Shinjuku Gyoen would have to be one of the best places for hanami in the inner city area of Tokyo. The trees are brilliant, the atmosphere is fantastic and setting of the area is awesome (I love being able to see the skyscrapers of Shinjuku rise above the trees. Plus, it is in Shinjuku which puts in what could arguably said to be the center of the city. So it literally has everything there that you could want or need. It has always been amongst my favourite places in Tokyo for any occasion and this visit was no different. Shinjuku Gyoen is a great place, has always been a great place, and I hope it will always remain a great place for hanami.
Shinjuku Gyoen Hanami video 2014
What`s Shinjuku Gyoen like for hanami?
In Tokyo, it is one of the best places for hanami and so easy to get to being in Shinjuku. Shinjuku Gyoen is big, spacious and beautiful, in any season. But when the cherry blossoms bloom, it is just lifted onto another level. And the crowds add that little extra energy to it. There are a few extra special trees at strategic locations there, and the crowds flock to them, especially a couple near the Japanese traditional garden. It gets a little crazy there, with all the cameras out, people posing for pics under the trees and lots of people walking around with video cameras . I think people watching there is half the fun really.
How do you get there?
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. There are also several other stations such as Yoyogi, Yotsuya san-chome and Sendagaya stations are also nearby.
Here is a Google map to give you some idea:
Does it get crowded during hanami?
Crowded like you wouldn’t believe. In some parts of the park, you won’t be able to take a step without treading on a lunch box, it is that packed with people. Since it is located so close to Shinjuku, which is one of if not the busiest train stations in the world, it is no wonder that so many people go there.
Can you have a hanami party in the park?
Absolutely no problem. Bring your leisure sheet, food and drink, but no alcohol as it is prohibited, and find a hopefully available piece of open ground and enjoy yourself. If you are wondering what a leisure sheet is, it’s like a picnic rug that you sit on, but made of plastic often blue or green in colour that most people here sit on.
What about drinks, food and toilets?
Not a problem. You can buy your food outside the park (Shinjuku Isetan has a great food court downstairs in the basement) and bring it in or you can buy it in the park. I prefer to buy it outside and bring it as there is far more choice outside. Drinks are not a problem either, there are drink machines near the kiosks. The same for toilets, enough of them around the park as well.
How long would you spend there?
If you are there for hanami, enjoying it all day, but it does close at 4:30pm (wish last admission at 4pm).
Is it good for photography?
For photography during the cherry blossom season, Shinjuku Gyoen is heaven. Great trees in their whites and pinks, and in large numbers. You can take shots of them with the skyscrapers in Nishi-Shinjuku as a backdrop, a couple of places where the trees almost form a tunnel of flowers over the roads as you walk down them, you can even take pictures of people taking pictures of cherry blossoms … the possibilities are endless!!
And if you are looking for some more ideas for hanami locations you can check this hanami article.
No alcohol is allowed in Shinjuku Gyeon. During the cherry blossom season there is a bag check at the gates to enforce this.
And if you want to avoid the crowds, try going during a weekday early in the morning when the gates open at 9am, that will be your best chance to avoid them.