The Hama Rikyu (浜離宮) garden is a large beautiful park within walking distance of JR Shimbashi station in central Tokyo. It is one of the best examples of an Edo era feudal lord’s garden.
Located at the ocean the gardens have a tidal pond and during many centuries the area was used for duck hunting. The first lord who built a fortified mansion on this location was Tsunashige Matsudaira the chancellor of Kofu who’s son became the shogun of 17th century Japan.
After the Meiji Restoration, the gardens became one of the palaces for the Imperial family and were given its present day name of Hama-Rikyu. During the bombings of World War II the gardens were severely damaged and the place became a public park in 1946.
Hama Rikyu’s famous history continues as the teahouse in the park is being used to welcome statesmen, kings and queens on official visit in Tokyo.
Hama Rikyu is a short walk from JR Shimbashi Station or alternatively from Shiodome Station on the Oedo Subway Line. My tip for a more enjoyable way of going to the gardens is to use one of the Sumida river boats that make a stop at the park. If you plan your journey well you can combine a visit to Hama Rikyu with a boat tour to Asakusa and Odaiba. The stops, timetable and prices of the boat service can be found on the website of the river cruise company Suijobus.
A visit costs 300 JPY and the gardens are open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. A free English audio guide is available that includes several self-guided walking courses through the garden. The electronic guide is available at both the Otemon and Nakanogomon entrances.
300 Year old Pine
Just beyond the Otemon gate entrance you will find a pine tree of more than 300 years old. It is said that the three was planted under the rule of the 6th Shogun, Ienobu, to commemorate the renovation of the gardens at that time.
Cosmos flower bed
The garden is nice in all seasons. If you visit Hama Rikyu in summer you will be able to see the red and orange coloured Cosmos flowers which are very popular in Japan.
Tidal pond and Rainbow bridge
The water in the southern tidal pond is seawater. A system of locks that are opened and closed according to the tide in Tokyo Bay is used to adjust the level of the water in the pond. From the side of the park facing the Sumida river you can enjoy a stunning view of Tokyo bay, Odaiba and the Rainbow bridge.
The Nakajima tea house
One of Hama Rikyu gardens’ most interesting attractions is the Nakajima tea house. It is located in the centre of the tidal pond and built on a wooden terrace made of Japanese cypress. The tea house is connected with the land by O-tsutai bashi, the name of the 118 meters long bridge.
The original tea house was built 300 years ago when the gardens were property of the Tokugawa family. The present day tea house was renovated in 1983 and is open to the public.
Hama Rikyu is well worth a visit. Even if you have seen other Japanese gardens it is likely to exceed your expectations.