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.  That belt really allows a contrast to become easily visible.  It is a great feeling to stand in English Landscape Garden and just enjoy the peacefulness there (especially on a weekday when the park is not so busy), 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.

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Looking at the skyscrapers of Nishi-Shinjuku from the rose garden

The park is divided into three distinctive gardens:  1)  Japanese Traditional;  2)  French Formal and;  3)  English Landscape.  All three are wonderful with their own characteristics.  The Japanese traditional has some large ponds with bridges across them that making walking through it wonderful, while the French Formal has its rose garden and some beautiful lanes which are especially great to walk through in autumn when the trees shed their leaves and cover the paths beneath them.  But I must admit my preference for that English Landscape, as I do love its wide lawn.

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The English Landscape Garden

 

Whereas most of Tokyo’s parks, like Kiyosumi Gardens or Koishikawa Korakuen, aren’t that big I think Shinjuku Gyoen is pretty big.  From its Shinjuku gate to the opposite end it is at least a kilometer (with a circumference of 3.5km) 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.

 

Whichever garden you choose and no matter how long you spend there, once you enter Shinjuku Gyoen you’ll be amazed that the busiest station in the world and one of Tokyo’s busiest business/shopping districts is only a short walk away.  It is big enough and special enough to make you believe you are in a an urban oasis, the type of places that allows you an escape from the big city.  It really deserves a visit if you are in the Shinjuku area.

1)  You can see most of the skyscrapers (including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building) 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;

 

2)  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);

 

3)  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;

 

4)  really huge crowds!  Shinjuku Gyoen is extremely popular during blossom season and during that time, the park will literally be over flowing with people;

 

5)  it has a beautiful glass greenhouse that is quite new (opened 2012) and is filled with plants and flowers from warmer climes;

 

6)  there is a chrysanthemum exhibit every year in the first half of November, and;

 

7)  best of all, Shinjuku Gyoen has three gardens; the English Landscape, French Formal (with a beautiful rose garden) and the Japanese Traditional.  They each have their own special characteristics and are very beautiful.

1)  It can be really quiet there, which is why I like to call it the urban oasis.  A belt of trees 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;

 

4)  Shinjuku Gyoen has three rest areas, that have either a kiosk or a restaurant in them, so you don’t can buy stuff there to eat and drink if need be.

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The NTT Docomo building in Yoyogi towers of the Japanese Traditional Garden

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)  due to the large amount of visitors the park gets, the grass/lawn areas can suffer a bit, therefore some of them can get roped off.  This means on occasion you’ll be confined to walking on the paths and not over the grass.  Usually, this is noticeable near the main (i.e. Shinjuku) gate entrance and some places near the English Landscape.

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:

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.

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.

 

As the French Formal Garden contains a rose garden it is a great place to visit in May and October (as flowers bloom twice a year).  There is also a chrysanthemum display in the first two weeks of November.  Practically every season have something to offer in Shinjuku Gyoen.

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.

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The Okido rest area

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 to visit and it should be on your list if you visit Shinjuku.


Rohan Gillett

Rohan Gillett

I’ve been living in Tokyo for close to 20 years.  Originally, I`m from Australia and made the move here in 1991 on a working holiday visa, when I was about 25.  At that time I worked for NOVA (the defunct English school).  In 1993 I returned to Australia to finish my university degree.

Returning to Tokyo in 1996, I have been living here ever since.  I really love the city and am constantly exploring it to find out new things.  When not out walking or exploring, I’ll be in front of my computer looking for some new place to … have my next walk in the city.

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