Hamarikyu Gardens 浜離宮恩賜庭園
These former imperial and shogunate gardens are a lesser-known oasis in the middle of the metropolis
Maintaining a natural, green space among the gleaming, high-rise buildings of nearby Shiodome , Hamarikyu Gardens are a bastion of calm in the heart of downtown Tokyo. This scenic garden, once reserved for Imperial use only, was opened to the public in 1946.
When you visit the garden, leave time for traditional refreshment in the floating teahouse, a quintessential Japanese experience, and consider departing via riverboat.
- The only seawater pond left in Tokyo
- Matcha green tea and traditional sweets served tea-ceremony style in the Nakashima Tea House
- Strolling the 118-meter bridge that connects the garden's islands
How to Get There
You can access the garden via a 15-minute walk from Shimbashi Station.
Alternatively, the garden is a five-minute walk from Shiodome Station on the Oedo subway line or Yurikamome Line.
The park is a stop for the Tokyo Water Bus. The Sumida River Line of the Water Bus runs from Asakusa to the garden, and the 35-minute trip makes a refreshing change to the subway. The entrance fee to the grounds is included in the fare, but be aware that you cannot travel back to Asakusa via Tokyo Water Bus from the garden, as it goes on to Odaiba. Instead, take the short boat trip to Hinode Pier and then board a boat back to Asakusa.
Many aspects of the gardens
While you relax in the gardens' natural beauty, the garden has many points of interest for you to explore. Near the entrance is an impressive 300-year-old pine tree very carefully pruned over the centuries into an impressive weeping expanse, and beyond that is the flower field which offers nearly year-round blooms including vibrant peonies and cosmos.
The gardens were a duck hunting ground for the Shogun, and there is a grave built to commemorate and console the spirits of the ducks that have been caught in the grounds. You can still see traditional duck blinds from behind which the ducks were shot scattered throughout Hamarikyu.
Beautiful foliage without the crowds
Compared to some of Tokyo's other gardens, Hamarikyu is not known for its spring and autumn foliage. However, from late February to early April you can view blossoms without fighting the crowds, as the garden still houses an abundance of plum and cherry blossom trees blooming in pink and white during spring. The same is true in the autumn, as the maple and ginkgo trees illuminate the garden in dazzling reds and yellows.
A small sea
The garden's central pond, Shioiri, is more than it seems. With its Japanese name translating to "with salt," the pond is actually filled with seawater drawn in from Tokyo Bay. Sluice gates are used to regulate the water level by working with the rise and fall of the tide, so the pond changes throughout the day. Make sure to look into the pond when you visit as you may catch a glimpse of the marine life brought in from the sea, including sea bass and black mullet.
Appearing to float on the pond is the teahouse. Here, you can partake in the ancient Japanese art of tea ceremony. Sitting in these traditional surroundings on the tatami mats, you can enjoy a relaxing cup of powdered green tea served with an authentic wagashi sweet. If you don't have time to spare for a full tea ceremony, the atmosphere alone provides a rewarding experience.
After the garden
Due to its location along the Tokyo Water Bus line, Hamarikyu makes for a great stop between a visit to Asakusa's traditional temples and Odaiba's ultra-modern entertainment. Traveling the city this way is a lovely, scenic alternative to the underground subway lines.