Yushima Station is located in the Bunkyo Ward of Tokyo on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line.

Yushima, situated in the Kanda-Ochanomizu-Hongo area, was the educational district of Tokyo during the Edo period. The first institute of higher learning of the city, Yushima Seido, was opened here by the Edo government in 1690. Since then, several other institutes and universities have been established in the area. Yushima is also home to several shrines and temples. The most popular and well-known shrine of the district is Yushima Shrine.

Yushima Shrine

Yushima Shrine is located just a minute's walk from Exit 3 of Yushima Station. Popularly known as Yushima Tenjin, Yushima is a Shinto shrine originally established in 458 A.D. to worship Ameno-tajikaraono-mikoto, a mythical deity. Later in 1355, the spirit of the ninth century scholar, Sugawara Michizane, was also enshrined here. In 1478, the shrine was rebuilt by a war lord of Kanto, Oota Dokan, and ever since, Yushima Shrine has been known as a shrine of scholars. Students, not only from Tokyo, but from all over Japan, come here to pray for good grades and success in exams.

The picturesque Yushima Shrine is built entirely from Japanese cedar in Shaden style. It is characterized by huge bundles of wooden tablets, or ema (petitions to Sugawara's spirit for success in examinations), hanging all over the front of the building. There is an attractive plum garden in the complex, which is a treat in spring with its plum blossoms in full bloom. In February, Yushima Tenjin celebrates a plum blossom festival.

The plum blossom festival at Yushima Tenjin, locally called Ume Matsuri , is celebrated for a full month in February and March. Since the Edo period, this month long festival has been very popular and attracts thousands of visitors from all over Japan to view the beautiful plum blossoms. Festivities include Tenjin drumming, an outdoor tea ceremony, kodan (story-telling), and rakugo (traditional comic story-telling). Several shops and stalls are set up at the entrance of the shrine that sell popular local crafts and foods.

Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens

Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens is the former palatial home of the founder of the Mitsubishi Group, Iwasaki Yataro. Located two minutes' walk from Exit 1 of Yushima Station, Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens was designed by British architect Josiah Conder and completed in 1896. Both the house and gardens are open to the public.

The grounds of Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens has beautiful lawns and tree groves. The mansion, considered to be the best surviving example of European architecture in Japan from the 19th century, stands overlooking the gardens. This is a two-story wooden house, with fluted columns framing the entrance porch. The high-ceilinged, parqueted, and beautifully decorated rooms inside are very impressive. The upstairs rooms are designed with Islamic motifs, while the lower floor rooms have renaissance motifs. The stained glass, spiral staircase, fifteen elaborate stone fireplaces, and western style toilets used in the house are said to be the first in Japan.

Attached to this western-style house, is a Japanese-style house. This section has tatami rooms with seamless paulownia wood ceilings and fusuma (sliding doors) painted with seasonal motifs. Nearby is a billiards house, which is connected to the main house by an underground passage. This well preserved house has been built in the style of a Swiss mountain cabin.

Iwasaki lived in this mansion till Word War II, after which he donated his estate to Japan and went to spend the rest of his days in the countryside. The place was first badly abused by the U.S. military, and then later by the Japanese Supreme Court. They knocked down nearly all of the Japanese section and built a training center there, which was soon abandoned.

In 1961, the western house was declared a cultural asset. The remainder of the estate followed suit in 1999. Then in 2001, Tokyo Prefecture took over the management of the place.

Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens is well worth a visit, and an opportunity to learn about the lifestyle of the Japanese elite of the Meiji Era.


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