Hama-Rikyu Gardens 浜離宮恩賜庭園
Hama Rikyu Gardens, moated and with tidal duck ponds, is a short walk from Kyu-Shiba Rikyu Garden located in the Shiodome area. A large tract of floral and sylvan beauty, a naturist's delight. It is also only a short walk from the smaller nearby Kyu-shiba Rikyu Gardens and both attractions can easily be seen in half a day.
The site of the garden was originally a tidal duck hunting ground. In 1654, Matsudaira Tsunashige, feudal lord of the Kofu domain, reclaimed part of the tidal ponds to build an urban family villa. The ponds were elaborated on and continued to be used for duck hunting (with nets). They are now a sanctuary within Tokyo for a number of wild species of birds and fish.
The founder Tsunashige's son, Ienobu, later became the 6th Shogun of Japan, and the property became that of the ruling Tokugawa family. The Tokugawa elite could access the garden by boat and remains of a landing stage is still visible at Shogun O-agariba not far from the present day water bus stop.
Shogun Ienobu later renovated the gardens and renamed them renamed "Hama Goden" (Beach Palace). Successive Shoguns made a number of innovations, and the gardens reached their final form under the eleventh Shogun, Ienari.
As with Kyu-Shiba Rikyu Gardens, the property passed to the Imperial Family after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. It was then that it became the Hama-rikyu Onshi Teien, or Hama Detached Palace. It was badly damaged by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and then in the Second World War, and was finally taken over by Tokyo city and opened to the public in 1946. It was officially named a site of great cultural and historical value, in 1952.
Hama-rikyu is a large skewed square (in north-south terms, a diamond), its south-eastern side flanking the Sumida River, just before the river meets Tokyo Bay. Its 25 hectares (62 acres) contain a lot to wander through.
To enter the garden, whether at its north-west Naka-no-gomon ("Inner Gate") or its main northern Otemon ("Main Gate"), you cross a bridge over the moat that runs along its NE and SE sides. (If you have baggage, you can leave it at the Garden Administration Office at the Otemon Gate.)
The first thing you will see upon entering the Otemon gate is the 300 year pine on your left. This sprawling tree, said to have been planted by Shogun Ienobu when he renovated the gardens, is propped up on frames and meticulously tended.
Just beyond it, over a bridge over the Inner Moat, are the Flower Field and Peony Garden. Just beyond them are the Inabu Shrine and the Plum Grove. And just past the Plum Grove at the eastern tip of the gardens is the Tokyo Bay Waterbus Landing.
Between the Otemon and Naka-no-mon gates is the site of what was the Enryokan reception lodge. It was here that the Imperial family used to receive guests.
The Enryokan is said to be the first ever Western-style stone building built in Japan. Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States (1869-1877), stayed here for two months.
South of the Enryokan site and of the Naka-no-mon gate is a wild grassy field, and just south of that is one of the duck ponds, the Shinsen-za kamoba, the view from the outside purposely restricted to keep the ducks unaware.
Here, as elsewhere throughout the gardens, are what from afar look something like burial mounds, but are actually feeding posts, or blinds, for the ducks - again, designed to disguise the presence of humans. The construction here dates from 1791.
Immediately to the east of Shinsen-za kamoba duck pond is the huge Shioiri-no-ike ("Incoming Tide Pond"), Tokyo's sole remaining saltwater pond. A sluice gate regulates the water level with the rise and fall of the tides. On its northern bank is a wisteria trellis and a small store.
Shioiri-no-ike pond features an island, Nakajima, with a tea house, first built in 1707, accessible over long wooden footbridges. Bowls of green tea are served here for a traditional 500 yen.
Two other ponds, Koshin-do Kamoba (the first duck pond, constructed in 1778) and Yokobori extend north-east of Shioiri-no-ike.
The flora has something to offer whatever the season, the greatest variety on display being in autumn thanks to the numerous trees that color. The garden is also known for its spring azaleas and cherry blossoms, summer irises, and winter apricots and narcissi.
Hama Rikyu Gardens
1-1 Hama-rikyu Teien
Tel: 03 3541 0200
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4.30 p.m.)
Open every day - except from December 29 to January 1.
300 yen. Free for elementary school age and younger.
The Naka-no-gomon entrance is a 5-minute walk from Shiodome Station on the Toei-Oedo and Yuri-kamome Lines.
The Otemon gate entrance is 7 minutes on foot from both Shiodome and Tsukijishijo Stations on the Toei Oedo Subway Line.
12 minutes on foot from Shimbashi Station on the JR Yamanote Line (take the Shiodome-guchi Exit), Tokyo Subway Ginza Line and the Toei Asakusa Line.
There is a Water Bus (Suijo) Landing inside the garden, the Water Bus starting from Ryogoku further up the river. A 35 minute boat ride from Asakusa, and 5 minutes from Hinode Pier. Hama-rikyu Gardens are an approximately ten minute walk from Tsukiji Fish Market
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