Tokyo may be a concrete jungle stretching as far as the eye can see but amidst all those grey buildings lie some greenery whether it be parks like Yoyogi, Ueno and Hibiya, or gardens like Shinjuku Gyoen, Hama-rikyu, Rikugien, Kiyosumi, Koishikawa Korakuen and so on
Having covered all of those places (and many more!), I really thought I knew my green spaces quite well but obviously not as whilst flicking through last Winter’s WAttention Tokyo magazine (vol. 26) I was surprised to be informed about this particular quirky garden in Nakano ward.
As I was at a bit of a loose end one Sunday I decided to check it out in what was the first time to properly venture out further than local stations on my bicycle since I was knocked off it in February this year.
Tetsugakudo-koen park bills itself as a philosophy “theme park” aimed at spiritual cultivation which is truly one of its kind. The use of the words theme and park really is stretching it a bit!! This is certainly no Disneyland, Fuji Q Highland, Yomiuriland or even Toshimaen!
It has been around in Northern Nakano in various guises since 1904 and is the creation of a man called Inoue Enryo, the founder of Toyo University. He built the garden for the “educational, moral, and philosophical cultivation of the spirit” and as a researcher of yokai (supernatural spirits, monsters, demons etc) and other mysteries, he sought to promote spiritual cultivation among the people through their exposure to sages commemorated in the garden. He dedicated much of his life to understanding the supernatural and spent a lot of his earnings to construct this park.
Wanting to engage my mind and deepen my understanding (yes, really!), I picked up a pamphlet from the park’s office and entered through the “Gate of Common Sense” and soon came to what is undoubtedly the landmark of the garden; the Pagoda of the Six Wise Ones (below) which is a red three-story hexagonal structure.
There are said to be 77 philosophical features in the garden and there are lots of uniquely named points such as the Garden of Materialism, the Junction of Doubt, the Garden of Idealism and the road of Cognition among others. Of course I rolled my eyes a bit in disbelief when I came across such name but sometimes you’ve just got to go along with it! You then exit through the “Gate of the Irrational” which supposedly symbolises a return to the arbitrariness of your normal daily life.
There are a couple of interesting little statues. The first one is called Tanuki Lamp as the small lantern in the deceptive racoon dog’s stomach signifies that even in falseness some glittering spirit can be found. The other one shows a demon being weighed down in pain by a lantern symbolising conscience!
Just over the Myoshoji River is the actual Garden of Philosophy which features a few more exhibits of note. Presumably the four people standing around the pond are Confucius, Buddha, Socrates and Kant but with my poor knowledge on such matters I can never be too sure! I’m sure someone will let me know if I’m wrong!
Tetsugakudo-koen Park is located at 1-34-28 Matsugaoka, Nakano-ku. It’s a 14 minute walk from Ochia-minami nagasaki station on the Oedo Line or 15 minutes on foot from Araiyakushi-mae station on the Seibu Shinjuku line. If coming from Nakano, then take bus #11 or #41.
On the way to the park I had noticed a tall and imposing structure so once I was philosophised-out I cycled the very, very short distance to Mizu-no-To Park which houses a construction known as Nogata Standpipe (1-1-1 Egota, Nakano-ku). It was built in 1929 as a facility to supply clean water to Nakano City and the surrounding areas and is registered as one of Japan’s Tangible Cultural Properties.
That wasn’t the end of my day though as I decided to continue further south (via a shrine with flowers in bloom) to the subcultural wonder that is Nakano Broadway which is close to Nakano Station.
It’s fair to say that this shopping centre was a world apart from the high-brow culture I had experienced in the Temple Garden of Philosophy!