Kyu Asakura House

Tokyo’s Admirable Gardens

Asakura House in Tokyo
The former Asakura House in Tokyo

You might think, real Japanese gardens can be found within Kyoto alone. Today I want to convince you that this is not true. There are also admirable gardens in Japan’s modern capital Tokyo.
If you are already on my side, please read anyhow, you will see beautiful garden pictures and might discover the one or other secret spot.

The difference between gardens in Kyoto and Tokyo

Yes, of course. The gardens in both cities are completely different and I do understand why people of all countries are fascinated by the gardens of Kyoto.
However, I also believe that people all over the world can fall in love with the Japanese gardens in Tokyo – when they start to understand and separate them from their brothers in Japan’s old capital.

Kyoto’s gardens are beautiful, of course. In this city, we can find hidden gardens around almost every corner. From small dry landscape gardens over enclosed courtyard gardens to large strolling gardens, there is everything there.
Thanks to the people of Kyoto, who value their traditional heritage very high, all these gardens are in a good condition and a lot of them are open to the public.
Of course, over time, Kyoto also saw some transformation and modernization, however, the temples, shrines and traditional tea shops and ryokan are still existing and love their old gardens.

Nezu Museum in Tokyo
The garden of the Nezu Museum in Tokyo

The History

But how is it in Tokyo? The first-timer tourist might say that there are no gardens in Tokyo at all because they are just not as present as in Kyoto. However, also Tokyo was once a city of gardens.
While the gardens of Kyoto date back until the late 900s, Tokyo’s gardens are much younger. The earliest of them were built in the 1600s. This already was later than the main time for dry landscape gardens! During the Edo period (1603 – 1868) were Tokyo became the political center of Japan, the daimyo (feudal lords) built their second houses with gardens in Tokyo. These residences were often seen as a sign of wealth and power and the gardens reflected this.

During the Meiji Restauration, the new government needed to show the western world that they can compete with the strong countries in Europe and with America. They did this by copying western style. Due to this, Tokyo’s rapid growth and the earthquake of 1923, a lot of the daimyo gardens were demolished. Only a few survived thanks to private investors.

With this, we already learned that the gardens of Kyoto mostly originated during a totally different time period than the gardens in Tokyo and that they were preserved more carefully.

The gardens in Tokyo however, display the garden style of Japan’s maybe most influencing time for the modern Japanese culture. The few existing ones are relicts, because most of these daimyo gardens were demolished.

Yoshida House in Tokyo
The former Yoshida House in Tokyo

An introduction to Tokyo’s admirable gardens

With a short introduction to Tokyo’s most beautiful spots in the gardens, I want to show that not only the gardens in Kyoto are worth a visit, but also the gardens of Tokyo. Less in amount, but not less in variety!

Hamarikyu Gardens

In this vast strolling garden you can find not only the brutal contrast of old and new, but you can also experience teahouse architecture from close. There are five teahouses on the grounds of Hamarikyu garden, two of them you can enter anytime.


Shibarikyu Gardens

In winter, this is the greatest garden in Tokyo to enjoy the Japanese snow protection method Yukizuri. In summer, this garden is to enjoy fabulous rock formations.


Kyu Furukawa Gardens

The Kyu Furukawa Garden shows the contrast of Western-style and Japanese-syle at it’s best. At the upper area is a Western-style residence from the Taisho period and a rose garden, and at the lower area is a traditional pond strolling garden, designed by a famous garden designer from Kyoto.


Meiji Jingu Gardens

Once a residence garden of a daimyo, this garden became the property of the Meiji Emperor, who enjoyed the iris fields and the peaceful surroundings.


Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Maybe the best-preserved daimyo garden in whole Tokyo is the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden. It is the exemplary garden for the pond strolling type of the Edo period. You will find several different zones, all changing your view on the garden.


Rikugien Gardens

Preserved in the Meiji era by the founder of Mitsubishi, the Rikugien garden was slightly transformed to his preferences. Nonetheless, the previous structure was kept and Rikugien is one of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo. It is especially worth a visit during the light-up event in fall.


Tokyo Imperial Palace Gardens

The pond garden in the second compound was designed by a daimyo of the Edo period, who also built famous temple gardens in Kyoto and gardens of different styles all over Japan.
In this pond, you can find a very special koi carp, bred by the Emperor himself.


Tonogayato Gardens

The Tonogayato garden lies a little bit outside downtown, in the city of Kokubunji. Most interesting is the rift line visible in the garden, where fresh water pours out of the wall. However, this garden is also famous for its autumn scenery.


I hope you enjoyed this short overview of the most famous gardens in Tokyo, and that the pictures proofed that there are a lot of hidden gems to discover in Japan’s capital city!

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Garden Tours in Tokyo and Japan

If you would like to book a garden tour in Tokyo or Japan conducted by a garden professional, please visit Tokyo Garden Tours. (A service provided by Real Japanese Gardens.)

Related Links (Links forwarding to Amazon are tied to the Amazon Associates Program.)

Japanese Garden History: 日本庭園の歴史 (Englisch) Paperback – Amazon

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Link to kindle edition ($9.99)





Hamarikyu Teien GardenHamarikyu, Shogun’s retreat in Tokyo – Gumroad

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Shibarikyu Teien GardenKyu-Shibarikyu-Teien, a daimyo garden in Tokyo – Gumroad

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Kyu Furukawa Teien GardenKyu-Furukawa Teien, a secret garden in Tokyo – Gumroad

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Koishikawa Korakuen GardenKoishikawa Korakuen, a daimyo garden in Tokyo – Gumroad

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Rikugien GardenRikugien, a waka poetry garden in Tokyo – Gumroad

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Tokyo Imperial Palace GardenTokyo Imperial Palace Ninomaru Gardens – Gumroad

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Tonogayato Teien GardenTonogayato Teien, a landscape strolling garden in outer Tokyo – Gumroad

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3 thoughts on “Tokyo’s Admirable Gardens

  1. I’m definitely on your side! Tokyo’s gardens were the first ones I had the chance to explore when we moved to Japan. We lived very close to Kyu Shibarikyu so that one holds a special place in my heart.

      1. I love how certain gardens hold special meaning to us, even if they’re not the most famous. Because I love visiting Kyu Shiba Rikyu, I returned at an “odd” time and found some of the prettiest late blooming shidare-zakura in the city (in my opinion). It only served to cement that garden is my favorite even more. 🙂

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