Well, it is called a, “garden”, Kyu Iwasaki-tei would surely have to be amongst the smallest in Tokyo. It is still worth a very good look, especially for those with an interest in history, culture or the designs of the famous British architect, Josiah Condor (who also designed the residence at Furukawa Gardens). The buildings that still exist here give us a great look back in time at what life for the rich and famous was like in the late 19th and early 20th century Tokyo.
Completed in 1896, the original complex had about twenty buildings on the property, of which only three remain today. The Iwasaki house is very beautiful, having two storeys, based on the Jacobean style of 17th century England. When you walk in, the attention that was given to detail in those days is easily apparent. There are carvings on the walls and columns, kinkarakawa wallpaper, Islamic influenced tiles on the first floor verandah and there are still drawings that were painted on to wooden surfaces of the house. It must have been an amazing place in its heyday.
Also on the property is a billiards house and a Japanese-style residence right behind the main building. The billiards house looks like a Swiss lodge, which was very rare Japan then. Apparently it is joined to the main building by a tunnel, but as the cellar is always roped off there is no way to get down to see it.
Out back of the main house is the garden. Today, it would be a little unfair to call it a garden, lawn would more appropriate in my opinion. It does have a very nice mix of Japanese and Western elements. It`s pretty much an English-style lawn with lanterns, garden stones and a few monuments surrounding it.
Even though the grounds are small, they are well-kept and very beautiful especially in autumn. Make your way up past the gates and to the main entrance where you will be greeted by an enormous gingko tree in the front courtyard, which is brilliant in autumn.
Iwasaki Gardens are a great place to visit as they are located close to the Shitamachi museum, Ameya-Yokocho, Ueno zoo and Ueno station. So you could easily visit a few different places on the same day.
If you want to have a walk through a “real” garden, you might try Shinjuku Gyoen, Koishikawa Korakuen or Kiyosumi Gardens for example. But if you want to get a glimpse into how the upper classes lived in Meiji Japan, Iwasaki is the place to go.
You can see the garden’s homepage here.
How to get to Iwasaki Gardens
Iwasaki Gardens are quite easy to get to. There are four major train and subway lines that can get you close to it.
- Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line (subway) toYushima station, leave via exit 1 and it is about a 5 minute. The road is quite well marked to the Iwasaki gardens.
- Tokyo Metro Ginza Line (subway) to Ueno Hiro-koji station, from there it is a 10 minute walk.
- Toei O-Edo Line, Ueno (subway) to Ueno Okachi-machi station, from there it is a 10 minute walk.
- JR Yamanote Line, Okachi-machi Sta. (15 minutes on foot)
We have a Google map here to show you:
View Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens and the closest stations in a larger map
How much is admission?
The entrance fee is 400 yen.
Iwasaki Gardens is open from 9am to 5pm with last admission at 4:30pm. It is closed for the end of year holidays, from December 29 to January 1.
Best time to go?
Without doubt it would be autumn. The trees that surround the lawn bring so much colour to the area.
A couple of things to be aware of
- You need to take your shoes off before you enter the house. They provide you with a plastic bag to put them in.
- There is no photography allowed in the house, including the verandahs.
- Currently the house is undergoing some restoration and repair work. It is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2013.