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Hamarikyu Gardens – where the Shoguns once hunted

Hamarikyu Gardens is one of Tokyo’s most impressive parks.  It is a fantastic place for photography.  There is so much to shoot.  In this one place, you can enjoy views of contrast, seasonal delights, and a walk on a Shogun’s hunting grounds.  When you visit here, a camera is a necessity!

men photographing Hamarikyu Gardens rapeseed field
The rapeseed field of Hamarikyu Gardens

The park is not far from Shinbashi station.  Near it is the Shiodome area, famous for its skyscrapers.  You can get excellent pictures of them from a couple of spots in the park (e.g., Fujimi Hill).  The buildings soar up over the trees and ponds.  It is the most beautiful of contrasts.

You can also explore Hamarikyu’s winding tree-lined lined and spacious lawns.  Do you want to stroll across classic Japanese-style bridges over ponds?  That is no problem.  There is also a disused shrine on the grounds.  The opportunities for photos are almost endless.

Hamarikyu Gardens
Hamarikyu Gardens

And if you’ve ever wanted to drink Japanese tea on an island in the middle of a lake, you can do that too!  Take a break at the Nakajima-no-ochaya tea house.  You can enjoy a cup of matcha with a Manju (for 510 yen), sit back, and enjoy the view.  Many people take pictures from the walkways.  They are very picturesque, especially with the skyscrapers nearby!

There is one thing I like about this park. It draws water straight from Tokyo bay through sluice gates. This allows the appearance of the ponds to change when the tides fall or rise. It is something different. And it has turtles, carp, and birds.

Hamarikyu Gardens cherry blossoms
The cherry blossoms of spring

For photographers, there is a lot.  The big three are the flower field, cherry blossoms, and Tokyo Tower!  Near the main entrance, you’ll find a big area for flowers which is very beautiful.  Cherry blossoms are throughout the park, and you can see the tower from several places!  And if you walk down to the water, you can also see Rainbow Bridge.

Hamarikyu is fabulous, and it has something unique.  There are several ponds that the shoguns used for duck hunting!  One is Shinsenza Kamoba, and the other is Koshindo Kamoba.  Koshindo, in the park’s center, still has some of the blinds that hid the hunters.  It is the only place in Japan where you can still see them.  Ducks aren’t hunted there anymore, but you can see hawking displays on the grounds in early January.

Hama Rikyu Gardens pond and buildings
The pond and Shiodome skyscrapers behind

A brief history of Hamarikyu Gardens

Tsunashige Tokugawa was the daimyo of Kofun domain and the brother of Shogun Ietsuna.   As he needed an Edo residence, he reclaimed land from Edo Bay (Tokyo Bay) on which to build it.  Upon his death, it passed to his son, Ienobu, Japan’s sixth shogun.  The property stayed in the family’s hands until the end of the shogunate in 1868.

In 1868, the Imperial Family gained ownership and named it Hama Detached Palace. The Kanto Earthquake of 1923 devastated it, and during WW2, the bombings of Tokyo ravaged it again. It was taken over by the metropolitan government and opened to the public in 1946.

Why do photographers like Hama Rikyu Garden?

  • Autumn 
  • Birds
  • Cherry blossoms
  • Hawking
  • a 300 hundred-year-old tree
  • Rainbow bridge
  • Skyscrapers serve as a backdrop
  • Tokyo Tower.
man with hunting hawk
Man with his hawk at a hunting exhibit

Photography tips

  • No tripods allowed.
  • If you go in the afternoon, Tokyo Tower will be backlit. In the morning, the sun will light it from the front.
  • The best time would be either spring (cherry blossoms) or autumn (the leaves!).
  • If you go for the hawking displays, beware of the crowds! 

Where are Hamarikyu Gardens?

It is about a seven-minute walk from Shiodome Station on the Yurikamome Line.  You could even walk there from Shinbashi station, which takes about fifteen minutes.  Here is a Google map:

Opening hours

The park is open from 9 am to 5 pm (with last entry at 4:30 pm).  It is only closed from December 29 to February 7.

Admission costs

  • 300 yen.  
  • Entry is free on Greenery Day (i.e., May 4)
man walking in Hama Rikyu Gardens
Autumn in the park

Other photo spots near Hamarikyu Gardens

Wrapping up

Hamarikyu Gardens is one of the best parks in the city, if not the best.  If you want to learn more about its history, an audio guide is available from the ticket office.  These free devices are easy to use and GPS-controlled.  You only need to wear them.  The commentary starts when you walk within a certain distance of a point of interest.  I highly recommend them, and history lovers should borrow one.

2 woman picnicking near duck hunting blind
A picnic near an old duck hunting blind

Photographers should be delighted with bridges, flowers, skyscrapers, history, and a tower!  Each season there offers something different.  Hamarikyu is the complete park.  Many visitors will surely fall in love with it.

To see the articles mentioned in this story, look at:

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