Hamarikyu Gardens : A Haven of Peace in the Middle of Tokyo
You’ll have to literally make an effort to visit the beautiful landscape garden of Hamarikyu Park. Situated in-between an intersection and busy highway in the commercial district of Shimbashi and the waters of the Sumida River and Tokyo Bay, this over 250,000 square meter large park can only be reached via the two entrances on the highway side, or by boat. It is well worth the travel though, and always seems to exceed one’s expectations.
I visited the park numerous times, either for an easy picnic lunch or just to escape from the busy nearby places of Tsukiji, Ginza or Shimbashi, and have always come out refreshed again while having acquired some new insights into the workings of this traditional Edo-style garden (the Edo period took place from 1603-1868, when Japan was under the rule of the last feudal military government known as the Tokugawa Shogunate). The garden entices again and again which is the main reason why one keeps coming back.
Built as the Tokyo residence for feudal families and intended originally for leisure purposes, it was a place where they could go hunting - a falconry site and horse-exercising space was established, as well as two wild-duck hunting grounds.
The park is beautifully kept and organized; there are peony gardens and flower fields, there is the plum tree grove, and many more different types of fauna and trees – all thoughtfully planted at designated spots.
Near the entrances of the park, the design is kept more spacious – one has broad overview of the park while also being able to enjoy magnificent views of Shimbashi’s skyscrapers. Walk towards the middle of the park and the crowds of people suddenly seem to scatter and disperse and you’ll find yourself walking small dirt roads in-between high trees, as if you’ll find yourself in quiet woods.
A little bit further, you’ll be stunned at the sight of the tidal pond, “Shoiri-no-ike”, which can be crossed by a wooden bridge. In the middle of the bridge you will also find a teahouse where one can enjoy tea and sweets while gazing over the water. The image of the peaceful teahouse and the large pond, in stark contrast with that of the adjacent skyscrapers is worth a million pictures.
Shioiri-no-ike is the only remaining tidal pond left within Tokyo: the pond’s water level follows that of the sea tide with sluice gates regulating this process.
On the outer ends of the pond, there are numerous narrow waterways built for the two duck-hunting grounds. Here you will have reached the side that goes along the Sumida River - at the northern end you’ll find the Waterbus landing, where one can hop on a boat destined for Odaiba or Asakusa and further enjoy Tokyo’s river scenery.
Despite its huge popularity as tourist destination and considering the vast amounts of buses that drop people off in front of the park, Hamarikyu Park impresses by still allowing for the quiet and peace that one would expect from a beautiful traditional Japanese garden. Don’t be surprised to find Japanese people visiting the park in traditional kimonos and catching some nice pictures in these surroundings; seeing such traditional clothing in these settings is just what makes the historic experience in the park complete – as if you are having a rare peek into the past when feudal families walked the grounds.
Information (in English) : http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/hama-rikyu/