Shinjuku Gyoen National Park
Tokyo's most spectacular garden is the Shinjuku Gyoen. Boasting two traditional Japanese Gardens, a French rose garden, an English landscaped field, a river which spans the entire breadth of the park, one lake, two ponds, a green house, various sub gardens and features, two tea houses, a restaurant, several resting areas and more, its clear to see that the Shinjuku Gyoen has a lot to offer.
Upon first entering the garden at the Shinjuku gate entrance you will pass through some wooded trails and grass clearings, not very interesting, however don't make this your first impression (the garden's features are spread far apart and must be searched for, unlike the Rikugien and the Kyu Shiba Rikyu). Head towards the South East corner, and there you will find the Upper Pond (Kamino ike)
Like a traveler lost in a thick wood and finally coming out of the dark and into the sun, you'll happen across this fantastic garden. Although small in size it has everything a garden needs. The most striking feature is the NTT Yoyogi Building standing in the pond’s background. With the tree line just the right height it does not come off as imposing, but instead compliments.
The pond's island is meticulously crafted and landscaped and offers two arched bridges on both sides and features a large pine in the center, and small pines and azalea bushes as peripherals.
Further East the Japanese Garden splits and transforms from a pond into a river, the banks lines with more azaleas and other shrubbery. Next the shores open up and expand into a field with the most spectacular pines, visitors taking refuge from the sun in their shadows. The surprises continue as you continue East and stumble upon a Taiwanese Pavilion (Kyu Goryo Tei) on an island. Unfortunately the accessing bridge is closed so it cannot be toured. The pavilion was built in 1928 and is an accurate replica of the Southern Chinese Minnan architecture.
Continue following the river East, and you'll encounter the Middle Pond (Nakano ike), featuring a beautiful high Japanese Footbridge, and a single pine leans over the bank creating the quintessential Japanese Footbridge image.
The water feature continues East and finally ends as the Lower Pond (Shimono ike). This area is darker and more heavily wooded, with less features, but nonetheless enjoyable.
Turn North and you will find the French Formal Garden. The sheer size of this garden is tremendous, taking up eight hundred feet in length, five hundred in width. On both sides are enormous boulevards of gravel path and towering Poplar trees. The center features the fragrant rose bushes, forming two large blocks.
Labeled as the English Landscape Garden, there isn't anything very English about it, save for possibly the fine grass and neatly mowed lawn. Regardless, it is extremely spacious and the perfect place to take of your shoes and lie down in the grass. Standing facing south east you can see the Tokyo Tower off in the distance above the tree line.
For a unique look at Japan's native and endangered plants the Shinjuku Gyoen houses an impressive green house.
For your edification and entertainment here are the Garden Rules:
"In order to ensure that all visitors have a chance to enjoy the garden, we ask that you refrain from doing any of the following:
- Use any kind of play equipment
- Use naked flames
- Feed the animals
- Enter any area designated off-limits to the public
- Bring in Alcohol
- Bring or take out any plants or animals
- Smoke except in smoking areas
- Play musical instruments
Marunouchi Subway Line, Shinjuku Gyoenmae Station.
Admission: 200 yen (free on the weekends)
Hours: 9:00am to 4:00pm (closed at 4:30)
Closed: Mondays. Year end Holiday (Dec 29 - Jan 3)