Shinjuku's not-so secret garden is still a stunner.
One of the city’s most popular (but somehow least crowded) parks, Tokyoites regularly make their escape into the 58.3 hectares of gardens at Shinjuku Gyoen, designed in three separate styles: English landscape, formal French and traditional Japanese.
Shinjuku Gyoen has a long history, dating back to the Edo period as the garden of a feudal lord to later become an imperial garden for entertaining guests during the early 20th century. Now, it’s a national garden open to the public, with wide, open lawns and peaceful stretches of water running through the three main sections.
In the Japanese garden, the oldest of the three, there are tea houses where you can experience drinking Japanese kocha in an oh-so traditional context. Come here for pavilions, manicured shrubbery and artfully composed scenery too. In the first couple of weeks in November the Japanese garden hosts an annual exhibition of chrysanthemum, the symbol of the Japanese Imperial Family.
The French formal garden replicates the famous structural designs seen back in Europe, while the English landscape garden’s spacious green lawns are encircled by dozens of cherry blossom trees making it a popular hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spot in spring. Come fall, the park, particularly the Japanese garden, transforms into a kaleidoscope of reds, golds and browns.
The greenhouse displays tropical flowers that you can enjoy throughout the year. There’s also a restaurant, information center, art gallery and lots of rest areas to enjoy the scenery.
There are three entrance gates to the park: Shinjuku and Okido (North), and Sendagaya (South). You do have to pay a small fee to enter the park, which closes at 4 p.m, and there are no pets, ball games or alcohol allowed. The rules might seem stern but it’s this way that the park remains so serene and soothing.