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

March 9, 2013

Plum Blossoms in Suma Rikyu Park

Suma Rikyu Park lies in the western part of Kobe, not far from the Suma Temple. The 58 hectare large park, situated on the side of Mt. Tsukimiyama, finds it origin in a villa of Count Otani Kozui (1876-1948), who was the 22nd abbot of the Nishi-Honganji Temple in Kyoto and also sponsored three archaeological expeditions to Central Asia (the findings formed the important Otani Collection, parts of which can still be seen in the National Museum of Tokyo and elsewhere). In 1907, the site was bought by the Imperial Household Agency, and the Suma Rikyu (Suma Detached Palace) was finished in 1914 - the official name, by the way, was Muko Rikyu. Old photos show a big structure like the halls of the Gosho Palace in Kyoto. The garden was designed by Fukuba Itsusen.
[Plum blossoms in Suma Rikyu]

However, this all perished during the heavy bombings of 1945. The buildings were gone, but the garden was as much as possible restored to the original state, and in 1967 was donated by the Imperial House to the City of Kobe, in commemoration of the marriage of the present Emperor (then Crown Prince).
[Plum blossoms in Suma Rikyu]

There is also an eastern part of 24 hectares, connected by a footbridge, that originally formed a residence and garden belonging to the Okazaki Zaibatsu (a local industrial group - mainly shipping and banking). It was in 1973 acquired by the City of Kobe and added to the park, but the residence was destroyed in the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.
[Early sakura in Suma Rikyu]

The Rikyu Garden consists mainly of a Western-style garden of the Versailles type, with cascades, a canal and rows of fountains, as well as a square with a large fountain. The park also features a large rose garden, an iris garden and a camellia garden. An old stone lantern still stands as a lonely reminder of the former imperial gardens. A lookout-point provides a view over Suma and the nearby sea. A drive lined with maple trees is gorgeous in autumn.
[The main view - canals and fountains - in Suma Rikyu Park]

The botanical garden built on the former Okazaki premises features a greenhouse, a plum garden, a hydrangea garden, an English garden and a Japanese garden with a tearoom. There are also a few cherry trees. The plum trees come in many varieties and have all been neatly labeled (in Japanese). I found two statues in the garden: one of the god Poseidon, throwing a spear, in front of the restaurant and donated by Greece and a modern statue of Don Quixote on a stumbling and panting Rosinante.

[Fountain in Suma Rikyu Park]

Hours: 9:00-17:00 (enter by 16:30): in spring and autumn, there are sometimes longer opening times in the evening. Closed on Thursdays and from Dec. 29-Jan 3. 
Fee: 400 yen (a year card, also valid for the Shinrin Botanical Garden and Sorakuen Garden is 900 yen) 
Access: 10 min walk from Suma Station on either the JR or Sanyo Dentetsu lines (note that coming from Kobe Sannomiya or Motomachi, the JR ticket is 170 yen, but the combined Hanshin/Hankyu/Sanyo Dentetsu ticket is 320 yen because of the change of operator along the way - one of the rare cases that the JR is cheaper!). After exiting the station  proceed in an eastern direction along Kokudo 2 for about 5 min, then take the Rikyu Road (lined with small pine trees) north all the way to the Main Entrance of the park. There is also an eastern entrance to the a park, about 7 min from Tsukimiyama Station on the Sanyo Dentetsu Line, but this can not be recommended, as the environment with a highway ramp is rather vulgar.