As you enter through the Otemon gate and walk along, the sky overhead seems improbably vast for the center of a city. Breezes from Tokyo Bay waft through a beautiful garden ringed with greenery and flowers. This garden had its beginnings in 1654 when the fourth shogun, Ietsuna Tokugawa, gave the land to his younger brother, Tsunashige Matsudaira, who was chancellor of the Kofu Domain. Matsudaira had the reed-covered foreshore area filled and built a villa called the Kofu Hama Yashiki (Kofu beach residence) there. A series of extensions were carried out and by the time of the eleventh shogun, Ienari Tokugawa, the gardens were completed and were known as Hama Gyoen (beachside imperial gardens). After the Meiji revolution it became an Imperial villa known as Hamarikyu (beachside detached palace). The tidal pond, one of its main attractions, is maintained through tidal seawater from Tokyo Bay. For a pleasant experience walk across the pond on Otsutaibashi Bridge and take a rest in the teahouse on the island to enjoy the beautiful view. An impressive three-hundred-year pine planted by the sixth shogun, Ienobu Tokugawa, is another sight not to be missed. The Edo atmosphere may be long gone, but you can still enjoy the mysterious charm of another time in this elegant garden surrounded by high-rise buildings.
A map of the villa and grounds drawn 210 years ago in the Edo period (from the Tokugawa Forestry Management History Research Institute collection). It shows that there was an official’s residence and guardhouse next to the Otemon gate. The villa of Enryokan was built as a state guest house on the same spot in 1869.
The island teahouse as seen from the tidal pond
Two Duck Hunting Grounds
Koshindo and Shinzenza, two ponds for duck hunting, were established during the period when the gardens were called Hama Gyoen. A narrow moat was drawn from each pond and a mound built at the end as a lookout (photograph ①). Domestic ducks were fed after banging on the thick boards with a wooden mallet (photograph ②), to condition them. The sound of the planks being hit was a signal for these ducks to head for the moat (photograph ④) tempting the wild ducks along with them. The person watching from the peephole (photograph ③) would signal at the right time for others to come alongside the moat and throw a net over to catch the wild ducks.
Location: Hamarikyu Gardens, Chuo Ward
Closed: December 29 to January 1
Hours: 9 am to 4:30 pm (July 1 to August 10, 7:30 am to 5 pm)
Admission: 300 yen, 150 yen for those 65 and older, free for elementary students and Tokyo middle school students