Shinjuku station is the busiest train station in the world, as it is said to handle over one billion passengers per year. And being such a busy place, the people of Shinjuku need their own urban oasis, a place to relax and wind down on weekends or even during lunchbreaks. Luckily, Shinjuku Gyoen is nearby to provide them with such a place. It is just fabulous and one of my favourite places in the city to enjoy a walk or some quiet time.
The park is divided into three distinctive gardens: 1) Japanese Traditional; 2) French Formal, and; 3) English Landscape. The Japanese traditional has some large ponds with bridges that give them that, “Japan” feeling, while the French Formal has a rose garden and some beautiful lanes which are especially great to walk through in autumn when the trees lose their leaves and fall on the ground.
All of the gardens are very, very good, however, my favourite is the English Landscape, as I love its spacious lawn from where Nishi-Shinjuku’s skyscrapers can be seen popping up over the trees. It is also the perfect place for a picnic. You’ll find it packed with people when the weather is fine. The other thing I like about it is that being park, Shinjuku Gyoen has a ring of trees around it. Those trees block out so much sound of the city. Stand in the middle of the park and you will hardly hear the outside city. It is a tremendous feeling.
And Shinjuku Gyoen is quite big. From its Shinjuku gate to the opposite end it is at least a kilometer (with a circumference of 3.5km) which can make for a bit of a walk if you need to go back to the Shinjuku gate if you plan on using Shinjuku station (which most people do). Walking in the park is quite easy though as it fairly flat, except on the Japanese Traditional Garden side where there are some gentle slopes.
You’ll also find something in the park for every season, along with some special events. In spring the cherry blossoms bloom, which brings people from all over the world! In November, there is the chrysanthemum and rose festivals that are closely followed by autumn, which brings out the lovely reds and gold leaves. Every season at Shinjuku Gyoen has something special, so much to discover.
There is also a greenhouse which houses tropical plants. It was built in 2012 and houses over 500 species of plants. I think it is a very beautiful structure, being completely made of glass. If you have a camera, be careful inside as it can get quite steamy and that might lead to moisture getting inside your lens.
If there is something that might turn people off from Shinjuku Gyoen is that it is a no-go area for alcohol. That is something you might want to take into account especially during the cherry blossom season.
Whichever garden you choose to go to in Tokyo I think you’ll be very impressed by Shinjuku Gyoen. No matter how long you spend there, once you enter it you'll be amazed that the busiest station in the world and one of Tokyo's busiest business/shopping districts is only a short walk away. It is big enough and special enough to make you believe you are in an urban oasis, the type of places that allows you an escape from the big city. If you ever visit Tokyo, it really deserves a visit. You can see its website here.
Shinjuku Gyuoen is easily accessed from Shinjuku station`s south exit. Once out of the exit, turn left and just head down the road, no need to turn at all, just go straight in less than 10 minutes you`ll see the park on the right side of the road. There are other stations nearby as well, but I think most people will use the main JR station in Shinjuku to get there.
If you need a little extra help we have a Google map here:
Shinjuku Gyoen, from October 1 to March 14, is open from 9 am to 4:00 pm with the gates closing at 5 pm. From March 15 to September 30, 9am to 5:30pm, with the gates closing at 6 pm. Finally, from July 1 to August 20 it is open from 9 am to 6:30 pm with the gates closing at 7 pm. The park is closed on Monday except during the cherry blossom (usually March 25 to April 24) and during the chrysanthemum seasons (November 1st to 15th).
The greenhouse is open from 9:30am to 4pm, with last admittance at 3:30pm.
General entry to Shinjuku Gyoen is 500 yen.
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History Garage – located in Odaiba, this is a great car museum in Tokyo
Inokashira park – one of the most popular parks in the city
Omiya Hachiman – a local shrine located in Suginami ward
Rainbow Bridge – a fabulous walk across a bridge that offers some great views
Tokyo Imperial Palace – you won’t see the Emperor but you will see where he lives