Located in the Kita Ward of Tokyo, is an urban oasis combining both the Western and Japanese style landscaping. Built in 1917 by British architect, Josiah Conder, Kyu-Furukawa Gardens was once the home of the prominent Meiji diplomat, Mutsu Munemitsu. Conder’s other works include the Rokumeikan Hall and the Holy Resurrection Cathedral (Nikolai-do) in Tokyo.
With an area of over seven acres, the gardens feature a Western-style building which served as Munemitsu’s residence from 1844-1887, a rose garden and a traditional Japanese stone garden, which was designed by Jihei Ogawa. The northern part of the garden lies on the slopes of the Musashino Hills, while the Japanese garden and its pond are situated in the lower southern part.
When Munemitsu’s second son was adopted by Baron Toranosuke Furukawa, the third-generation head of the renowned Furukawa zaibatsu, the property was turned over to his family and they remained in residence from 1887-1940. The gardens were opened to the public on April 30, 1956.
The Western-style home is designed in the style of classic British aristocratic residences, with the facade featuring andesite stones. The building was used in 1923 to accommodate refugees from the Great Kanto Earthquake. Currently it houses the Otani Art Museum Foundation.
The Western-style rose garden is designed as a terraced garden. The roses are in full bloom during the spring and autumn months.
The Japanese garden features a pond (Shinji-ike) shaped like the Chinese character for heart, “ji” (心) or “shin” in kanji. Several stone lanterns, pagodas and a waterfall measuring 10 ft. in height are arranged around the pond to create the illusion of a cliff and a river gorge in the mountains.
Across the pond, there is a karetaki or dry waterfall created with granite and other rocks. Karetaki is one of the elements of karesansui, a Japanese rock garden representing mountains and water using rocks and gravel.
If you happen to be in the Kita Ward, why not visit the Kyu-Furukawa Gardens and see how the Japanese managed to blend both traditional and Western-style designs in such a wonderful way. You will walk away relaxed and filled with wonderment.
Furukawa Gardens is a seven-minute walk from Kaminakazato Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line and 12 minutes on foot from the Komagome Station on the JR Yamanote Line.
The gardens are open to the public daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. (Closed from Dec. 29 to Jan. 1.) General admission ¥150 (¥70 for those over 65 years old and free for elementary school students and junior high and high school students residing in Tokyo).
Photo credits: Kenichi Yoshifuji