Hama-Rikyu Gardens is one of Tokyo's most visually impressive parks in my opinion. It is located in Chuo ward right next to the Shiodome area, which is famous for its skyscrapers. The skyscrapers provide an amazing backdrop. I often go there just to shoot them. And as the park dates from the Edo period, that means there is a lot more waiting for you!
All of Tokyo's Edo-period parks have something historical on them, however, Hama-rikyu also has something really different. It has several ponds that the shoguns used to use for duck hunting. One pond is named Shinsenza Kamoba and the other is Koshindo Kamoba. Koshinda, which is more in the center of the park still has some of the blinds that people hid behind before running out to get the ducks when the signal was given. It is the only place in Japan where you can still see them. Ducks aren’t hunted here anymore, but you can see displays of hawking several times a year.
Hama-Rikyu is a fabulous place to explore. It is covered with lots of trees which block your line of sight in some areas, so you never really know what will be around some corners. There are bridges (both big and small) crossing some of the water courses. You`ll even find a disused shrine on the grounds. And there is a tea house, Nakajima-no-ochaya, located on its own little island where you can enjoy a break with a cup of matcha with a manju (for 510 yen) while enjoying the view, and as it is in the middle of a pond it provides another great place for photos especially with those skyscrapers and Tokyo Tower which is easily behind it! And if you walk down to the water you can also get a great view of Rainbow Bridge.
One thing I like about Hama-rikyu is that it draws water directly from Tokyo bay through sluice gates so the appearance of the ponds change according to the tides. It can be quite interesting and adds that something different especially with all the turtles, carp and birds there.
If you want to learn more about the park's history you can get an audio guide from the ticket office. They are really good, hang it around your neck, wear the earpiece and learn about the park. Great devices that are so easy to use and GPS-controlled, no need to do anything other than wear it. You walk within a certain distance from a point of interest and the commentary starts. For history lovers, they are fantastic and I strongly suggest borrowing one. They are 100% free (but you need give your contact details).
Hama-Rikyu is very picturesque park, with the bridge, moats, flowers and surrounding skyscrapers – it is filled with so many photo opportunities. Each season also offers something. The flower fields during summer are especially lovely. In my opinion it lacks for nothing and never ceases to fascinate. You can see its English website here.
How to get to Hama-rikyu Gardens
There are quite a few different ways to get there by train, all but one involve a walk of at least 7 minutes. You can get there from Shiodome station on the Yurikamome monorail or from Shinbashi station, then walk about 7 minutes. There is also Shinbashi station, which has JR lines and the Ginza line, but that is a walk of at least 15 minutes. But if you want to get delivered right to the park without a walk then you need to come from Asakusa and use the Waterbus (you can see their homepage here). Here is a Google map here to help you get to the park:
Hama-rikyu Gardens is open from 9 am to 5 pm (with last entry at 4:30pm). It is only closed from December 29 to January 1.
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Edo-Tokyo museum - a place to learn more about Tokyo's history
History Garage - a great museum for car lovers
Imperial Palace - the home of Japan's Emperor
Kyu-Shiba-rikyu - a small but pretty Edo-period park
Shibamata Taishakuten - one of Tokyo's major temples