Tokyo has a reputation for being the ultimate concrete jungle, and in many places it`s easy to see why. However, for every cluster of skyscrapers, the city also holds a tranquil park or garden, and one of the most agreeable must be Kiyosumi Tei-en. It`s only a short ride on the subway from the urban bustle, but once you step through the gate you`ll find yourself in an oasis of calm, far removed from the crowds and clamour.
The garden is designed around a large pond, with a few islands which provide places to rest for its resident ducks and turtles. A good place to start a circuit of the pond is the path of broad stepping-stones in front of the Taisho Kinenkan, an elegant wooden memorial hall next to the entrance. As you step from one stone to the next it`s fun to watch the shoals of carp who swim to the surface hoping for tidbits, or to throw pieces of bread or rice-crackers for the ducks to squabble over.
Strolling slowly around the pond you`ll become more relaxed, watching as the reflections change with every few steps. The garden originally opened in 1880, and it`s easy to imagine being transported back to that time, such is the insulation from the noise of the city. When you round the south-east corner of the pond you come to the garden`s largest hill, which may have been named Fuji-san because of the profusion of azaleas which bloom brightly on its sides every spring.
Set back from the pond`s southern shore is a serene open space, a good spot to sit and rest for a few moments. As well as a shady arbor and a bed of irises, you`ll find a stone monument here with a carving of a haiku by Edo-era poet Basho. Not inappropriately, it reads: The sound of a frog, jumping into an old pond. Returning to the pond you`ll come to the Ryotei, an atmospheric restaurant designed after a traditional teahouse; you`ll need a reservation if you want to eat there, but it`s as much a part of the scenery as a place to eat. Part of the beauty of the garden is how the man-made features complement the water and greenery; seen from across the pond, the Ryotei seems to be floating on its surface.
Continuing around the pond you`ll come to another path of stepping-stones and a low stone bridge, and a striking stone object which looks like a lantern designed by a modern sculptor. You`ll also get a close-up view of Matsushima, an island with a similar object at one end and a tall stone pagoda at the other.
Then you`re back at the entrance,wondering where the time has gone. You may be ready to re-emerge refreshed into the big city, or maybe ready to stay a while longer and enjoy another unhurried stroll around Kiyosumi Tei-en.