Kyu Iwasaki-tei Gardens 旧岩崎邸庭園

After Japan opened up the country to the rest of the world at the end of 19th century, many western style buildings were built. Kyu Iwasaki-tei (former residence of the Iwasaki family) is one of them. It’s gorgeous  Jacobean style building, Japanese style building, billiard room and garden are open to public today.

Located in Ueno, one of the most touristy areas in Tokyo, this massive property used to have about 20 buildings in the past. Only one third of it is left now, but it’s quite impressive still.

The property was built in 1896 by Hisaya Iwasaki, the eldest son of the founder of the Mitsubishi conglomerate. The western style building was designed by a British architect Josiah Conder, featuring Jacobean style and combining Islamic motifs.

The lady’s guest room on the ground floor has amazing embroidered Japanese silk cloths on the ceiling. Rooms on the first floor have what’s called Kinkara Kawashi on walls. On this lavish wall papers, flowers and birds are embossed on Japanese rice paper and decorated with pigment, oil, lacquer, and metal foils.

The lavish western style space is connected to the Japanese building and the atmosphere changes drastically. The Daimyo style Japanese building has four rooms with Shoin zukuri style. What’s left now is only small part of what was initially built apparently. The building used to be or weddings and special occasions. The main big room features a Nihonga master Gaho Hashimoto’s paintings. I really loved the subtlety of the Mt Fuji painted on the tokonoma alcove. Iwasaki family’s crest is used as a motif in decorative details including shoji doors, door pulls and covers on nails in the beams.

Apparently this style of building, combination of western and Japanese styles in one property, influenced residential architecture in Japan. The garden apparently has both Japanese and western styles, but I couldn’t see it as it’s been under construction. I hope to get to see it soon. And I hope to go there during on a week day so I can take photos inside of the buildings (somehow photos aren’t allowed inside on weekends..)  

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