Kiyosumi Gardens is a great park to visit. There is so much to see there with its history, wildlife, huge pond complete with islands and a little something special for each season. It is one of my top three favourite Edo period parks in Tokyo – the other two being Hama-Rikyu Gardens and Rikugien. Let’s find out what makes it so special.
First the history! Inside you’ll find two buildings that are pretty important in Tokyo’s history. One is the Ryotei which was built in 1909 by the Iwasaki family as a guest house for Britain’s Lord Kitchener when he visited Japan. It was constructed in a fashion similar to the teahouses of the time and I think it could probably be called centerpiece of the park. As soon as you get past the entrance it’ll be visible on the far side of the pond seemingly floating over the water. Well maybe floating over water might be a slight exaggeration as it sits on piles, but as they aren’t very noticeable it looks very attractive.
The other building is the Taisho Emperor`s memorial building (Taisho Kinenkan) which is easily recognized by its Japanese architecture. It was used for his funeral, destroyed by bombing during World War 2 and then rebuilt in 1953. I’ve seen it open on occasion when I’ve visited Kiyosumi. One time it was a café open to everyone, and another time it was used for some club meeting. Even if it might not be open when you visit, you can still admire it from the outside and it does look great.
Next is the pond and the wildlife which in this case, I think, go hand in hand. This is the part I’m really in love with. Every Edo period garden I know has a pond, but this one is a bigger then the rest. Maybe it's my imagination? I don’t know, but it looks really big. Maybe it is due to there being only the narrow path around the water which plays tricks on my eyes? An illusion? I really have no idea but what I see is very eye pleasing.
The pond also has a few islands and an abundance of wildlife - carp, turtles and birds and you will also find stepping stones in a few places which are pretty fun. Also if you make your way to the far side of the pond, from the Ryotei you can see Tokyo Skytree in the distance.
And lastly, each season has a flower or a tree to go with it! You’ll find various types of cherry blossoms in spring, azaleas and hydrangeas in summer, camellias and Japanese apricots in winter and of course there is autumn when the tree leaves change colour.
I think Kiyosumi has it all – it is the complete park as it has so much to see. All these things combine into making Kiyosumi one of Tokyo's best parks, if not the best. You can see its website here.
How to get to Kiyosumi Gardens
For most people, this park is ever so slightly off the beaten track. Located in Koto ward it is about 3 minutes from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa station. Kiyosumi-Shirakawa station is on the Hanzomon and Oedo subway lines, so they are quite easy to get to from Shinjuku and Shibuya (roughly 30 minutes from both). Here is a Google map to show you the way to the garden from the subway station:
Kiyosumi is open from 9am to 5pm with last entry at 4:30pm. Just be aware that at the end of year, from December 29 to January 1.
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