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An Oasis in the Heart of Tokyo
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
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
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
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.
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 ForestClick thumbnail to view full-size
What Would You Do?
How would you spend a day at this park?
Walking Through the Forest of Shinjuku Gyoen
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.
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 GardensClick thumbnail to view full-size
The European GardensClick thumbnail to view full-size
Don't Forget to Visit the 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
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
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.
*Photo credit : Wikipedia. Shinjuku Gyoen main entrance.