“Every time I think of you, the leaves will turn red.”
We’re just at the tail end of Koyo season here in Tokyo, but today’s perfect weather seemed like a good excuse to visit one of the last major public gardens in Tokyo I’d yet to see. That’s Hamarikyu, formerly the Tokugawa Shogunate’s duck hunting and falconry estate. It’s a bit different from most major Tokyo gardens in just how intimate it is with the surrounding skyscrapers, and in that the ponds are connected to Tokyo Bay and thus, their level rises and falls with the tides.
Given how much I love the way old and new juxtapose themselves in Tokyo, Hamarikyu had me at “Hello”. Nestled behind Shiodome’s maze of skyscrapers and shopping malls (which are themselves nestled behind the bustle of Shimbashi) it’s almost hard to believe Hamarikyu could be hiding back there. But it is, and it’s a lovely place – between the Kanto earthquake and the bombings very few of the older buildings and bridges survive, but the garden itself is timeless.
Among the highlights are this 300 year-old pine tree (305 now, actually) and several teahouses. Hamarikyu also offers fine views of Rainbow Bridge (it’s also a stop on the Waterbus line) and Kachidoki Bridge. As well, it has a thriving population of cats, and this fellow was especially friendly. After stopping for a chat, he ambled up to the top of this hill where a young couple were seated and promptly sat himself on the lap of the husband and started kneading like mad (cat people will understand what that means). He was fine with it, but his wife (or girlfriend) must not be a cat person, because she pretty much freaked out.
After dinner I checked out the Christmas illumination at the Caretta shopping mall in Shiodome. Tokyo Midtown’s is still the best I’ve seen, but this was pretty good.