Not far away from Hama-Rikyu garden, its counterpart Kyu Shiba-Rikyu is smaller but charming. Created by feudal lords, the site invites visitors to take a pleasant stroll around the main water pond and several rock compositions, each having a precise symbolism. Today, there are no structures; all the buildings, tea houses and pavilions were destroyed during the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923.
Renovated the following year for the public, Kyu Shiba-Rikyu fulfills its function as an ornamental garden and is ideal for breaks, picnicking and zen, which salarymen from the surrounding skyscrapers do each lunch break. The ambient quiet of the place contrasts with the boiling neighborhood, with its high buildings, and Tokyo Bay, which is not far away.
Flowers bring a colorful note to the green theater of water and stone. There are of course the cherry trees and wisterias during the spring season, along with iris in the summer and the less known, delicate red spider lily, lycoris radiatia (higan-bana or manjushage), blooming here and there in the beginning of fall.
The park also features local fauna. The pond houses koi carp, ducks, herons and white egrets year-round. Some migratory birds, such as cormorants and wild ducks, also stop here. It is interesting to sit on one of the shadowed benches to observe their aquatic dance as they look for food.
The garden can be contemplated from several small hills situated at its corners. The water pond is divided by several islands, some of which are connected by stone bridges. Definitely intimate, Kyu Shiba Rikyu is appreciated by travelers for the beauty of its designs and the numerous black pines, always perfectly maintained, that cover this small, gorgeous landscape.
How to get to Kyu Shiba Rikyu
By JR train -- Yamanote Line, Hamamatsucho Station then a 3-minute walk
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 271)
¥150 (~US$ 1.40)
Get your Japanese Yens free of charge
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4:30 p.m.)
Closed from December 29 to January 1
How long / when to visit
Allow one hour
旧芝離宮恩賜庭園 (Kyu Shiba-rikyu teien)