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Rikugien

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The Rikugien, or Six Virtues Gardens, in Tokyo's Bunkyô-ku, was one of the first publicly accessible municipal gardens or parks in Japan. Built around 1699 to 1706 by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu in Edo, it is still extant and open to the public today.

Prior to Yoshiyasu's construction of the garden, in 1657, the Maeda clan of Kaga han built their naka-yashiki (middle mansion) on the site. The mansion was later demoted to shimo-yashiki (lower mansion), and in 1695, a portion of its grounds was given by Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi to Yoshiyasu as his own 27,000 tsubo lower mansion. Yoshiyasu then began constructing a garden on the site, naming it "Rikugien" after a line from a poem by Ki no Tsurayuki. The garden would continue to house the Yanagisawa clan lower mansion until the Bakumatsu period.

The garden covers roughly 25 acres (10 ha), and includes an artificial lake and small hills arranged in the style of a private aristocratic or samurai garden, though on a larger scale. Open to the public, it became a popular place for townspeople of Edo to gather for seasonal celebrations such as hanami (appreciating cherry blossoms in spring), and momijigari (admiring the leaves changing color in fall), as well as other occasions. Courtesans also came to frequently display themselves in the gardens.

In the process of the Meiji Restoration, the garden became government property, and fell into considerable disrepair. It was purchased and restored in 1878 by Iwasaki Yatarô, founder of Mitsubishi. His younger brother and successor Iwasaki Yanosuke and eldest son Iwasaki Hisaya continued the restoration of the gardens after Yatarô's death, and its expansion to 120,000 tsubo. In 1905, they organized a large event at the gardens honoring Tôgô Heihachirô and 6,000 of the Imperial Japanese Navy sailors under his command for their service in the Russo-Japanese War. Iwasaki Hisaya donated the gardens to the city of Tokyo in 1938.[1]

References

  • Penelope Mason. History of Japanese Art. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. p275.
  • Gallery labels, Tôyô Bunko.
  • Signs on-site at Rikugien.
  1. Gallery labels, Tôyô Bunko.[1]

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