One of Tokyo's most popular parks is Inokashira, which you can find in Kichijoji. Inokashira was originally the water source for Edo, as Tokyo used to be called. That water source is still there today, inside the park which is hugely popular. It is quite different to parks like Shinjuku Gyoen and Kiyosumi Gardens, as it is much larger and has a lot of things that appeal to the everyday person. It is a fantastic place and really worth a visit.
To give a brief description, it has a big central pond (that is the source of the Kanda river) with several fountains and crossed by bridges. The park is very leafy and green, filled with trees so it looks great in every season, including winter. There are big open spaces, little hills and valleys. You`ll even find quite a few restaurants in the park too. It is a nice place to walk or laze away an entire day. And if you want to have fun on the water you can do that too as there are rowboats and paddleboats available for hire.
If you know anything about other parks in Tokyo you'll know that quite a few of the more famous ones like Kiyosumi and Shiba rikyu are parks with very clear Edo period ties. They show Tokyo`s rich history and ties to its Edo past. They are cultural showpieces and places that are very beautiful. Places to quietly enjoy. A few, like Shinjuku Gyoen are more modern, formal gardens where people can go to enjoy flowers, tree-lined lanes or carefully manicured Japanese gardens. Inokashira is different, it`s one of the parks the average person can go to and have fun and just relax.
It is the type of park you can have a picnic in, take a dog for a walk, do some painting, watch a train run through, do some shopping at the Sunday market, pray at a shrine, ride on the boats, go to the zoo, jog, have a beer with friends or watch other people. You can even make a bit of noise and no one will mind, just look at some of the buskers there on weekends. It can get quite rowdy at times, especially during the hanami season but as long as you don`t go crazy, I doubt anyone will mind.
So if you are looking for a great park to relax look no further than Inokashira. There is a lot to do in the park itself, plus with Kichijoji right next to it, you`re in one of the most popular places in Tokyo.
How do you get to Inokashira park?
There are two stations that you can use. One is Kichijoji station, that has the Chuo, Sobu, Tozai (subway line) and Keio-Inokashira lines. If you`re coming from Shinjuku use the Sobu or Chuo lines (Chuo line is quickest though). From Shibuya use the Keio-Inokashira line, and if you`re coming from the eastern side of Tokyo, the Tozai subway is best.
However, my favourite, is Inoshira-Koen. It`s on the Keio-Inokashira line, which runs from Kichijoji to Shibuya. The station is very pretty and is in an attractive residential neighbourhood. The park can be seen from the platform, and once out of the station you are just a very short walk from the entrance.
Here is a Google map to give you an idea:
Entrance to Inokashira is free, but admission to the zoo and hiring the boats on the pond is not.
The Inokashira park curse
Just in case you haven`t heard ... the temple dedicated to Benzaiten is supposed to be cursed - any couples that visit it are destined to be breakup. I`ve really got no idea if it is true, nor have I heard of anyone falling foul of it, but then again, who would know?
If you enjoyed reading this article you might also enjoy:
Edo-Tokyo Museum - learn a lot more about Tokyo's history
Gotokuji - the home of Japan's beckoning cats
Kyu-Shiba rikyu Gardens - one of the Tokyo's smallest, but beautiful parks
Omiya Hachiman - one of Tokyo's local shrines
Zoshigaya Cemetery - a beautiful and historic cemetery in Tokyo