Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

July 25, 2011

Japanese Gardens: Furukawa Gardens, Tokyo

The Furukawa Gardens were laid out in 1914 by the head of the Furukawa Zaibatsu, one of Japan's earliest business groups. The British architect, Josiah Conder (1852-1920), was asked to design a Western-style house and garden in front of it; the Japanese garden was designed by the prominent Kyoto garden architect Ogawa Jihei.

[Furukawa Gardens and Western-style Residence, Tokyo]

The house - a classic brick structure, with dark slate walls - seems to have been transplanted lock, stock and barrel from the English country side and looks strangely exotic in Tokyo. The same is true for the terrace garden with banks of roses in front of the mansion.

In fact, house and garden are is just as much culturally out of place as if an English businessman would have built a Japanese style house with tatami mats and tokonoma in London, featuring a Japanese pond garden in front of it!

That being said, Conder was an excellent architect who built many Western houses and halls (such as the defunct Rokumeikan) in Tokyo, and the present house still serves as a testimony to that bygone age.

A Japanese pond garden is also part of the Furukawa Gardens - occupying the lower part of the estate, behind a group of large azalea hedges that forms the border between the two gardens. The pond has a gracefully curving shoreline, a virtual waterfall (with stones) drops down into it, a large lantern and elegant tea house stand at its shore.

Unfortunately, the beauty of this garden is damaged by an apartment building standing right next to it. The people living in those flats have a nice view of the garden, but the integrity of the garden has been harmed by this ungainly construction. Going around the pond, one tries to keep the gaze low, in order not to see it. It is a pity, all the more because Ogawa Jihei was one of Japan's great gardeners - he was also responsible for the gardens of the Heian Shrine.
Address: 1-27-39 Nishigahara, Kita-ku, Tokyo. Tel. 03-3910-0394

Access: 7-min. walk from Nishigahara Station on the Nanboku Subway Line; 12-min. walk from Komagome Station on the JR Yamanote Line; 7-min. walk from Kami-Nakazato Station on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line.

Hours: 9:00-17:00. CL Year-end and New Year period.