The Meiji Shrine Inner Garden (明治神宮内苑 Meiji Jingū Naien) is located next to Meiji Jingū shrine and is an 8.3-hectare Japanese garden surrounded by the buzzing city. In the Edo Period (1603-1867), it served as the residence of the Katō clan, the daimyō of Kumamoto, and later the Ii family from Hikone.


After the Meiji Restoration, the garden was renamed to Yoyogi Gyoen and turned over to the Imperial Household Agency. The garden is famous for its iris fields and azalea and has been designed in part by Emperor Meiji who composed a waka poem extolling its beauty and tranquillity:

「うつせみの 代々木の里は しづかにて 都のほかの ここちこそすれ」
Utsusemino Yoyogi no sato wa shizukanite miyako no hokano kokochi koso sure.
Deep in the woodland of Yoyogi, the quietude creates an illusion of seclusion.

From the gateway of Meiji Shrine, a gravel path leads to the Ō-torii, the twelve-metre high Myōjin-style gates, the tallest in Japan made of 1,500-year-old cypress pine trees. The entrance to Jingū Naien lies to the left of the torii.


The garden was modelled on the rural landscape of Musashino and has a teahouse, the Kakuun-tei (隔雲亭), the Nan-chi (南池, southern pond), the Azumaya (東屋, pavilion), the Iris Garden, and Kiyomasa's Well.


The Kakuun-tei (隔雲亭) was constructed by Emperor Meiji for his wife Empress Shōken (昭憲皇后 Shōken-kōgō, 1849-1914).


The teahouse, held in the sukiya-style stands on top of a gentle slope of azalea that overlooks the Southern Pond.


The teahouse was used as a rest house by Empress Shōken. It burned down in an American air raid and was reconstructed in 1958.


Northwest of the Southern Pond lies one of the most splendid parts of the park, the Iris Garden. The garden is surrounded by thick woods of momiji (紅葉 Japanese maples), as well as yamabuki (山吹 Japanese yellow rose), satsuki (皐月 azalea), and hagi (萩 Japanese bush clover). In the Edo Period, the rice paddies were used to teach the children of the samurai how to cultivate rice. In 1893, Emperor Meiji turned the paddies into an iris garden. About 1,500 groups of iris flowers can be enjoyed from a network of trails and the thatched-roof pavilion.


Kiyomasa's Well (清正井 Kiyomasa no Ido) is named after Katō Kiyomasa (加藤清正, 1562-1611), the daimyō of Kumamoto Domain whose residence was built on the grounds of the Inner Garden. The clear spring water from the well remains at a constant temperature of 15°C throughout the year. It irrigates the Iris Garden, feeds the Southern Pond and eventually flows under the Shinkyo Bridge over Minami-sando to form the Shibuya River.


The Southern Pond (南池 Nanchi) covers some 8,300 square metres and is home to water lilies (コウホネ kouhone, nuphar japonica), Crucian carps and Japanese rice fish (メダカ medeka). It is also a birds' paradise, with kingfishers and herons living around the pond throughout the year, and Mandarine ducks hibernating there.


Address: 1-1 Yoyogi Kamizono-chō, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-8557; phone: 03-3379-5511.

Hours and admission: daily 09:00-16:30 (March-October), 09:00-16:00 (November-February); admission: 500 JPY.