Visit a beautiful landscaped oasis in central Tokyo dating from 1654.
Originally a feudal lord’s residence, Hama-rikyu Gardens features 250,000 square metres of lush greenery, pretty flowers and traditional Japanese architecture, nestled between the skyscrapers of Shinagawa and Sumida River.
This pretty haven in the capital is built around a central water feature known as Shioiri Pond. Literally meaning “with salt,” this pond is connected to Tokyo Bay. Sluice gates regulate its water level, allowing the tide to be incorporated into the garden’s design. It’s an ancient and unique element that makes the garden look different during high and low tide, and is the only seawater pond remaining in Tokyo. Look out for sea bass, black mullet and other marine life from the ocean.
In the middle of the pond and accessible by three bridges is Nakashima Teahouse. Its relaxing atmosphere is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of matcha green tea and Japanese sweets, which are offered in tea ceremony-style.
Natural beauty, year-round
As a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and Special National Historic Site, Hama-rikyu Gardens is a must-see destination any time of year.
Plum blossoms appear in late February or early March. Cherry blossom follows in late March or early April. Summer brings lush green leaves, which turn red, orange and yellow in late October. The peak of the fall foliage, which includes maples and gingkos, is in early to mid-November, and the garden also looks impressive in snow.
Natural highlights of the gardens include the 300-year-old sweeping pine tree near the entrance, the plum tree grove and the peony garden. At new year, the site becomes a demonstration ground for experts in Japanese falconry and aikido.
Built on land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay and designed to incorporate land and sea, Hama-rikyu Gardens’ special qualities reflect why it has played an important role over the centuries.
After its tenure as a feudal lord’s residence, it became popular as a second home for successive shogun as a place to indulge in falconry and duck hunting. Look out for the grave built in homage to the spirits of the ducks that were caught.
In the 1730s, an elephant presented to Japan by modern-day Vietnam made the grounds her home. During the Bakumatsu period (1853–1867), the site was used as a navy training ground.
Soon after, in 1868, the gardens became one of the imperial household’s properties and began to be used as a villa. One year later, a Western-style stone building was erected in the grounds as an accommodation for overseas VIPs visiting Tokyo. Since then, many state visitors have been hosted including members of royal families and presidents.
In 1945, the site was given to Tokyo and opened to the public in 1946.
How to get there
There are three ways to get to Hama-rikyu Gardens. Access the main entrance on foot from Tsukijishoijo Station on the Toei Oedo Line or Shiodome Station on the Yurikamome and Toei Asakusa lines. The middle entrance is a 15-minute walk from Hamamatsucho Station on the Yamanote Line. Alternatively, take the water bus, which is a 35-minute ride from Asakusa and offers pleasant views.