Lady Ayako Tachibana

Tachibana Garden, designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty: Chapter 2

By Tachibana Museum

tachibana history

Shoto-en garden at present by UnknownTachibana Museum

Lady Ayako_19E20

Lady Ayako Tachibana

 At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a girl born to a Count who cheerfully pulled through the ever-changing and turbulent times with a motto in her mind, "Don't worry, things will work out." Her name was Lady Ayako Tachibana, and here is her story.

Ayako Tachibana at three months (1910-09-08) by UnknownTachibana Museum

The birth of Ayako_19E22

The birth, the roots of Ayako

 Ayako Tachibana was born as the second daughter of Count Tachibana in 1910. Her father was the 15th head, Akinori Tachibana, and her mother Tsuyako was the daughter of the 9th head of the Tayasu-Tokugawa family, Satotaka. The name Ayako was made from a combination of sounds from her parents' names, 'A' from her father's name 'A-kinori', and 'ya' from her mother's name 'Tsu-YA-ko'. The Tachibana family are descendants of a warlord family dating back to the 16th century, and was the feudal clan of Yanagawa city during the Edo period.

Wedding portrait of Akinori Tachibana and Tsuyako Tokugawa (1908-05-17) by UnknownTachibana Museum


Her father Akinori was the first son of the 14th head, Tomoharu. Her mother Tsuyako was the third daughter of the 9th head of the Tayasu-Tokugawa family, Satotaka. They were married in 1908. Akinori was 24 and Tsuyako was 17 years old.

Tomoharu Tachibana (1926-04-01) by UnknownTachibana Museum


Her paternal grandfather, Tomoharu Tachibana was a count and the 14th head of the Tachibana family. Tomoharu studied agriculture and used his funds to found the agricultural experiment station in Yanagawa, greatly contributing to the development of agriculture in the Chikugo area.

Eiko Tachibana (1940-07-01) by TakamukuTachibana Museum


Her paternal grandmother, Eiko Tachibana, was the daughter of Tadatoshi Sakai, the former feudal lord of the Himeji domain. Akinori's mother by blood, Kouko, was the daughter of Yukishige Aoyama, the lord of the former Gujo domain. Eiko was Akinori's stepmother.

Satotaka Tokugawa (1932-02-02) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Tokugawa Satotaka_19E26

Ayako's maternal grandfather, Satotaka Tokugawa was a count and the 9th head of the Tayasu-Tokugawa family. His elder brother, Iesato Tokugawa, was the 16th head of the Tokugawa family.

Tomoko Tokugawa (1932-02-02) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Tokugawa Tomoko_19E27

Ayako's maternal grandmother, Tomoko Tokugawa, was the daughter of Tadayoshi Shimazu, the former feudal lord of the Satsuma domain. Tsuyako's mother by blood, Kyoko, was the daughter of Yoshinobu Tokugawa, the 15th and last Tokugawa shogun. Tomoko was Tsuyako's stepmother.

Ayako Tachibana at Shotoen garden (1925-08-01) by UnknownTachibana Museum



  After the early death of her elder sister Atsuko, Ayako became the heiress to the Tachibana family.
  A daughter of a count would have been taught tea ceremony and flower arrangement, but Ayako's education was more focused on developing a healthy body. She enjoyed tennis and skiing, and became an active girl going hunting with her father.

Women of the Tachibana family, Unknown, 1916-11-01, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Ayako at 6, with her grandmother Eiko and her mother Tsuyako.

Ayako Tachibana at age of 7, Unknown, 1917, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Ayako at 7.

Ayako Tachibana at Seiyokan Annex, Unknown, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Ayako at 7. At Seiyokan Annex (Western style building) in the Tachibana residence in Yanagawa.

Akinori Tachibana and Ayako, Unknown, 1925-06-01, From the collection of: Tachibana Museum
Show lessRead more

Ayako at 15 with her father Akinori.

Ayako Tachibana skiing (1926-01-01) by UnknownTachibana Museum


Ayako learned skiing from her cousin in her early teens, and often enjoyed skiing.

Ayako Tachibana in her hunting wear (1925-01-01) by UnknownTachibana Museum


Her father loved hunting and she would often accompany him into the mountains. In winter, she went duck hunting in the Ariake Sea.

Ayako Tachibana playing tennis (1935) by UnknownTachibana Museum


Ayako started tennis at age 10, and devoted a lot of her time practicing. Her father, Akinori, built an all-weather tennis court in their garden for Ayako's 20th birthday.

Ayako Tachibana with her championship cup (1933) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Tennis champion cup_19E33

In 1933, Ayako, with her partner Mikiko Hayashi, became the champions of the women's doubles at the All Japan Women's Tennis Tournament.

Tachibana Ayako by UnknownTachibana Museum

Wedding portrait of Kazuo and Ayako Tachibana (1935-04-11) by A.MORIKAWATachibana Museum



In 1935, Ayako married Kazuo Shimamura, the second son of Hayao Shimamura, a Japanese Navy fleet admiral. Kazuo married into the Tachibana family, and he was working for the Imperial Forestry Bureau.

Family portrait of Shimamura family by UnknownTachibana Museum

The Shimamura family_19E36

The Shimamura Family

The boy on the left is Kazuo. His family, the Shimamura’s, was a samurai family of Kouchi Prefecture. His father Hayao and his mother Sugao had 7 children, and Kazuo was the second son. His father Hayao was a fleet admiral of the Japanese Navy, who made great achievements in the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. When Kazuo was born, Hayao was away from home attending the Second Hague Conference in 1907. Hayao's brother had a good idea to name the baby boy. He took two kanji characters ‘和Kazu’ from the word ‘平和Heiwa’ meaning peace, and ‘雄O’ from Hayao's name, and named the boy ‘和雄Kazuo.’

