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“Old Manor of the Iwasaki Family, founder of Mitsubishi”

Kyu Iwasaki-tei Teien
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US$400.00*
and up
Tokyo Private Custom Full-Day Walking Tour
Ranked #21 of 336 things to do in Taito
Certificate of Excellence
Tokyo, Japan
Level 6 Contributor
123 reviews
84 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 325 helpful votes
“Old Manor of the Iwasaki Family, founder of Mitsubishi”
Reviewed 11 June 2012

I have little to add to the previous great review on this manor near Shinobazu Pond in Ueno. I would have to say that there is really little to see apart from the Condor designed building itself, as the garden is reduced to only a tiny part of the original, most of what was in the building was confiscated by the GHQ after war, and most of the Japanese quarter was destroyed during the years. The view from the terrace is blocked by ugly old concrete buildings that occupy parts of the former Iwasaki family property. It is great that they saved this interesting decorated manor, and hopefully the Tokyo Metropolitan Government revise the area and use it for better purposes (as this property is a relatively new acquisition). Perhaps cooperate with Mitsubishi and place some artifacts of their corporate museums that are not permanently exhibited? At least they could have more description and items on industrialization of Japan? Also, the lawn should be more properly looked after, as they do collect admission charge of 400 yen.

It is a nice visit overall, if done together with the house of Yokoyama Taikan by the Shinobazu Pond. Taikan was a master of Nihonga (Japanese style neo-classical painting), which displays a small part of his collection in rotation. Also, the museums in Ueno Park shouldn't be missed.
Instead of wasting money on totally new glass and steel buildings like the museum in Roppongi (which doesn't house a permanent collection!!), Tokyo Metropolitan Government should acquire land next to these important cultural/historical heritages and build a proper specialized institution. People with rather shallow understanding of art and culture are in administrative position, which is very sad.

Visited June 2012
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2 Thank Yobeekool
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Tokyo, Japan
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common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 176 helpful votes
“Walk through Japan's Meiji Era by walking through this historic manor”
Reviewed 31 July 2011

If I told you that an entire country went from being ruled by a feudal system (Tokugawa rule) to democratic institutions, moved its capital to a completely different city (Kyoto to Tokyo), the citizens decided to switch from wearing traditional dress which had been worn for centuries (kimono, hakama, etc.) to wearing Western style suits, dresses etc., would you believe me? What if I told you this took place over a period of only 44 years? Japan’s Meiji Era (1868 to 1912) marked a quick end to Japanese feudalism and Japan’s start down the rocky road toward imperialism.

During this period, the Japanese government sent out a request to governments in the West to send “advisors” to Japan. The Meiji government hired these “advisors” to help “modernize” the country in areas including medicine, education, law and (of course) architecture. One of these “foreign advisors” invited to Japan was the British architect Josiah Conder. He ended up not only teaching architecture at Japanese university, but also designed some of Japan’s first Western-style monuments including Kyu-Iwasakitei (“Kyu” means “the former”) so this manor can be thought of as the former residence of the Iwasaki Family. The family which founded the Mitsubishi Group. When the Iwasaki Family hired Conder, they simply wanted to have a “modern” house built for the family which would be befitting of their status in Japan and basically gave Conder free reign to do as he liked as long as he incorporated a few ideas from Hisaya Iwasaki who had returned to Japan after studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Conder wanted to do the place in Jacobean architectural style and so the front of the building is all Jacobean, but the back side is completely different. It’s all Ionian style (as was popular at the time in the countryside of Pennsylvania). In addition, Conder wanted to do the separate billiard house in the style of a Swiss chalet and so he did (and added a secret tunnel connecting it to the main house). Then Iwasaki decided he might need a Japanese-style building added on the back side for ceremonial use and so that was added on as well. This must be the only Jacobean/Ionian-manor-with-Swiss-chalet-billiard-hall-and-Japanese-ceremonial-rooms architectural wonder in the entire world. This two-storey manor and complex is definitely a must-see.

By the way, maybe you’re wondering whatever happened to Conder? Well, he decided not to return to the UK, and instead married a Japanese woman and went on to study Japanese painting and flower arranging (Ikebana) and even wrote a book about it. Conder was not your typical British architect to say the least.

Entrance Fee: 400 yen (65 and over: 200 yen)

Take the kids and bring a frisbee or a ball along. After walking through the house and experiencing aristocratic Meiji life, go out back to the huge grass lawn. There is plenty of space for the kids to play here. I even once brought a picnic blanket and my friends and I had a picnic here. There is more than enough lawn for everyone to enjoy and it is a wonderful setting for a picnic. Sometimes they are selling Japanese tea and sweets near the Japanese ceremonial rooms. So, you might want to inquire about that as well.

Hope you enjoy this place as much as I have. If you are already planning to visit Ueno for the museums, this isn't far and the walk takes you right through Shinobazu Pond so it's a nice walk, but make sure to take a map with you.

Visited July 2011
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5 Thank HoneyRoasted
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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