A feudal lord garden designed with creative ideas and arrangements
During the Edo period (1603 – 1868), feudal lords across Japan had second houses in the capital Edo (present day Tokyo) because they were obliged to be in Edo for certain periods to engage in public services (the sankin-kotai system). They built beautiful gardens for these second houses where they entertained guests. For this reason, much passion was put into these gardens by feudal lords who competed with each other to prove that their clan was the best by creating the best garden; many clever ideas and arrangements were incorporated into the gardens. A garden craze ignited by these feudal lords caught on in the town of Edo. Hamarikyu is a garden that was built during this garden craze of Edo. The construction of Hamarikyu began in 1654 when Tsunashige Tokugawa, the young brother of the fourth shogun (military governor), started the construction of his estate. A number of construction projects for the garden and the buildings were conducted by successive shoguns and finally, the garden was completed during the times of the eleventh shogun, Ienari Tokugawa.
The garden is an “excursion type” garden in which visitors can enjoy a variety of changing views while strolling around the garden. Nevertheless, the garden stands out the most for its boldly created huge pond which was constructed by filling up and drawing seawater from the Tokyo Bay. This design was devised with the intention to create views that change by the states of the tide; in addition to enjoying these views, it is said that the residents and their guests had fun fishing saltwater fish which, riding the tide, entered the pond from the sea. The highlights of the garden are this vast seawater pond “Shioiri-no-ike” and the magnificent design of the garden with artificial rolling hills that were created to resemble a natural landscape.
Maccha green tea at Nakashima Tea House
If you feel somewhat tired after walking around the garden and enjoying the flowers of the season, how about having a cup of tea? At Nakashima Tea House located at the edge of the seawater pond “Shioiri-no-ike,” visitors can enjoy maccha green tea and Japanese confections while looking at the garden. The contrast between the old garden and the modern buildings rising high in its background is a typical yet intriguing view of Tokyo. A variety of events are held at Hamarikyu throughout the year. For example, an event to celebrate the coming of the new year is held on January 2 and 3. The event includes a demonstration of hawk hunting–a tradition that has been carried on since the Edo period–and serving of a traditional Japanese New Year’s Day dish, ozoni, made using a recipe based on a record of meals eaten by Ienari Tokugawa. Also, visitors can experience traditional Japanese new year activities for children such as playing battledore and spinning tops. The event has many other fun attractions as well. We highly recommend visiting Hamarikyu if you are in this area around this time.