Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
It's been almost a year since visiting Japan. Spurred on by the countless sakura blossom photographs posted by many on Instagram, I thought it time to re-visit my own. It also helps that I was about to do a clean out of my folders (I've just recently purchased a Macbook and thus have begun the slow but necessary transition of photographs and documents) and I've uncovered a couple of gems I had long forgotten about.
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of Tokyo's largest national parks. It is also one of the best places to visit during cherry blossom season in March - April as there are approximately fifteen hundred cherry blossom trees throughout the park. The park itself is divided into three distinct gardens, the traditional Japanese Garden, English Landscape and French formal. The Japanese traditional garden is comprised of large open spaces, ponds and bridges, making walking through the greenery quite an experience.
There are three different gates by which to enter the park. Shinjuku Gate is a ten minute walk east from JR Shinjuku Station (turn left and walk down the road, you'll come across an underpass but keep walking, the park itself is on your right.). Okido Gate is a short walk from Shinjukugyoenmae Station and the Sendagaya Gate is an even shorter walk from the JR Sendagaya Station.
An early visit in the morning is my preference as it's much quieter. The park itself may take about an hour and a half to walk through, depending on how many gardens you visit within the park and how many times you may end up stopping for photographs.
Not only does Shinjuku Gyoen have three different types of gardens, a greenhouse and an art gallery, there are also restaurants and tea houses in addition to vending machines supplying hot and cold drinks.
Walking through the park it's easy to forget that it's surrounded by a cluster of tall buildings and sky scrapers from neighbouring Shinjuku. Depending where you are in the park, you can view the NTT DoCoMo Yoyogi Building peeking from the trees, competing for attention. The park is quiet, serene and stunning, contrasting against that of its busy and noisy surrounds.
It's easy for this popular park to become busy and full of both tourists and locals alike, seeking a good spot lay down a picnic rug and view the blossoms during hanami. Going on a weekday during standard working hours will at least eliminate many of the locals. If you're worried whether you will be too early or too late for the blooming of blossoms, the park itself has many early and late blooming trees. A few weeks give or take the season would be sufficient. The park is beautiful all year round, however the autumn season brings about picturesque hues of orange and gold.
To get to either the Shinjuku Gate or Okido Gate take the Marunouchi Subway Line and alight at Shinjukugyoenmae Station. For the Sendagaya Gate, follow the Chuo/Sobu line and get off at JR Sendagaya Station.
Admission and opening times:
Admission costs 200 yen, with tickets easily purchased from the automatic ticketing machines near the three entrance gates. The park is open from 9am - 4.30pm, with last admissions at 4pm. The park is closed on Mondays, however is open every day during cherry blossom season and for the Chrysanthemum Exhibition from early to mid November.