NOTICE: As you’ve probably noticed the mansion is covered in scaffolding at the moment. That is because it is undergoing some maintenance work. Once that is removed in several months, I’ll redo the pictures.
I think everyone calls Tokyo one of the most advanced cities in the world. It has everything anyone could want - a great transit system, all the benefits of modern life, filled with glittering skyscrapers, great food and shopping. However, if you are like me and also want to get in touch with some of the city's history it might be difficult to easily put your hands on something that isn't a replica or just a copy. However, such a place can be found near Ueno station. There, you will find Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens and you can walk right into a little bit of Tokyo history.
The main house, a mansion designed by English architect Josiah Conder, is the focus of everything at Iwasaki. It is very beautiful, has two floors and is based on the Jacobean style of 17th century England. There are carvings on the walls and columns, kinkarakawa wallpaper, Islamic influenced tiles on the first floor verandah and you can see drawings that were painted on to wooden surfaces of the house. During its heyday it must have been an amazing place and probably cost a fortune to construct.
There is also a garden on the property, not a big one, more of a lawn with a few lanterns and stoneworks. It can be a pretty cool place as they hold concerts there occasionally. As I mentioned previously there are three buildings at Kyu-Iwasaki. The other two are the billiard house and a Japanese-style residence that is now used as a teahouse.
If you want to have a walk through a "real" garden, you'd be better off trying Shinjuku Gyoen, Koishikawa Korakuen, Kyu-Furukawa or Kiyosumi Gardens. But if you want to get a glimpse into how the upper classes lived in Meiji Japan and what some of them lived in, Iwasaki is the place to go. To see the Kyu-Iwasaki’s website please click this link here. And lastly if you ever this fabulous place please remember that no photography allowed inside and you need to take your shoes off before you enter, plastic bag provided!
How to get to Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens
Iwasaki Gardens is easy to get to. Nearby are four major train and subway lines.
1) Yushima station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda subway line) - leave via exit 1 and it is about a 5-minute walk. The road is quite well marked to Iwasaki gardens;
2) Ueno Hiro-koji station (Tokyo Metro Ginza subway line) – about a 10-minute walk;
3) Ueno-Okachimachi station (Toei Oedo subway line) - about a 10-minute walk, and;
4) JR Okachimachi Station – roughly a 15-minute walk.
We have a Google map here to show you:
Kyu-Iwaksai Gardens is open from 9am to 5pm (with last entry at 4:30pm). It is only closed at the end of the year from December 29 to January 1.
The entrance fee is 400 yen.
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Sengakuji – resting place of the 47 ronin
Todoroki valley – a little bit of nature in the big city
Tokyo Kite museum – a mecca for kite lovers