The Institute for Nature Study is another great park to visit in Tokyo. Located near Meguro station in Minato ward it is operated by the National Museum of Nature and Science. To call it a park is something of a misnomer. It actually serves a serious purpose – a sanctuary for Tokyo’s flora and fauna as well as being a natural-education park. I certainly enjoyed my stay there, but I didn’t see much wildlife.
And the reason why I didn’t see much wildlife there was because the place is so forest-like. It is so deep with trees, flower and every other type of plant you can imagine. The trees are so thick that they do a great job of blocking out the sights and sounds of the city. There are also several large natural ponds for water birds to take advantage of. In some parts of the Institute, you might be forgiven for thinking you are far out in the country.
In some ways it is similar to Koishikawa Botanical Gardens. They are both working parks and are in very natural states. And, both of them can be hilly, the Institute even more so. Seriously, you won’t see much of the outside world while you’re there as some parts of it are in a valley. There are no great views here, like Shinjuku Gyoen or Hama-Rikyu Gardens. Once you get past the entrance you’ll be pretty much closed in by trees on every side.
One thing that I think is unique with the Institute is that you can only follow trails, there are no lawns to walk on. You must remember that it was created to protect the city’s wildlife, to give them a home - not for human entertainment. And as this place is in quite a natural state it has quite a few areas that can get quite muddy, so it is not the place to walk in wearing high-heels.
There is some good history on the grounds too. During Japan’s feudal era it was the site of a residence for a daimyo, but unfortunately hardly anything remains now. An enormous tree, “The Pine Tree of Tales” (物語の松) is said to mark the spot where his residence once stood. During the late 1800s it became a gunpowder warehouse for the army and navy, then becoming an Imperial Estate in 1917 and finally falling into its current form in 1949.
Usually the park doesn’t have that many visitors, but it does have a limit on how many can be inside at once which is three hundred. So, if you are unlucky you might need to wait outside for some time until someone leaves. And when you enter, you’re given a pink ribbon to pin on yourself somewhere, which must be how they keep track of how many people are inside.
The Institute for Nature Study is a special place in Tokyo. It is similar to Todoroki Valley and Koishikawa Botanical Gardens but it is also unique in its own right. Like those other two places you can go there and forget you are in the big city for a while. If you want to enjoy some nature in Tokyo, this is one of the places that needs to be on your list to visit. You can see its website here.
How to get to Institute for Nature Study
Two stations are nearby. One is Meguro (use the East exit) which is served by the Yamanote line as well as several subway lines. You can also get there from Shirokanedai subway station (Nanboku andToei Mita lines). From both stations, it is roughly a 10-minute walk. Here is a Google map to show you the way:
From September 1 to April 30 the Institute is open from 9 am to 4:30 (with last entry at 4 pm). From May 1 to August 31 it is open from 9 am to 5 pm (with last entry at 4:30 pm).
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