“Shiba Park [is] a large, well-wooded plot dotted with temples, shrines, gorgeous mausolea, tombs, a pagoda, a lakelet, numerous monuments, pleasure-gardens, and what-not in the southwest of the city. No well-advised visitor to Tokyo will fail to make a pilgrimage to this enchanting spot when the lotuses are in bloom, nor yet in early April when the cherry blooms so idealize the park that the beauty-loving Japanese seemed seized with a flower madness and drop everything to hasten there and drink in the impressive sight.
“The park grounds also contain some mortuary temples of the Tokugawa shoguns [general] and their consorts which, though rapidly decaying, still rank with the finest structures of their kind in Japan and are classed with the ‘sights’ of the capital … At the N.E. corner of the park is a permanent bazaar (the first of its kind established in Tokyo) [Tokyo First Bazaar & Co., see below] where hosts of native-made gimcracks can be bought at fixed prices. The exhibits of potted plants and dwarf trees held here from time to time attracts lovers of such things.”
– Terry’s Japanese Empire, T. Phillip Terry, 1914
Shiba-koen [park] was one of the first five public parks opened by the Meiji government after the Restoration. Now in the shadow of Tokyo Tower, the 30-acre Shiba Park was laid out in 1873 on land appropriated by the government from daimyo estate property. Immediately adjacent to the park district were the grounds of Zozyo-ji [temple], of unknown age but claimed by the Tokugawa clan as a family temple in 1590. (The mausoleums of several Tokugawa shogun [military general] are located there.) The temple, damaged during the fighting that led to the Restoration, was completely destroyed in a 1909 fire leaving behind only the San-Mon [tower gate]. Inside the San-Mon enclosure is a cedar tree planted in 1879 when visiting ex-U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant was popularly welcomed to Japan.
One noted gaikokujin [foreigner] participant behind Japan’s modernization, Scottish trader Thomas Blake Glover, was residenced at Shiba Park at the time of his death in 1911. Glover built Japan’s first Western-style house in Nagasaki in the 1860s while acting as an arms merchant for the Satsuma, Choshu and Tosa clans responsible for the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Glover also developed Japan’s first coal mine, at Takashima, and would later help found the Japan Brewing Company (now the Kirin Brewing Co.) and the shipbuilding company that would later become incorporated as Mitsubishi Shokai [Company] in 1870.
“Shiba is a simply wonderful place. You go through a huge scarlet temple-gate and find your self in fairyland, for in the midst of cherry-orchards and cryptomerias you come upon temple after temple of fantastically carved woodwork, glittering with gilt and colour, and surrounded by courtyards of stone lanterns.
“Behind the temples are the gold-bronze tombs of the Shoguns; beyond this are the pagoda and the terraced lake, and the booths of the Japanese fair. A large Japanese temple is almost like a city, so much goes on within its precincts, from huge bazaars to humble stalls, and juggling and horse-archery, and playing Aunt Sally with the Seven Gods of Wealth.”
– More Queer Things About Japan, Douglas Brooke & Norma Lorimer, 1905