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A Walk around the Gardens of Tokyo

Higashi Gyoen Park
Hamarikyu onshi teien
Koishikawa korakuen
Shinjuku Gyoen Garden
Rikugien Park

Tokyo is full of perfect, manicured gardens where time seems to stand still. Use them to relax away from the bustle of the city.
Japanese gardens are not just any gardens. They are a concept unto themselves. Different style, times and trends, but a single philosophy that sets refinement and detailed aesthetics above all else. A peaceful environment where the Japanese go as soon as the sun comes up. The contemplation of natural spaces is a tradition in Japanese culture. A kind of meditation within reach of any visitor to Tokyo with a little time to spare. These green spaces are nestled among traditional houses and modern skyscrapers.
Just five minutes on foot from Shinjuku station, Shinjuku Gyoen is the biggest park in Tokyo, and has more than 20,000 trees. This park is outstanding for the combination of English, French and Japanese gardens. Another remarkable garden is in the grounds of the Imperial Palace, in the Chiyoda district. It covers 241 hectares, including the green areas. The Higashi Gyoen garden is part of the palace area open to the public.
Surrounding an immense lake, Kyu Shiba Rikyu is an Edo-period garden built in the 17th century on land reclaimed from the sea. Previously, it included a beach to Tokyo bay, but as the city expanded its connection with the ocean was lost. The gardens belonged to various Samurai families and officials until 1924, when it was donated to the city. Rikugien is also from the Edo period. This park was created by the Samurai Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu in the 18th century. His fondness for Japanese waka poetry and the teachings of Confucius inspired the reproduction of 88 scenes from his favourite poems and Chinese history. The attractive park includes a lake, a hill, several trees and a traditional Japanese garden.
Next to Tokyo Dome City entertainment complex, in downtown Tokyo, is one of the oldest and best preserved parks in the city, Koishikawa Korakuen. It was the first to replicate a traditional Japanese-style landscape. It reproduces some of the best known places in Japan, a Chinese-style garden and a representation of Mount Fuji.
Kiyosumi Teien was built later, in the Meiji period, specifically between 1878 and 1885. Yataro Iwasaki, founder of the Mitsubishi group, acquired the land and commissioned the park for the enjoyment of his employees and guests. It features 55 enormous rocks from all over Japan.
Any tour of Tokyo parks would be remiss if it didn’t include Hamarikyu Onshi Teien. It was constructed at the mouth of the Sumida River in the 17th century and has a seawater lake. In the centre of the lake, a large wooden bridge some 118 metres long connects with Nakajima Island. The garden provides a landscape of contrasts being so close to the futuristic Shiodome district. It was designed in 1952 as a place of cultural and historical interest.

MOUTAIN, SEA AND TEA

Japanese gardens are designed to reproduce natural landscapes, and include elements like water, an island, a bridge and a tea house. They use deciduous trees like the maple, evergreens like the Japanese black pine and other plant features like bamboo, moss and fern. Each garden strives to represent a different landscape. In this way, Tsukiyama, also known as hill gardens, are designed to imitate mountains and lakes; Karesansui represent the sea with waves of stones and gravel, and Chaniwa are the tea house gardens.

GARDEN TEA CEREMONY

Since the 14th century, the tea ceremony—the most representative element of Japanese culture—has been held in simple rooms built in Chaniwa-style gardens, inside the parks of Tokyo. A zen environment perfect for attaining peace through a ritual rich in elegance and symbolism. A complete ceremony takes around four hours; different types of tea are served, from the light usucha to the thick koicha. Visitors can witness a performance of the ceremony in most tea houses in the gardens of Tokyo.

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