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An Oasis in the Heart of Tokyo

Updated on September 28, 2014
Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Shinjuku Gyoen Park

Shinjuku Gyoen - An Escape for the Tokyoite

Growing up in Honolulu, I was always surrounded by natural beauty. I also lived right across the street from the beach and I never really appreciated it when I lived there. When I moved back to Tokyo to live, it took a bit of getting used to.

Surrounded by buildings every which way you turn, neon signs vying for your attention, you're constantly bombarded by sensory overload. As a visitor, it's overwhelming. As a resident living here, it's just everyday life.

I find that after awhile, I need to recharge and get away from the city but it's not always easy because of work and other responsibilities that come with being an adult.

*All photos taken by myself unless other wise noted.

An Oasis in Tokyo

Nature in Tokyo? Yes!
Nature in Tokyo? Yes!

Tokyo is a monster of a city fit for Godzilla and I live smack in the middle of it all. There are many great things about living in a huge metropolis such as Tokyo. You can find almost anything and everything that's available in the world and there's virtually zero chance of running out of things to do.

We have one of the world's most efficient and comprehensive traffic systems in the world that is safe, convenient and runs on time. The city offers anything you can imagine and then some.

At first impression, it's quite hard to imagine that any parks actually exist in the city. Fortunately if you know where to look, there are hidden patches of green hidden all around Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen is one of my favorite places to go when I need to de-stress and "get reacquainted with nature".

Tokyo On Foot

Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City's Most Colorful Neighborhoods
Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City's Most Colorful Neighborhoods

One of the best ways to see Tokyo is on foot. If you rush through the city you'll be missing out on what makes Tokyo unique.

A wonderful book full of drawings showing all the quirky and wacky things that make this city so fun.

 

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

English Garden in Shinjuku Gyoen
English Garden in Shinjuku Gyoen

Originally completed in 1906 for the imperial family, it was designated a national garden and opened to the general public following the second world war. The park consists of three different styles, traditional Japanese garden, English landscape garden and a French formal garden.

A new greenhouse opened in 2012 which houses tropical plants and some endangered species of plants.

If you get tired and need to rest your feet, there are numerous benches and resting areas dotted throughout the park along with concessions stands selling refreshments. Feel free to take a picnic lunch inside with you although alcohol is strictly forbidden inside the park.

The four distinct seasons of Tokyo gives this park a different look depending on when you visit. Springtime gets the most crowds especially during sakura or cherry blossom season. I prefer to visit during the fall when the leaves start to change color and the park is a collage of oranges and reds.

Zen Gardens: The Complete Works of Shunmyo Masuno, Japan's Leading Garden Designer
Zen Gardens: The Complete Works of Shunmyo Masuno, Japan's Leading Garden Designer

I love visiting gardens especially the ones in Kyoto. Most of the famous ones are zen gardens and this master garden designer shows how he incorporates his zen aesthetics into a variety of places including hotels and offices.

 

Cherry Blossom Season in Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the most popular places to go hanami or "flower viewing". People try to get the best spaces by putting plastic sheets on the ground. Friends and family gather together to have a picnic under the cherry trees.

This video shows you how busy and crazy it gets at Shinjuku Gyoen during this time of the year.

A Walk In The Urban Forest

There's nothing more refreshing than taking a stroll through the dense forests of Shinjuku Gyoen. Many paths are lined with tall, majestic trees. Walk further into the park and immerse yourself in nature' healing power.

If your feet starts getting tired from all the walking ( it is a huge park ), find a bench and breathe in the fresh air.

Getting Lost in the Urban Forest

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Walk into an urban forest.The forest is filled with living things.Lots of trees to block out the buildings making you feel far away from the city.Rest your weary feet from all the shopping in the city.Look up at pockets of sky and breathe the fresh air.Enjoy the rays of sunshine cascading through the tree branches.
Walk into an urban forest.
Walk into an urban forest.
The forest is filled with living things.
The forest is filled with living things.
Lots of trees to block out the buildings making you feel far away from the city.
Lots of trees to block out the buildings making you feel far away from the city.
Rest your weary feet from all the shopping in the city.
Rest your weary feet from all the shopping in the city.
Look up at pockets of sky and breathe the fresh air.
Look up at pockets of sky and breathe the fresh air.
Enjoy the rays of sunshine cascading through the tree branches.
Enjoy the rays of sunshine cascading through the tree branches.

What Would You Do?

How would you spend a day at this park?

See results

Walking Through the Forest of Shinjuku Gyoen

Cypress Trees
Cypress Trees

I usually prefer to come here on a weekday when it's less crowded. In fact, some areas such as the French formal gardens is practically empty and it sometimes feels like I'm the only one there.

Even on the paths that lead you through the dense forested areas, you'll probably bump into only a few people. I like coming here by myself because it lets me walk in silence, But even then, I never really feel alone. The trees and flowers, the birds and insects all keep me company.

If you're visiting as a tourist, you might find the Japanese gardens particularly beautiful. The Japanese gardens is the perfect place to just sit and contemplate. There is a secluded bench that overlooks the large Japanese garden and this is where I like to sit Indian style and just be.

My other favorite thing to do is to sit myself down on a bench in the French gardens and read a book. I just sit there and let the quietness heal my soul.

Landscapes for Small Spaces: Japanese Courtyard Gardens
Landscapes for Small Spaces: Japanese Courtyard Gardens

There are still places in Japan where the traditional Japanese house is lovingly preserved. One of the features of these traditional homes is an inner courtyard that showcases a beautifully designed garden.

 

The Japanese Gardens

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Japanese gardens is one of the most beautiful areas of the park.Look out across the pond and forget about the buildings that are just outside the perimeters of the park.Walk across the Japanese bridge and have a chat with the Japanese carps, turtles and ducks.Formal Japanese gardens are tranquil and is the perfect place for contemplation.
The Japanese gardens is one of the most beautiful areas of the park.
The Japanese gardens is one of the most beautiful areas of the park.
Look out across the pond and forget about the buildings that are just outside the perimeters of the park.
Look out across the pond and forget about the buildings that are just outside the perimeters of the park.
Walk across the Japanese bridge and have a chat with the Japanese carps, turtles and ducks.
Walk across the Japanese bridge and have a chat with the Japanese carps, turtles and ducks.
Formal Japanese gardens are tranquil and is the perfect place for contemplation.
Formal Japanese gardens are tranquil and is the perfect place for contemplation.

The European Gardens

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Colorful flowers bloom in the English gardens.Neat rows of trees line the way to the French gardens.Being one of the least popular places in the park, it's the best place to really get away from everyone.I like to sit here and read a book while sipping on a nice cup of coffee.
Colorful flowers bloom in the English gardens.
Colorful flowers bloom in the English gardens.
Neat rows of trees line the way to the French gardens.
Neat rows of trees line the way to the French gardens.
Being one of the least popular places in the park, it's the best place to really get away from everyone.
Being one of the least popular places in the park, it's the best place to really get away from everyone.
I like to sit here and read a book while sipping on a nice cup of coffee.
I like to sit here and read a book while sipping on a nice cup of coffee.

Don't Forget to Visit the Greenhouse

greenhouse
greenhouse

The greenhouse went through a complete revamp and has been opened since 2012. The beautiful building houses tropical and sub tropical plants as well as endangered plants from around the country.

It's a nice diversion that adds some variety to your day. I like the variety of plants I can see in this rather small greenhouse and I find myself taking lots of photos to try and capture their beauty.

Fun, Entertaining and Informative

Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo
Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo

Follow the adventures of an American family that comes to Tokyo in search of good food. One of the most entertaining books I've come across this year, it's fun to experience what it's like to be new to Tokyo, a city of contradictions, quirkiness and really good food.

Some of the stories reminded me of when I first arrived here in my early twenties and I literally laughed out loud many times, as I could relate to some of the anecdotes in the book.

Whether you're thinking of visiting Tokyo one day or not, pick this one up for the sheer pleasure of experiencing Tokyo from an American's perspective.

 

The Plants in the Greenhouse - I find the various textures of plants amazingly beautiful.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Practical Information

Shinjuku Gyoen is open Tuesday through Sunday and is closed on Mondays except during the cherry blossom (late March to late April) and chrysanthemum seasons (early November).

There are three entrance gates with the Shinjuku Gate being the easiest to access for most people. It's easy to get to the park and numerous train lines stop near the park.

How to access Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen Official Website

*Photo credit : Wikipedia. Shinjuku Gyoen main entrance.

Parks in the City

Do you often visit parks to get away from the city?

See results

Do you feel the need to escape to the park now and then? Are there any popular parks in your area? What do you do to escape the city? Please feel free to commen

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    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 2 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thanks so much Merrci. It's really a magical place to be in the middle of all the chaos. Thanks for visiting!

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 2 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Always nice to see you ecogranny. Thanks for visiting.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 2 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      CherylsArt, it really is beautiful isn't it? Thanks for visiting.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 2 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      ColettaTeske thanks for visiting! Yes, I do feel lucky that the park is close to where I live. I could never live without some form of nature in my life.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 2 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Arachnea, I hope you get a chance to visit again in the future. Thanks for visiting!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      A beautiful spot to refresh. It is hard to imagine the forest trails in the middle of the city. Must be a wonderful getaway in the midst of the city. Enjoyed reading this very much.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing your photographs of your green oasis within the concrete and neon of your city. Like you, I take frequent walks in the park for a bit of Nature, however contrived it may be!

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 2 years ago from West Virginia

      I would love to hang out on the bridge that goes over the lake.

    • profile image

      ColettaTeske 2 years ago

      For a moment, I thought I was in Florida. Did I see knees on those cypress trees? Thank you for the beautiful walking tour. You are blessed to live near such a beautiful park.

