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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens Tokyo


Listen to the sounds of the crows at Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens Tokyo

Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens.Yesterday was the second day of the Taiiku-no-hi (Sports Day) long weekend, Monday being the holiday. It was a perfect day, and a friend and I visited the grand 'Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens' in Tokyo's Taito ward. The property was once owned by the founder of the Mitsubishi Group, Iwasaki Yataro. It features his residence, which is distinguished by being the best surviving example of European architecture in Japan from the 19th century, built less than a couple of decades after Japan began to modernize. The architect was the Englishman Josiah Conder.

The grounds are made up mainly of velvety lawn and groves of trees. The palatial house looks out over the gardens, and is open to the public. You pay 400 yen, put your shoes in a plastic bag, and are directed through the house. The main part of it is accessible, but unfortuntately one of the most potentially interesting parts (certainly the part that most whets your curiosity) the cellar, is not.

When we were there, tip-toing with the tourists through the big high-ceilinged rooms in all their carpeted, parqueted and carved finery, there was a cello duo playing downstairs, rather wanly, in the main living room.

Annexed to the Western-style section is the Japanese-style part of the house, which is where the tour exits. It has a large tea room for visitors that was packed with mainly middle-aged women sitting seiza along long tables talking excitedly.

Afterwards, sitting on the lawn on deck chairs together soaking up the last of that fine, fine day's sun just listening to the squabbling of the crows was probably the best bit!

Only a stone's throw away is the Lotus Pond, or Shinobazunoike, on the western edge of Ueno Park.

Access is from the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line's Yushima station, exit 1, or the JR Yamanote line's Okachimachi station.

Josiah Conder also designed the Kyu Furukawa Teien Gardens in nearby Kita-ku.

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