Tokyo: Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens reveal splendor of Meiji diplomacy

The Japan News
A Western-style residence built in the Meiji era

Japan in the Meiji era (1868-1912) sought to modernize by actively incorporating features of Western civilization into its own. The wooden Western-style residence in the Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens near Shinobazu-no-Ike pond in Ueno, Tokyo, was used as a private guest house for the Mitsubishi financial conglomerate and still retains the glamorous atmosphere of that era.

The mansion was built in the 29th year of Meiji (1896) as the residence of Hisaya Iwasaki, Mitsubishi’s third president. It was used for parties to which foreign dignitaries were invited and gatherings of the Iwasaki family, and was designed by the English architect Josiah Conder. Conder is known for designing the famous state guest house Rokumeikan, which became an important stage for diplomacy during the Meiji period.

The Japan News
A large dining room on the first floor
The Japan News
The first floor balcony

The former Iwasaki residence incorporates a wide range of architectural elements, including ornate Jacobean decorations popular in 17th-century England and elegant Islamic arches. After the World War Ⅱ, the site and buildings were confiscated by the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces. Later, they became property of the state, and in 1961, the Western-style residence and billiard room were designated as National Important Cultural Properties. Today, visitors can explore the preserved Western-style building, Japanese-style building, and garden.

The Japan News
The second floor balcony
The Japan News
The interior of the Japanese-style house

The Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens is located at 1-3-45 Ike-no-hata, Taito Ward, Tokyo. Open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is ¥400. For more information, please visit the gardens’ website.