Nestled in the contrasting surrounds of Tokyo’s Koto ward, an area of futuristic development and blocky towers filled with businessmen sits the meticulously preserved and richly historic Kiyosumi Garden. A classic Japanese-style strolling garden, Kiyosumi looks in photos almost unreal, like a magnificent landscape painting come to life, but in reality, it’s a rare, still existent example of such beautiful parks that were once abundant throughout Japan. If you only have time to explore one of the city’s more picturesque parks or want to learn a little more about Tokyo’s history, you can’t miss the chance to visit Kiyosumi Garden.
Also known as Kiyosumi Teien, the garden was originally the home of a very wealthy Edo-era merchant, Kinokuniya Bunzaemon (1669 – 1734). It later switched hands and came into the possession of feudal lord Kuze Yamatonokami, who built his mansion here. During the Meiji Period, the site became the property of Mitsubishi founder Iwasaki Yataro, who repurposed it and reopened the garden in 1880 to become a recreation area of sorts for his employees and distinguished guests. In 1924 it was donated to the city of Tokyo and was opened to the public in 1932. Before its public accessibility, Kiyosumi Garden was already an incredibly important and sentimental space for many Tokyoites, as it provided a place of refuge during the city’s devastating 1923 earthquake.
As a whole, the park is incredibly stunning, but there are some highlights worth keeping a lookout for. The park’s landscape stones are one of its main shining gems. Sourced from all across the country, these carefully considered, and meticulously laid stones are famous and incredibly valuable. Sitting near the garden’s entrance is a building known as Taisho Kinenkan, a fascinating place for Japanese history buffs, as inside you’ll find a memorial hall dedicated to Emperor Taisho (1879-1926), the 123rd Emperor of Japan. The park’s main focal point, however, arguably is the teahouse, Ryoutei House. Seemingly floating on the park's central, sprawling pond, the teahouse is a traditional Japanese construction. It's accessible to the public, but reservations are required.
The park is also home to some pretty fascinating wildlife including ducks, carp, turtles and the long-legged shy heron. There’s no wrong time to visit, given that the park is open and beautiful throughout the year; however, it’s particularly attractive in autumn. As the season changes, the trees transform, exploding into bursts of vermillion orange and fiery shades of red. The park is open 9 am until 5 pm, last entry is 4:30 pm and shuts between December 29 to January 1. Admission to the park is 150 yen and 70 yen is over 65 years old.
Very accessible from most parts of inner-city Tokyo, Kiyosumi Garden is a three-minute walk south of Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station, which is serviced by the Hanzomon and Oedo Subway Lines. If you’re traveling from Shinjuku Station, take the Oedo Subway Line from nearby Shinjuku Nishiguchi Station towards Iidabashi. The journey takes 25 minutes and costs 270 yen. If you’re looking to soak up a little extra history, then consider combining a visit to the park with a visit to Fukagawa Edo Museum, which is just a five-minute walk east.