A grey heron; you might call it the mascot of Kiyosumi Garden.

Kiyosumi Garden

A modern garden in which you can discover the elegance of stones and living things.

Kiyosumi Garden calls your attention to the stones and the wild animals within it.

The garden itself is simply organized as a tour around a pond. But during the short time it takes you to circle the pond, you’ll be able to gaze upon a variety of beautiful stones from around Japan and, at the same time, experience the sights of animals you never thought present in Tokyo.

central pond

The garden is organized as an excursion around this central pond.

The land where this garden is located is a site with a history that dates to the Edo era; it was used for the mansions of wealthy merchants and daimyos.

The land took its present form as a magnificent garden after Yataro Iwasaki, founder of the Mitsubishi conglomerate, purchased the land in 1878 (Meiji 11). (Mr. Iwasaki was a leading magnate, representative of Japan.)

Before Mr. Iwasaki purchased the land, it is uncertain to what extent this garden would have been built for a daimyo’s mansion.

What we know for certain is the current main feature: the giant and magnificent stones that encircle the pond.

These stones were selected and relocated from all around Japan for use in the garden by Mr. Iwasaki himself.


Stones from around Japan are placed all around the entire garden.

The Tokyo Garden Guide, published in 2008, gives a detailed explanation about the stones that Mr. Iwasaki was so proud of:


The Iwasaki family used their own company’s steamships to gather magnificent stones from around the country and placed them within the garden. Many of the stones, of which there are around 60, are Sado Island akadama stones, Izu Kawana shore stones, Iyo blue-green stones, and other rare stones whose collection has now been prohibited. [ . . . ] Each one is worth a look.

referenceSociety for the Appreciation of Tokyo’s Fine Gardens, “Tokyo Garden Guide”, page 85, 2008年, Mates Publishing

It’s not only the kinds of stones that are special: Mr. Iwasaki’s creativity is also worth noting.

His meticulousness can be seen in the iso-watari (stepping stones), whose design Mr. Iwasaki himself supervised.

The iso-watari

The iso-watari: each step alters your view of the scenery. But watch your footing!

The several iso-watari placed through the garden allow you to experience the murmuring of the water and the presence of the animals more closely than you would if you simply walked around the edge of the pond. This original idea envisions not merely an ordinary pond but the “shoreline” of a sea.

According to the writings of Mr. Shozo Tanaka, a researcher of garden culture:


Large stones are scattered along curved lines on a pond filled to the brim with water. In many cases, stepping stones are inserted in the middle of streams or heading towards an island. Here, it has the effect of a garden path extending into the pond and serves a role much like the veranda of a home.

referenceShozo Tanaka, “Walks through the Gardens of Edo and Tokyo”, page 105, 2010年, JTB Publishing

A tortoise basking in the sun.

A tortoise basking in the sun. To the rear of it is a Sukiya-style teahouse, designated by the Tokyo Metropolis as a selected historical building.

From these verandas and causeways over the pond, you can view a variety of animals you never would have thought to see in the city, such as carp, turtles, the grey herons mentioned before, and other wild birds.


In the pond there are fish and turtles and, because there are rivers and the sea close by, you can also spot a rich variety of wild birds, such as spot-billed ducks, Japanese white-eyes, kingfishers, little grebes, azure-winged magpies, grey starlings, and swallows. There are many people who come to bird-watch.

referenceSociety for the Appreciation of Tokyo’s Fine Gardens, “Tokyo Garden Guide”, page 87, 2008年, Mates Publishing

A garden that models the sea, the shore, islands, mountains, and other geographic features creates the illusion of a full ecosystem compressed into a small space.

We hope that you’ll savor the true pleasure to be had from the microcosm that a Japanese garden creates, here at Kiyosumi Garden.


Kiyosumi Garden
3-3-9 Kiyosumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Last updated on August 03, 2018. The information on this page may not reflect the current trends.