo. My wife and I visited in autumn and found the fall foliage to be fantastic here.
The Sumida River Water Bus stops at the garden on its way to or from Asakusa. The trip via Water Bus from Hamarikyu to Asakusa takes about 35 minutes and costs 620 yen. From Hamarikyu to Hinode Sanbashi Pier, it takes about 5 minutes and costs 100 yen.
- National/State Park
Hama Rikyu Garden
Hama Rikyu Garden is located near Tsukiji Fish Market. We took a shor twalk from the Fish Market to the garden. There is an entrance fee to the Garden.
The plants are cleverly planted so that you will see some flowers blossom in every season. The river view is beautiful and you can see the tidal wave close to the mouth of the river. Duck pond, causeway bridges, tea house, Japanese Garden, Peony Garden are some of the highlights of the garden.
The Garden is between an expressway and the Sumida River. If you take the river boat from Asakusa, you are given a choice to alight at the garden with a small fees. You can board the river boat all the way to Tokyo Bay area at Odaiba.
Visit Nakajima Teahouse
This gorgeous little teahouse is in the Hama Detached Palace Garden. Most of the park (including the teahouse) was burned during a bombing raid in 1944, but the teahouse has been rebuilt. We had the added bonus of being here in the springtime, so everything was blossoming.The garden itself is a great place to have a walk in ( or even take a picnic maybe?), as it has many quiet little spots, beautiful ponds full of carp, and even 'street performers' for your entertainment. There is plenty of space for the kids to run around and let off steam if they are feeling the 'crush' of Tokyo.
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Walking round this island garden I felt cut off from the city. The garden has an abundance of water in & around it. The focal point of the garden is a huge pond, on one of the islands is a Japanese tea house which can be visited via the wooden bridges.
Beautiful garden of Hamarikyu Koen
This serene garden is a river stop on the Sumida boat ride. It used to be a duck hunting for Japanese noblemen.
With the bricks and blocks of urban Tokyo, it is a welcome greenery. The layout of the garden is simple, zen like and the lakes reflects the buildings and the trees and the colorful flowers of the season.
In the middle of town, this well-hidden park was previously a hunting ground for the Shogunate more than 400 years ago.
The park is beautiful with its numerous walkways, gardens, houses and ponds.
Don't miss the Peony garden as well as the 300 years old pine.
Shioiri-no-ike Pond in Garden of Tokugawa Shonugat
This magnificent park includes the only sea water pond in Tokyo. It changes scenery as the tide goes up and down. As you can se on the picture, walking on the bridges that cross the ponds offer a magnificent scenery.
Close to the pound, you will find the Shin-senza Duck Hunting ground which was in use until 1944. With its small size, it must have been easy to make a good catch !
Teahouse of Tokugawa Shonugate
Built in 1907, it has seen generation of shoguns and noblemen. It's on an artificial island in a center of a great park. The building was rebuilt with care in 19843
To access it, you need to walk on a 118 meter long bridge constructed of Japanase cedar. The bridge was rebuilt in 1997.
- Historical Travel
Hamarikyu Palace Gardens
Hama-rikyu Palace Garden, formerly the 17th Century Tokugawa shogunate's hunting grounds. The park is well manicured and beautiful admist the fall colors, it must be even more scenic during the spring when the
cherry blossoms are in season.
The entry fee is 300 yen.
- Hiking and Walking
Yes, this is a mountain !. It's quite easy to climb up and down and tell your friends about your Tokyo "hike" !
From the top of it, you can have a nice view of downtown Tokyo.
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