Wedding reception of Kazuo and Ayako Tachibana (1935-04-11) by UnknownTachibana Museum


The wedding of Ayako and Kazuo was held on April 11, 1935 at Daijingu Shrine in Iidabashi. The go-between was Duke and Duchess Iesato Tokugawa, the 16th head of the Tokugawa family. Iesato was Ayako's great uncle. Kazuo was 27 and Ayako was 24. The wedding reception was held at Tokyo Kaikan, and many guests were invited.

Wedding photo of Kazuo and Ayako Tachibana (1935-04-17) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Wedding reception in Yanagawa_19E38

After the wedding reception in Tokyo, another was held in her hometown of Yanagawa. The couple was welcomed by many people during the 8-kilometer drive from Yabegawa Station to the Tachibana residence in their private Hudson car. They paid a visit to the Tachibana family shrine Mihashira Jinja, and had a reception with the relatives. The following day, there was a reception on the tennis court of the residence and local guests were invited. On the third day, they were invited to a welcome party hosted by the towns and villages of South Chikugo Province, which used to be part of the Yanagawa domain.

Tachibana Ayako by UnknownTachibana Museum

Movie of the reception at Yanagawa

taken by Michiyoshi Tomiyasu, the chief post officer of Kyomachi in Yanagawa.

Gathering shellfish at the Ariake Sea (1935-04-19) by UnknownTachibana Museum


During their stay in Yanagawa, they enjoyed gathering shellfish at the Tachibana family's private mudflat at the mouth of the Okinnohata River.

Kazuo and Ayako Tachibana (1936-03-20) by R.IWATATachibana Museum

Honeymoon years_19E41

Honeymoon years

Kazuo worked for the Imperial Forestry Bureau, and the newly-weds started their life in Nagoya. Due to Kazuo's work, they moved to Hokkaido and then to Kiso. They had 6 children. Muneaki was the first son and they had two more sons and three daughters.

Tachibana Ayako by UnknownTachibana Museum

Cherry tree at Higashi Shirakabe Primary school (1936-04-15) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Rented house in Nagoya_19E42

The first house they lived in was a rented house in Nagoya. From their window, they could see the cherry blossoms blooming in spring in the garden of the Higashi Shirakabe Primary School.

Ayako putting up the laundry (1935) by UnknownTachibana Museum


Most of the girls from a noble family married into a family with servants, but Ayako did not have a servant and did all the housework - cleaning, laundry, cooking and shopping by herself.

Kazuo and Ayako Tachibana skiing (1936-02-10) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Skiing with Kazuo_19E44

Like Ayako, Kazuo was also a good skier. He went to Hokkaido University because he wanted to ski. After their marriage, the couple enjoyed skiing in Kiso-Fukushima and Nagano.

Ayako and relatives at the beach (1936-08-27) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Summer of 1936_19E45

In the summer of 1936, Kazuo's brothers and sisters and Ayako's cousins who lived in Tokyo came to stay with them. They enjoyed sightseeing and sea bathing in Nagoya, and then went to Fukuoka. They visited the Hakata Bay and the Tachibana farm in Yanagawa.

Tachibana Ayako by UnknownTachibana Museum

Kazuo and Ayako Tachibana in 1936 (1936-11-11) by UnknownTachibana Museum

November 11th, 1936_19E46

This photo was taken on a very special day. It was taken on November 11th, 1936, the 11th day of the 11th month of the year Showa 11 according to the Japanese calendar. Japanese people think it is good luck when the calendar shows the same numbers in a row.

Tachibana family in 1938 (1938-05-05) by UnknownTachibana Museum

May 5th, 1938_19E47

On December 25th 1937, their first son Muneaki was born. At the time they were living in Shinshiro in Aichi Prefecture due to Kazuo's work.

Ayako Tachibana spreading fertilizer in the field (1939) by UnknownTachibana Museum

Autumn of 1938_19E48

In the autumn of 1938, Kazuo was transferred to Tomakomai near Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture. In Tomakomai, they lived in the government official residence. Shoveling snow was a daily job in winter. They did farming and grew various vegetables with their neighbors.

Tachibana family in 1946 (1946-01-03) by TakamukuTachibana Museum

To Yanagawa_19E50

To Yanagawa

After the war, Kazuo resigned from the Imperial Forestry Bureau, and with Ayako and their 4 children, they went back to Yanagawa. Under the democratization policies, the Tachibana family was in difficult times from farmland reforms and property tax. They lost a lot of estate, but to save the land and the properties handed down from their ancestors, Ayako and Kazuo embarked on running a restaurant and a hotel using the residence of the Tachibana family. How the business was run will be included in another chapter.

Shoto-en garden at present by UnknownTachibana Museum

At present_19E51

The devotion and determination of Ayako and Kazuo have been passed on to their descendants. Their residence, commonly known as ‘Ohana,’ is now open to the public. Furthermore, the Tachibana Museum was established on the premises to tell the history and show the valuable collections of arts and crafts, which had been handed down through the generations in the Tachibana family. In 2011, the whole area was designated as a national site of scenic beauty. Tachibana Garden has become one of the major sightseeing spots in the picturesque canal town of Yanagawa, and is now crowded with tourists from within the country and abroad.

Tachibana Ayako by UnknownTachibana Museum

"Always remain calm in any situation"

Ayako kept the words from her father close to her heart and cheerfully survived through life’s difficulties.

Credits: Story

Tachibana Foundation TACHIBANA MUSEUM

created by Takako Utsumi (TACHIBANA MUSEUM)

translated by Makiko Tachibana

Supported by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan in the fiscal 2019

Tachibana Garden Chapter 1 "Lady Ayako in the Residence of Count Tachibana"

Tachibana Garden Chapter 3 "The History of Tachibana Garden"

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps