The Ultimate Guide to Shinjuku Gyoen

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If you close your eyes and imagine Shinjuku, it’s easy to think of skyscrapers, neon lights, and the busiest train station in the world. But if you want to imagine the peace and beauty of the bustling city, look no further than Shinjuku Gyoen (park). Surrounded by Shinjuku’s concrete jungle, escape and seek refuge in one of Tokyo’s largest parks.

What is Shinjuku Gyoen?

Lush gardens, expansive lawns, quiet paths, and hidden groves form a vast park in the middle of Shinjuku. Originating in the Edo Period as the residence of a feudal lord, it was the private property of the imperial family. The park was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt as a public park in 1949. With three central gardens, a children’s area, an art gallery, a greenhouse, cafes, and restaurants, it’s easy to take a quick stroll or spend a whole day here. . It is also one of the most popular places to admire the cherry blossoms in spring.

Shinjuku Gyoen is like a museum with its immaculately landscaped gardens. Maybe that’s why the park has guidelines that many others don’t. For example, Shinjuku Gyoen prohibits alcohol and animals, although both are quite common in many other parks in Japan. The park has also banned all sports, including cycling. However, it is likely that it will help preserve the landscape of this special park.

Different gardens in Shinjuku Gyoen

Three main gardens make up the majority of the park, each offering a unique charm and beauty.

Japanese garden

Starting with the oldest garden, the Japanese Garden, is a traditional landscaped garden. With large ponds and small islands connected by bridges, you can enjoy the views from many different vantage points. There is no shortage of paths to walk and tea rooms to rest. You’ll also notice a Chinese-style building that stands out against the Japanese landscape; it was a wedding gift from the Taiwanese community to Emperor Showa. With the serenity nestled in the trees here, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of Tokyo.

english landscape garden

You have reached the English Garden when you come to a large lawn. This area is especially popular in spring, when people gather to admire the surrounding cherry blossoms. It’s a great place to hang out in an open grassy field, soaking up the Tokyo sun. Here is a Western-style building that was built in 1896 and, along with the Chinese-style building, survived the bombings of World War II. You will also find the large greenhouse, where you can view a variety of international and endangered plant species.

french garden

Guilhem Vellut, (CC BY 2.0) Via Flickr

Finally, the French garden is on the west side of the park. The garden is elegant and exquisite with its perfectly symmetrical layout and more than 100 kinds of flowers. Each season is different and beautiful, thanks to the many flowers that bloom here. May is a very special time when more than 500 rose bushes burst with colour. This section is a unique pocket of Japan where you can feel like you have left the country and entered another world, even for a moment.

Four Seasons

Shinjuku Gyoen is a delight to visit year-round, thanks to the variety of flowers and trees you’ll find here each season.

Spring is the most popular time when the park turns pink with the cherry blossoms. Visitors can also expect to see the brilliant roses of the French Garden. In the summer, the park offers a place to cool off from the intense heat of the city under one of the thousands of trees.

Autumn is another popular time to visit, with the leaves on the trees changing colors. This is also the time for the annual chrysanthemum display. The park hosts extraordinary flower shows during the first two weeks of November. Finally, winter provides visitors with the quiet and serene opportunity to explore the park and see the flowers that bloom here during the colder months. Even a type of winter cherry blossom blooms here in February!

Other things to do in Shinjuku Gyoen

There’s plenty to do in Shinjuku Gyoen, from scenic drives to picnics under the trees. There are also things to do and see in the park besides the park itself!

Celuici, (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

The most important must-see is the greenhouse. Whether you are a plant lover or not, you will enjoy the variety of tropical plants found here. The multi-story greenhouse is filled with stunning nature, from palm trees to the bright red flowers of the Anthurium Flamingo. The waterfall that tumbles from the second floor into the in-ground pool adds a practical and pleasant touch to this exotic hideaway in the center of Tokyo.

tea rooms

If you prefer to sip tea amidst glorious scenery, there are two teahouses in the Japanese garden. One is open air garden style while the other is indoor with comfortable seating. The indoor tea house is called Rakuu-Tei and is a quiet and cozy cafe to enjoy a traditional sweet wagashi with a cup of matcha tea. It is a quiet environment and a good place to relax.

Yurinoki Restaurant

Yurinoki (Tuburano) restaurant is inside the park and serves tea, cakes and lunch if you want to eat something. The interior is warm and woody, with large windows overlooking the sakura. There’s also a coffee shop at the Central Rest House and a Starbucks for anyone wanting to get acquainted with the city within the park’s boundaries.

The park has three gates. Shinjuku Gate is ten minutes from the new south exit of JR Shinjuku Station or five minutes from Shinjukugyoenmae Station. Okido Gate is five minutes from Shinjukugyoenmae Station and Sendagaya Gate is five minutes from JR Sendagaya Station.

Admission: 500 yen

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (from March 15 to June 30 and from August 21 to September 30)

9:00 am to 7:00 pm (July 1 to August 20)

9:00 am to 4:30 pm (October 1 to March 14)

Closed: Monday (or the following day if Monday is a holiday), from December 29 to January 3

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