Once upon a time (2016) I lived in the sunniest spot in the UK and even had a badly-mown lawn to call my own. When I was too lazy for clothes but still wanted to enjoy the sun, I would sprawl myself across my garden with a coffee-filled cafetière and a self-help book about my most recent obsession. Fast forward to Tokyo 2017; there is only 3m² of green space per person, I don’t have a caffitiére and my only obsession is how to not sound like a complete idiot when I speak Japanese.
But hey, it’s not so bad. In my last post I promised to show you the highlights of my new neighbourhood – Kagurazaka in Tokyo. So today I’m going to do just that. Only 10 minutes away from my home is Higo-Hosokawa – a peaceful Japanese garden with free entry for everyone. Although the garden is open to the public – which means I am unable to read a book in my pants there – this place is still a haven, and I’m even happy to put proper clothes on for it.
The Japanese garden Higo-Hosokawa is often referred to as Shouseikaku – which is the name of the building that is located within it. Besides from looking pretty amongst the trees, Shouseikaku also has several functional uses. Within the building there are Japanese and Western style meeting rooms that local residents/students can rent for 3-4 hours at a time from 700 yen. Or, if like most people you just want to nose around, you could also stop to enjoy a tea there.
There isn’t much information available online, but from what I can find, Higo-Hosokawa Garden was completed in Showa Year 36 aka 1961. Whereas Shouseikaku is believed to have been built almost 100 years earlier, in 1887, as a place of study for the Hosokawa family. Thankfully for us though, the building was opened to the public along with the garden in 1961. The garden’s total size is around 19,000m², making it around 1/30th of the size of Shinjuku Gyoen – one of the largest and most famous parks in Tokyo.
The website is mainly in Japanese but more information about Shouseikaku and Higo-Hosakawa can be found on the website here.
Around the Garden
There are four different ways to enter the garden. Most people enter through the main entrance (next to Shouseikaku) or the side entrance (next to the Kanda-gawa river). The other entrances are quite obscure, so unless you’re rummaging around in the alleyways, you’re unlikely to discover them by chance. In my opinion there are three main parts to the garden; first is the main area around the pond, second is the open-area behind Shouseikaku and third is the area concealed by trees at the back of the garden.
I’ve visited this garden at various times on various days, and it’s always peaceful. The tranquility of the garden makes it the perfect place to relax on a bench and enjoy a book. Moreover, the garden evolves with each season; showcasing both spring’s infamous cherry blossom and autumn’s enchanting koyo (leaf-changing colours). Around the garden you will find various traditional Japanese stone features such as a pagoda, bridge and lantern.
The open-area behind Shouseikaku has tiered ‘theatre-style’ seating where you can usually find people eating lunch or drinking coffee. Throughout the warmer months, there are sometimes toys and games available to play with for free too.
If you’re interested in learning more about Japanese history or fine art, you may like to visit the Eisei Bunko Museum which sits behind the trees at the top of the hill. I haven’t been there yet, but I will be sure to update this blog when I do!
If you haven’t explored some of the quieter parts of Tokyo yet, I hope this post may have inspired you to do so! In my next article I will highlight another gem in my neighbourhood, the garden of Hotel Chinzanso!