It can be hard to choose to which garden to go in Tokyo. As with temples, there can be a bit of a garden-fatigue after you have visited too many of them already (as I did). In Tokyo so far, I think Rikugien is definitely one of the most beautiful gardens out there. However, attracted by the images of a beautiful teahouse on the water, I visited Kiyosumi Teien on a sunny spring day.
This garden goes way back and has been linked to Kinokuniya Bunzaemon (1669–1734) who was a merchant during the Edo period (1603-1868) specializing in citrus, lumber, and salmon, among other goods. It subsequently became the location of the residence of feudal lords, but from these days nothing is left, except the very basic form of the garden. It is more correct to put the origins of this garden with Iwasaki Yatarō (1835-1885), the founder of Mitsubishi, who acquired the land in 1878 and developed a classic style circuit garden. It became a public garden in 1932.
The garden stands out not only by its crystal clear pond with beautiful reflections of the greenery surrounding it, but also by its large display of stones. The Iwasaki family brought stones from all over Japan to Tokyo with their steamships and arranged them in the garden. It has several stepping stone pathways (iso-watari) set in the water and a wide range of peculiar stones in all kind of shapes and sizes.
View over the pond at Kiyosumi Garden
The collection of rare stones in this garden are numbered and have a wooden panel with the name of the stone in Japanese, for example:
- Sado-akadamaishi (佐渡赤玉石): one of Japan’s big tree stones, a stone that is red not only on the surface, but also inside (and yes, there is a listing of famous stones in Japan).
- Ikoma-ishi (生駒石): a stone that has become darkened due to the high iron content.
- Izu-kawa-ishi (伊豆川石): a stone from Izu rounded by the river water.
The teahouse (called ryoutei) was built in 1909 to welcome Marshal Kitchener of England for his trip to Japan. It is built in the sukiya-style, which means a refined, well-cultivated style that uses slender wood elements and other natural materials with simple ornamentation. The teahouse does not really serve a purpose, except that you can rent it to do you own activities. When I was visiting a couple of people rented it to do yoga. If you want to have a drink, you have to go to the other side of the garden (where you can have a good view of this teahouse).
3-3-9 Kiyosumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station – 3 minutes walk (Hanzomon line, Toei Oedo Line)
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00 (last entry 16:30). Closed 29 December – 1 January.
Entrance fee: JPY 150. Seniors 65 and older: JPY 70.
(Primary school and younger children / Junior high school students living or studying in Tokyo: Free). 20% discount for groups 20 people or more.
When to best visit? All year round.
Why visit? If you like stones, this garden will rock your world. The teahouse on the water is a stunning photo opportunity.
Name in Japanese: 清澄庭園