Area Guide

[Tokyo] Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens (旧芝離宮恩賜庭園): Tokyo’s Serene Gem of Timeless Beauty

Tokyo’s Serene Oasis Known for Exceptional Stone Work and Pruned Pine Trees

Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens is a circular landscape garden located in the heart of Tokyo, just a stone’s throw away from Hamamatsu-cho Station. This serene oasis is a rare gem that showcases exceptional ground and stone work dating back to the mid-17th century.

The garden was formerly the residence of Tadatomo Okubo, a high-level official of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and later gifted to the Kishu-Tokugawa family. In the early 1920s, the gardens were donated to Tokyo City and opened to the public the following year after being restored.

Designated as a Place of Scenic Beauty and Historic Interest in 1979, the Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens feature a spacious pond at its center, surrounded by man-made hills, stone bridges, lanterns, and stepping stones. The garden’s design follows the principle of “hide and reveal,” providing visitors with different perspectives and views from different angles.

The garden’s most striking features are the carefully pruned pine trees that come in various shapes and sizes. Visitors can marvel at the rugged Kuro-matsu or black pine, the graceful Shidare-matsu or weeping pine, the dragon-like curves of the Neagari-matsu or exposed-root pine, and the snowflake-shaped needles of the Sekka-matsu or snowflake pine. The garden also boasts seasonal flowers that add bursts of color, such as plum blossoms in spring, iris and water lilies in summer, and chrysanthemums in autumn.

The garden’s beauty lies not only in its physical elements but also in the cultural values and aesthetic sensibilities that it represents. Visitors can witness the shakkei or borrowed scenery, which incorporates the surrounding urban landscape into its design, and the wabi-sabi aesthetic that finds beauty in imperfection and impermanence.

Unlike other crowded gardens in Tokyo, Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens provides a peaceful and relaxing spot for visitors to unwind and appreciate nature. The garden is an ideal place to observe the birds and fish that call the pond home or simply sit back and enjoy the changing colors of the sky during sunrise or sunset.

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