International House of Japan (sometimes shortened to “I-House”) is a foundation set up to promote international cultural exchange. The original funding for the construction of the building that houses the foundation was put up by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Pond with trees and carp at International House Roppongi
The carp pond at International House | Photo by Gregory Lane

Designed by architects Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura, and Junzo Yoshimura, the building is a fine example of post-World War II modernist Japanese architecture. As recognition, the building was registered as a tangible cultural property by Japan’s Agency of Cultural Affairs in 2006.

Grass at international House
Real grass, and you can walk on it! | Photo by Gregory Lane

The building is designed to highlight the traditional Japanese garden that pre-dates the foundation that currently occupies the site. The garden was set out by acclaimed garden architect Ogawa Jihei in 1929 for a mansion that occupied the property prior to the construction of International House. Dating back even further, the land was the property of the feudal lords of the Marugame domain in present day Kagawa Prefecture during the Edo Period.

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International House garden statues
There are stone figures and lanterns throughout the garden | Photo by Gregory Lane

Entry to the building and the garden is free and open to the public, although there may be some restrictions if a wedding is going on (International House is a VERY popular wedding location). A relaxed stroll around the many nooks and crannies of the garden takes about 15 minutes. As with other good Japanese gardens, every turn in the path reveals a different scene.

A pond in the International House garden
A pond in the International House garden | Photo by Gregory Lane

Along with the garden and banquet halls for weddings, I-House has overnight accommodation (use seems to be restricted to members and friends of members), meeting and event spaces, a library, and two restaurants—the more casual and affordable “Tea Lounge The Garden” and the pricier “Sakura Restaurant”. The Garden has fairly conventional western style dishes with lunch prices in the ¥1,000 to ¥2,000 range. Sakura has mainly French dishes with seasonal ingredients. Lunch ranges from ¥3,300 to ¥5,500 while dinner courses are available from ¥6,600 to ¥11,000.

Entrance to international House
The entrance to I-House looks like a private road. | Photo by Gregory Lane

The International House website lists the required dress code as “Smart Casual” but they won’t kick you out if you turn up in shorts.