Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is another of my favourite parks in Tokyo. Even though it very close to Shinjuku station, the busiest station in the world, it is a place where you can take a break from the busy city. There is a belt of trees surrounding the park that blocks a large amount of the city sounds. It is a great feeling to stand in the English Landscape Garden and just enjoy the peacefulness there (especially on a weekday when the park is usually empty), while looking at the skyscrapers in Nishi-Shinjuku that can be seen in the distance towering over the trees. There really is that contrast – standing in a really quiet area while knowing that a busy, noisy city is only minutes away. Shinjuku Gyoen is truly an urban oasis.
It is pretty big, being 58.3 hectares in area and about 3.5km around. The park is divided into three distinctive gardens: 1) the French Formal; 2) English Landscape and; 3) Japanese Traditional. They’re all wonderful with their own characteristics, but I must admit my preference for the English Landscape, as I do love its wide open feel. From its Shinjuku gate to the opposite end it is at least a kilometer which can make for a bit of a walk if you need to come back to the gate if you plan on using Shinjuku station (which most people do). But it is an easy walk as the park is fairly flat, except on the Japanese Traditional Garden side there are quite a few gentle undulating slopes. You can get a feel for the park with our video here.
What can you see in Shinjuku Gyoen?
You can see most of the skyscrapers in Nishi-Shinjuku which can be pretty cool. To stand in the middle of the English Landscape Garden and look at the buildings popping up over the trees makes for a great experience, especially if you have a camera or video;
1) the Kyugoryotei, (or Taiwan Pavilion), built in Chinese style in 1927 as a gift from the Japanese community in Taiwan to the Crown Prince Hirohito, in commemoration of his wedding (Taiwan being a Japanese colony at the time);
2) there are about 1500 cherry blossom trees of various types in the park that bloom from about the end of March through to the end of April;
3) really huge crowds! Shinjuku Gyoen is extremely popular during blossom season and during that time, the park will literally be over flowing with people;
4) it has a beautiful glass greenhouse that is quite new (opened 2012) and is filled with plants and flowers from warmer climes;
5) there is a chrysanthemum exhibit every year from November 1st to 15th.
What’s good about Shinjuku Gyoen?
1) It can be really quiet there, which is why I like to call it the urban oasis. There is a belt of trees that surround the park that block out, or at least muffle the sounds of the outside world. You can find some real peace and quiet in there, very strange since you are only about a fifteen minute walk from the busiest station in the world;
2) due to the park being quite big, it is pretty easy to find a bit of space just to yourself (except during the cherry blossom season) to just wind down and relax;
3) lots of great photo opportunities there. Spring with the cherry blossoms, autumn with the leaves changing colours is fantastic. The skyscrapers (including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building) that appear over the trees also makes for great pics too.
What’s not so good …?
I really enjoy Shinjuku Gyoen and it is hard to find fault with the place but here are a few very minor things:
1) The cherry blossom season can be great, but the park really does get crowded;
2) be careful of taking a camera into the greenhouse. It gets very steamy which might cause damage to your camera;
3) there definitely seems to be a lack trash bins in the park (but that could be said about most parks in Japan) and;
4) during the cherry blossom season all visitor’s bags to the park are checked for alcohol, so expect some delays entering especially on weekends.
Shinjuku Gyoen is open from 9am to 4:30pm, with last admission at 4pm. It is closed on Monday except during the cherry blossom (usually March 25 to April 24) and during the chrysanthemum seasons (November 1st to 15th).
The greenhouse is open from 9:30am to 4pm, with last admittance at 3:30pm.
General entry to Shinjuku Gyoen is 200 yen.
Shinjuku Gyuoen is easily accessed from the Shinjuku station`s south exit. Once out of the exit, turn left and just head down the road, no need to turn at all, just go straight and after a 10 minute walk you`ll see the park on the right side of the road.
If you need a little extra help we have a Google map here:
View From Shinjuku Station (South Exit) to Shinjuku Gyoen in a larger map
Best time to go
If you are into cherry blossoms, then Shinjuku Gyoen in Spring is the time for you. The season for them is usually late March until the end of April (depends on the weather). Autumn is very nice as well, the leaves are magnificent with all the different colours.
How long would you expect to spend there?
It’s a big park. If you just walked the perimeter alone I would expect most people would be there at least an hour. But as with all places, if you take your time to look at everything you could be there much longer.
A very brief history of Shinjuku Gyoen
The lands that the park is built on were originally given to Kiyonari Naito, a daimyo of the Tokuguawa period. With the passing of the Tokugawa period, they eventually became a part of the Imperial Household Agency.
The gardens, completed in 1906 for the royal family were destroyed during World War II and subsequently rebuilt. In 1949 the gardens were opened to the public as, “National Park Shinjuku Imperial Gardens”. They came under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Environment in January 2001 and named, “Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.”
There is an information center at the Shinjuku gate. Usually (but not always) there is a staff member who speaks English at the front counter (not available for guided tours, but can help with any questions you might have). The center also has a very reasonably-priced cafe (Hana-no-ki). You can see Shinjuku Gyoen`s home page here.
The park is a fabulous place and it should be on your “see” list if you visit Shinjuku. If you want to see what it looks like during hanami you can look at this article here.