東京のアートシーンを発信し、創造しよう。

MENU
MENU

Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens(Garden of Former Shiba-rikyu)

In Search of Tokyo Serenity

No.002

Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens
In the center of the large pond, there is a rock formation modeled after Mount Penglai, the island for immortals in the Chinese mythology.
Photo by Norihisa Kushibiki, Tokyo Vintage Gardens (2020, Genkosha)

Share
2021.02.03

In this series of articles, Edo-Tokyo Museum curator Miho Tanaka explores the appeal of traditional Japanese-style gardens in Tokyo. Her commentary is accompanied by images of the changing beauty of such gardens through the seasons captured by photographer Norihisa Kushibiki. The second installment of the series presents the Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens, one of the oldest existing daimyo gardens, and attempts to unveil its most fascinating feature: the way in which the garden still preserves the ideas and spirit of its first owner, Okubo Tadatomo, embodied in various details scattered throughout the grounds.


Photo: Norihisa Kushibiki

Story: Miho Tanaka (Curator at Edo-Tokyo Museum)

Cooperation: Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association


Contrast between fragility and strength

The Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens is an urban oasis surrounded by buildings and railways. The land on which the garden is located was originally under the surface of the sea, but in the second half of the 1650s the area was reclaimed and changed owners several times through the ages, until it was granted to the City of Tokyo in 1924, and later opened to the public.

Kyu-Shiba-rikyu is a pond-centered stroll-type garden, the predominant style of the numerous daimyo gardens created during the Edo period. This format combines flat areas and miniature hills arranged around a central pond, thus creating a difference in elevation that gives visitors an opportunity to enjoy the scenery of the central pond from a variety of angles.

The greatest characteristic of the garden is the way it gives tangible form to the ideas and spirit of its first owner, Okubo Tadatomo. This is visible in the stonework of the embankment surrounding the pond. In most traditional Japanese gardens, embankments are made with smooth stones, but at Kyu-Shiba-rikyu, rough stones were used to solidify the banks of the pond.

Surviving historical upheavals and disasters

The way in which Kyu-Shiba-rikyu was utilized changed through the ages, depending on the historical circumstances. In 1846, when the garden was the official residence of the Kishu branch of the Tokugawa family under the name “Shiba Oyashiki,” it was equipped with a battery and a swimming practice area, and served as a castle outpost at the forefront of the coastal defense. In 1875, the garden came under the jurisdiction of the Imperial Household Agency, and was used was a detached palace under the name “Shiba-rikyu.”

The maps of the area preserved at the Imperial Household Agency show that the garden occupied a territory of approximately 102,500 square meters in the early Meiji period. Today, however, it has shrunk down to 43,175 square meters. Nevertheless, Kyu-Shiba-rikyu preserves to this day the characteristic dignified beauty of traditional daimyo gardens from the Edo period.

Reclaiming new coastal land

The area of Tokyo Bay near the Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens was called Shibaura (literally “grassy inlet”). Historical sources indicate that during the Edo period, Shibaura was extremely popular as one of Edo’s best fishing grounds, and its abundant reserves not only of seaweed, but also of fish, prawns, and shellfish gave rise to numerous fishing villages that flourished along the Shibaura coast.

The fact that, back in an age when there was no heavy machinery, people were able to reclaim such an expansive area using only manpower proves that the Edo period was a time of peace and stability. Had it been plagued by frequent wars, such an enormous project would have been impossible to complete, even over several generations.

In the past, the pond in the Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens used to draw in sea water from Tokyo Bay. Today, however,drawing in of sea water has been terminated, and the pond is filled with fresh water.
Source:Tokyo Vintage Gardens
A pavilion (azumaya) in the eastern part of the garden. November is the best time to enjoy the stunning redleaves of the Japanese wax tree.
Source:Tokyo Vintage Gardens

Japanese original text: Yasuna Asano

Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens
Address: 1-chome (1-4-1) Kaigan, Minato City, Tokyo
Open hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last entry 4:30 p.m.)
Closed: Year-end and New Year holiday
Entrance fee: General 150 yen, seniors 65 years-of-age and older 70 yen
http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index029.html

Norihisa Kushibiki
Photographer. Born in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture. Active mainly in the fields of advertising and editorial work. Provides portrait photography for numerous celebrities and prominent figures. Took private photos of Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace. His work as an official photographer of the nine Tokyo metropolitan gardens inspired him to continue taking photos of traditional Japanese-style gardens as his life’s work.

Miho Tanaka
Curator at Edo-Tokyo Museum. Provides explanations of historical materials and delivers lectures on the theme of the relationship between people and flora, and specifically the art of gardening, during the Edo period. Tanaka conducts a course “Traditional Japanese Gardens x Area Guide,” which explores the history of classical gardens in Tokyo from the perspective of local characterstics. For details on Miho Tanaka’s lectures and courses, check the official website of Edo-Tokyo Museum:
https://www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp/en/event/culture/