Kiyosumi Gardens: Flowers, History and Wildlife in Pics

Kiyosumi Gardens Ryotei seen beyond stepping stones
Stepping stone and the old guesthouse.

I call Kiyosumi Gardens Tokyo’s king of parks. Why? Because the man who built it was extremely powerful and wealthy. He created it as a playground for Tokyo’s rich and famous over a hundred years ago. Spend time there, and you might even feel a little of what they felt when they walked it. It is another excellent place for photography.

Who built it? Yataro Iwasaki, the founder of Mitsubishi. During his day, he would have been one of the wealthiest men in Japan. He wasn’t a king, but he was as rich as one.

Tokyo Skytree seen from Kiyosumi Gardens
What's that in the distance?

Today, Kiyosumi Gardens is another favorite of Tokyo’s photographers. There is so much to capture with a camera. And fortunately, much remains from the old days.

The first is the Ryotei.  It is the guesthouse that Iwasaki built for Britain’s Lord Kitchener.  Kitchener visited Japan in 1909, and he got the royal treatment.

Constructed like the teahouses of the time, it is the park’s centerpiece. It’s visible on the pond’s far side from the entrance, floating over the water. Well, that is a slight exaggeration, as it sits on piles! It provides that old-world charm.

Another building is one with very classical Japanese architecture. It is the Taisho Emperor`s memorial hall, built for his funeral. Most visitors will never use it, but it looks at home on the grounds.

The air raids of World War 2 destroyed it, but it was rebuilt in 1953. I’ve seen it open on occasion. Once, it was a café, and another time a meeting hall. Even if it is closed, you can still admire it from the outside, and its roof looks excellent.

Between the two buildings is the pond. Every Edo-period garden in Tokyo has one, but this one might be the biggest. Its narrow paths, stepping stones, and islands are captivating. The views over the water are spectacular. Also, if you make your way to the far side of it, near the Ryotei, you can see Tokyo Skytree. While you’re there, wildlife, such as carp, turtles, and birds, will surround you.

And last, each season has a flower or a tree! You’ll find gorgeous cherry blossoms in spring. Beautiful azaleas and hydrangeas in summer. Camellias and Japanese apricots in winter. Of course, there is autumn when the tree leaves change color. This park is very popular with flower lovers.

A brief history of Kiyosumi Gardens

  • A 17th-century merchant, Kinokuniya Bunzaemon, first owned the Kiyosumi land.  It then passed into the hands of the Daimyo of Sekiyado domain who built a mansion on it.  History says he also brought stones from all over the country to decorate it.
  • In 1878, Yataro Iwasaki, the founder of the Mitsubishi Corporation, bought the property. He made it into a recreation area for his employees and company guests (e.g., Lord Kitchener). It was from that time Kiyosumi became a circuit-style park. 
  • During the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the park escaped significant damage. The area’s citizens used it as a refuge.  
  • In the years after the earthquake, the Iwasaki family donated its eastern half to the city.  Finally, in 1932, it became a  public park.  
  • In WW2, it again took up the role of refuge for local residents. It provided them with a haven during the Tokyo air raids.

Why do photographers like Kiyosumi Gardens?

  • Flowers (for every season)
  • Rocks (they became the art of the park)
  • Ryotei (teahouse)
  • Taisho Kinenkan
  • Wildlife.

Other photo spots near Kiyosumi Gardens

Kiyosumi Gardens details

See the park’s location, opening hours, and other details on the official website.

Wrapping up

Kiyosumi Gardens was once the place to hang out for Tokyo’s rich and famous. It would have been a great place to relax when the big city was undergoing tremendous changes. We can only imagine who would have strolled around its grounds during its heyday. It indeed would have been society’s elite of the time.

Today, it is an excellent place for photographers. Its beautiful flowers, wildlife, pond, and history have everything they need. And when you walk around the shores of that pond, you can still feel that old-world lifestyle.

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