Date: 29th November 2017
Hama Rikyu (浜離宮) was the family garden of the Tokugawa shogunate, and the only remaining garden in Tokyo with a seawater pond, which draws its water from Tokyo Bay. It is an example of a garden from the Edo period.
What I love about this garden is the view of the garden against the backdrop of skyscrapers, creating a beautiful contrast.
In 1654, Tokugawa Ietsuna (fourth Tokugawa shogun)’s brother Tokugawa Tsunashige (chancellor of Kofu) built his detached residence on a reclaimed land from the sea, the takagari (falconry) sites of the Tokugawa family, called Kofu Hama-yashiki (Kofu beach mansion). Takagari is still demonstrated in the gardens during new years.
The mansion became the detached residence of the Tokugawa family, known as Hama-goten (Beach Palace) when Tsunashige’s son Tsunayato became the 6th shogun, Tokugawa Ienobu.
The garden as we see it today was completed at the time of Tokugawa Ienari, the 11th shogun, between 1787 and 1837.
During the Meiji Period, the garden became the detached palace of the Imperial family, with the name Hama Rikyu as we know today. The Ochaya (tea house) and tress were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Tokyo bombings during World War 2.
The Imperial Family donated the garden to the City of Tokyo in 1945, which was then restored and opened to the public as a City Park in 1946.
The most prominent feature of the garden is the Shioiri-no-ike (tidal pond).
As mentioned above, the pond is of seawater from Tokyo bay, the water levels being controlled by opening and closing of lock gates. Thus, instead of the usual koi fishes, the pond has seawater creatures (freaks out) like young sea bass, gobies and striped mullet.
Near the Otemon entrance is a 300 year old pine tree, which was planted in 1709 as a commemoration when Tokugawa Ienobu renovated the garden.
Nakajima-no-ochaya is a teahouse built in 1704 and was used by the Shoguns and Imperial Court nobles. It was renovated in 1983. Visitors can have tea and wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets) here for 500 yen.
Another two teahouses can be found in the garden, Matsu-no-ochaya (Pine teahouse) and Tsubame-no-ochaya (Swallow teahouse), both built during Tokugawa Ienari’s time. Both were though destroyed by fires from the war, but were reconstructed in 2010 and 2015 respectively.
A 118m bridge connects the two smaller teahouses and Nakajima-no-ochaya, called O-tsutai-bashi, which is made entirely of Japanese cypress.
There is a hill near the lock gates facing Tokyo Bay, called Shin Hinokuchi Yama. You can see the Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba from here.
Hama Rikyu is one of the stops for waterbus landing to and from Asakusa, Odaiba etc, thus you can also access the garden from the waterbus rides. Nearby is the Shogun Oagariba (Shogun’s landing place), where the shogun boarded and disembarked from ships.
You can also see Tokyo Tower from various points of this garden, especially near the areas opposite Tokyo Bay.
There is a Peony garden (April – May), flower garden of rape blossoms (March – April) and cosmos (Sep – Oct) and a Plum Grove (late Feb to March) in Hama Rikyu. Unfortunately, now is not the season for that, so this area of the garden is rather isolated at this time of the year.
The garden might not be the best spot for cherry blossoms or autumn foliage, but it still offers various flower for viewing across the seasons. Check out their official site (link below) for the flower calendar.
The garden has two Kamoba (duck hunting sites), Koshin-do Kamoba (built in 1778) and Shinsen-za Kamoba (built in 1791). Nearby is Kamozuka, a duck grave mound built in 1935 as a solace for the spirits of the ducks that were killed during the duck hunting times.
Another teahouse called Hobaitei, is the only building in Hama Rikyu that survived the Tokyo bombings.
Nearby is the Umashimade-no-mikoto statue, the God of Mars, a gift to Emperor Meiji in during his 25th wedding anniversary.
Hama Rikyu is really big to be honest, I spent two hours here.
Opening days: Everyday except 29th December to 1st January
Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4.30 p.m.)
Entrance fee: 300 yen (free on Green Day, 4th May and Tokyo Citizen’s Day, 1st October)
Guided tours (in Japanese): Weekends and Public Holidays @ 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Guided tours (in English): Mondays @ 10.30 a.m. and Saturdays @ 11 a.m.
Audio guides are also available.
Hama Rikyu can be accessed from two different gates, the Otemon (Main gate) and the Naka-no-mon (Inner gate).
From Shiodome station on the Toei-Oedo or Yurikamome Line, it is a 5 minute walk (closer to Naka-no-mon)
From Tsukiji-shijo station on the Toei-Oedo Line, it is a 10 minutes walk (closer to Otemon)
From Shimbashi station on the JR or Toei-Asakusa or Ginza subway line, it is a 10 minutes walk (closer to Naka-no-mon)