Field Report: Tōkyō, Japan (05 February 2014)

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We’ve got time on our hands before this afternoon’s flight to Sapporo, so let’s go for a relaxing stroll through one of Tōkyō’s finest gardens.

A light morning walk from Kiyosumi-shirakawa Station (Tokyo Metro Hanzōmon Line/Toei Ōedo Line) takes us to the entrance of Kiyosumi Teien, in Tōkyō’s Kōtō ward.

Like most of Tōkyō’s other traditional gardens, this splendid oasis of green once formed part of an Edo-period aristocrat’s private residence. In 1878, wealthy industrialist Iwasaki Yatarō (founder of Mitsubishi) purchased the land and developed it into a recreational garden for his employees and guests. On top of the usual landscaping work, the Iwasaki family enhanced the garden by adding dozens of unique and valuable stones collected from all over the country (conveniently transported here on their company’s ships). After the devastating earthquake of 1923 damaged the garden, the Iwasaki family donated its eastern half to the city government, which undertook restoration efforts before opening the facility to the public in 1932.

Admission costs just 150 yen, making this a great (and relatively cheap) place to unwind in the midst of a hectic sightseeing journey across Tōkyō – or, in my case, an inexpensive way to kill time before a flight.

The winding paths take visitors on a long circuit around the large central pond, with stunning new vistas opening up almost with every step.

There’s also ample opportunity for observing the local wildlife, including the garden’s resident ducks.

And then there are the garden’s famous rocks. These include more than 50 large specimens exhibiting various unique characteristics.

Others may or may not have unusual shapes or colours that would otherwise make them stand out, but have been used and arranged in ways pleasing to the eye. This large boulder, for example, bears one of Bashō’s haiku.

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This collection of rocks, large and small, creates the image of a dry stream and waterfall.

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Some of my favourite arrangements feature rocks laid out as stepping stones, forming paths that skirt the edges of the central pond.

All relaxed and refreshed? Good. We’ve got a long journey ahead of us, unto the wintry wastes of the uttermost north, there to behold the magnificent creations wrought by the hand of man from the powdery white snow cast upon the frozen landscape by the silver-grey skies above.

Or I could just say that we’re flying to Sapporo for the Yuki Matsuri, but hey . . . gardens can make a poet of a man. (They won’t necessarily make him a good poet, though.)

The journey continues in Sapporo.

One response to “Field Report: Tōkyō, Japan (05 February 2014)

  1. Pingback: Field Report: Sapporo (05 February 2014) | Within striking distance·

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