Many centuries ago, this land was a scenic attraction where wild camellias naturally flourished. Known as "Tsubakiyama" or “Camellia Hill” since the 14th century, it boasts views of the southern rice fields as well as the distant Mt. Fuji to the west. It was famously frequented especially by samurai and tradesmen during the Edo period and also featured in the well-known series of ukiyo-e prints, the "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo", by ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige Utagawa.
After the Meiji Restoration, an army chief named Aritomo Yamagata victoriously led the Imperial Army against the Satsuma Rebellion, and upon his return he would visit the suburbs of Tokyo, frequenting the Tsubakiyama area in particular. Yamagata grew fond of this scenic area and acquired the land in 1878, then built a mansion and a vast garden which he named "Chinzanso."
Aritomo Yamagata was influential in Japan’s emergence as a military power at the beginning of the 20th century and laid the foundation of modern Japan as the supreme leader of the government after the Meiji Restoration. He made a name for himself as a politician as well as a soldier, serving as a prime minister, an army general, and a marshal. Yamagata spent about 40 years at Chinzanso until he was 80 years old. During that time, leaders of the political, business, and government circles, including Emperors Meiji and Taisho, visited and held many important meetings at Chinzanso. Thanks to Yamagata, Chinzanso was truly at the front stage of history.
Yamagata created the Monument of Chinzanso in 1897 in order to memorialize his love and passion for the oasis of nature. The monument reads:
“Most people search for peace and tranquility deep in the countryside, amongst the rivers and mountains. I found such a place in the center of the metropolis.”
“I don’t know what kind of people will live here after I’m gone, but I hope they will continue to protect nature and enjoy this landscape.”