I’d forgotten all about these gardens until they featured in a cooking segment on the recent ‘Hairy Bikers Asian Adventure‘ BBC TV series. I do remember visiting them about eight years ago with my mate Gideon, and I did actually write a short piece about them which I ended up deleting only a few months ago as it had no photos, was very short and a bit boring (“That’s never stopped you before Tokyo Fox” I hear you cry!).
Hoping to see them during the cherry blossom season, I went there on a flying visit during a break the other week. It was actually on the same day as I went to Rikugien in Komagome and that experience should’ve taught me that these gardens are not exactly full of weeping cherry trees. In fact, Kiyosumi only has one cherry tree but it was a very pleasant one and with it being late afternoon I had the near-deserted place to myself.
This little spot is on the east side of the Sumida-gawa river and it consists of a an artificial pond, hill and river built during the Meiji period to entertain employees and guests of the Mitsubishi Corporation. Entry is just 150 yen and the highlight for me was not the cherry tree but the exquisite stepping stones (below) and varied rocks brought from all over Japan.
The teahouse sticks out into the pond and was originally built in order to entertain a British guest in 1909 so its perhaps quite apt that this architecture was where the Hairy Bikers made California rolls in episode four of their most recent TV series.
As ever with many things in Japan, Kiyosumi has inevitably had comprehensive repairs despite surviving the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and war damage. In fact, the gardens were used as an area of refuge and saved many lives during the bombing of Tokyo in March 1945.
The best things in life are free is an overly-used phrase and one that I usually take with a pinch of salt but maybe there’s something in it after all as the sakura just down the road (below) from the gardens entrance/exit were actually far more of a spectacle.
How to get there: Take the Toei Oedo or Hanzomon lines to Kiyosumi-shirakawa station. It’s then a 3 minute walk from the A3 exit