Everyone knows Tokyo is one of the world's busiest cities. Yet despite its bustling streets and densely packed buildings, it has many beautiful gardens that were once part of the estates of wealthy daimyo (lords). Some are located in the grounds of the city's prestigious hotels and restaurants. Others are secluded behind the walls of temples, shrines and former estates. There is even one within the surrounds of the Imperial Palace. Shaped by a harmonious blend of Buddhist, Taoist and Shinto traditions, Japanese gardens are mystical places and serve as a soothing refuge from the hectic pace of the city. Happo-en An adviser to the shogunate lived at Happo-en, which translates as 'beautiful from any angle', during the early 17th century. His huge residence, built in the style of a Japanese tea-ceremony house, is now an upmarket restaurant that combines culinary delights with garden strolling. Twisting paths pass an 800-year-old Heike-clan stone lantern and 200-year-old bonsai. The muan, or teahouse, is nestled among trees overlooking a central pond brimming with plump golden koi fish. Happo-en is located near the Shirokanedai subway station. Tea ceremonies cost about US$20; lunch from $30 to $150. Chinzan-so The seven-hectare Chinzan-so (House of Camelia) garden graces the undulating grounds of the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel. During the Meiji era (1868-1912), the owner of this garden, Prince Aritomo Yamagata, transported intriguing ancient relics from heritage cities such as Kyoto and Toba to create a historical atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy a Japanese-style barbecue in the Hanare-Ya restaurant, where the lunch is pleasant and the setting is soothing, with floor-to-ceiling glass panels allowing the brilliant hues of the garden to come into the room. Perhaps the most beautiful spot in the garden is the Shiratama Inari shrine, where wrapped rice-paper fortunes tied on strings sway gently in the breeze. Dedicated to the fox, the shrine gives the gardens an air of mystique and serenity. Admission: free. Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo 10-8, Sekiguchi 2-chome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, tel: 813 3943 2222. Hama-rikyu During the 17th century, the only visitors to this garden would have been dignified daimyo and sword-wielding samurai. As the city began to develop, the site became a sanctuary in which Japan's ruling class could contemplate life, compose poetry and ride horses. Shoguns would sit in silent meditation on a rock by the pond, legs folded and eyes closed. Today, these shoguns would find it hard to fathom the skyscrapers of the futuristic Shidome district gleaming in the background. Hama-rikyu is a 15-minute walk from Shimbashi station. Admission: $3. Kyu Furukawa An English tearoom in the middle of Tokyo might sound incongruous but the concept is popular with the Japanese. Couples swarm around the rose garden soaking up its atmosphere and posing for photographs. A blend of eastern and western aesthetics, the western-style terrace merges harmoniously with the Japanese garden created by famed late 19th-century designer Jihei Ogawa. Completed in 1912, the site was the residence of Japanese public official Munemitsu Mutsu. The best time to visit is from May to October, when the roses are in bloom. Kyu Furukawa is a short walk from Kaminakazato station. Admission: $1.50. Higashi Gyoen (pictured) One of the intriguing things about Tokyo is that although it has millennia of history, there are few original historical monuments. Over the years, savage fires and frequent earthquakes have destroyed most of its old buildings. Perhaps that is why the Imperial Palace, which has been home to the imperial family since 1888, serves as Tokyo's spiritual and cultural centre. The East Garden is a part of the grounds open to the public year-round. Stroll past the blooming spring azaleas to find the ruins of the central keep of old Edo Castle and the imperial family museum. There are also many different kinds of irises, some of them rare. Higashi Gyoen Eastern Imperial Palace is a short walk from Sakuradamon station. Admission: free. Korakuen In 1629, patriarch Tokugawa Yorifusa started building this garden, which was eventually completed by his son Mitsukuni. It shows a heavy Chinese influence because it was designed with the assistance of Zhu Shun Shui (1600-1682), a refugee scholar from Ming-dynasty China who came under the protection of the Tokugawa shogunate. Stone lanterns, trees and arched bridges, skilfully arranged around a lake, project a harmonious atmosphere. There are miniature replicas of Japanese and Chinese beauty spots, forming a stark contrast with the modern lines of the Tokyo Dome stadium next door. Korakuen is a 10-minute walk from Shiroshita station. Admission: $3.