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 2 years ago from Texas USA

      This looks beautiful. I would definitely love to visit. I regret that when I lived in Japan those many years ago that I didn't have an opportunity to visit Tokyo.

    • profile image

      Pirated 3 years ago

      Love the photos, and it's always good to hear about such places, especially in a sprawling metropolis like Tokyo!

    • Spirality profile image

      Spirality 3 years ago

      Your photographs are always amazing. The amount of greenery is stunning. I love walking along the riverfront or bicycling in the parks.

    • poemsthatdance profile image

      Maria Grujicic 3 years ago from Darwin, Australia

      Hi! I've heard about the beautiful gardens of Tokyo and it's the reason I want to visit. When is the best time to visit? It's important for a city to reserve public spaces for people to enjoy nature and unwind. It's what attracts not only locals but visitors. I love seeing the photos of the people enjoying themselves in the parks! As you said, finding space alone is also important. I can very much relate to your lens - I grew up across from a beautiful bushland in Darwin, Australia. So when I went traveling I always looked for nature. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      There are times when I definitely need to get away from all the stress of work and the city and a nice quiet park is an ideal solution. Fortunately I'm not that far from Morris Arboretum which has many great features and is about as quiet and peaceful as it gets.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @DebMartin: Thank you Deb.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 3 years ago

      Lovely.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @SusanneB: Thanks so much

    • SusanneB profile image

      SusanneB 3 years ago

      Wonderful!

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @MarathonRunning: Thank you so much for reading!

    • MarathonRunning profile image

      Martina 3 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      I love parks. As Joebeducci said it`s very relaxing. You made a soothing lens with lot of beautiful pictures.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Joebeducci: So do I Joe. In fact it's the only way I can stay sane! Thanks for visiting.

    • Joebeducci profile image

      Joebeducci 3 years ago

      I love to walk or run through parks, really relaxing to escape the chaos of the cities. Great lens!

      Greets,

      Joebeducci

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 3 years ago

      I visit the park as often as possible. This is a beautiful lens!

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Rangoon House: That sounds so nice to have your own garden. I would love to have my own someday in the future.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 3 years ago from Australia

      Japanese gardens and parks are very beautiful and I'm sure they become a necessity for people such as yourself living in major urban expanses such as Tokyo. Fortunately I have my own garden which demands enjoyment and work, so I have lots of green experience!

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @minpinmojo76: Thanks so much. I'm sure she'll have a good time here. Let me know if you need any tips.

    • minpinmojo76 profile image

      minpinmojo76 3 years ago

      I have never been to Japan but my daughter has her heart set on college there. She is fascinated by japanese culture. Great lens.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @paperfacets: I'm so glad you enjoyed your visit here. I look forward to welcoming you back to the city.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 3 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I have visited Tokyo and would very much like to return. Our travel group visited many beautiful areas in the city and everything was fascinating.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @lesliesinclair: Thank you Papier for your lovely comments every time. I am planning to hike sometime next week.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      We have a nearby huge forested city park in which I can lose myself in hiking for an hour or two, or opt to walk with many others along the water. It's also like an oasis. Your Japanese gardens epitomize serenity, a great attraction.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @redszone: It's one of the most beautiful times of the year to visit redszone. You are always welcome. Please let me know if you plan to visit.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @TanoCalvenoa: Los Angeles very much reminds me of Tokyo in the way that it is so spread out. It's one of my favorite cities in the world!

    • redszone profile image

      redszone 3 years ago

      I have never been to Tokyo but would like to visit. Cherry Blossom season would be awesome to experience.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      You reminded me that there is a Japanese Gardens in Los Angeles that I've been meaning to go to sometime, but I haven't yet. Los Angeles is a very large city but not so much in comparison to Tokyo.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Shihoko: Thank you for visiting! I used to live in Hawaii for 20 years myself. My family still live there. I miss Hawaii.

    • profile image

      Shihoko 3 years ago

      I live in Hawaii now and just enjoyed the beach the other day. My mom lives in Tokyo near a park. I will have to ask if its this one. When we visit next year, I will put it on the list! Thank you!

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @WriterJanis2: Thank you so much WriterJanis. Truly appreciate it.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Aladdins Cave: Great you enjoyed your visit here. Please come and visit again. We'll be waiting for you. :)

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Great lens. I would love to see Tokyo again. Well all of Japan. Love the place.

      Thank you and cheers from DOWNUNDER

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      There is so much beauty there. Wonderful pictures.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Minoru10: Sure Minoru.

    • Minoru10 profile image

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      Great lens ! I didn't know there was a green house. Let's go next time I'm in Japan.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Namsak: Thanks so much kasman. I really appreciate your comments.

    • profile image

      Namsak 3 years ago

      Another excellent lens of Japan. I really enjoy reading all of them.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thanks Vinn for being the first to visit my lens! Big hugs to you.

    • VinnWong profile image

      VinnWong 3 years ago

      I'm so glad you made a lens on Shinjuku Gyoen. It's one of those places hidden in the heart of the city that many people miss.