Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden 新宿御苑
An expansive oasis of gardens once reserved for royalty
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a pleasant and refreshing escape from Tokyo's concrete cityscape. Once a feudal lord's domain, it later became a private retreat for the Imperial Family and those they entertained. While Yoyogi Park , the Imperial Palace , and other temples and shrines offer green spaces, none of them can match Shinjuku Gyoen, which covers a massive 144 acres and continues to be one of Tokyo's top attractions.
- The three distinct styles of gardens
- The greenhouse, with flora both tropical and subtropical
- The iconic pagoda featured in the film The Garden of Words
How to Get There
There are three entrances to Shinjuku Gyoen, accessible from either Shinjuku Station, Sendagaya Station or Shinjuku Gyoenmae Station.
To reach the main entrance, take the southeast exit of Shinjuku Station. It's a small exit near the Flag's Building. If you're walking, it should take less than 10 minutes.
Three ways to view the park
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is really three gardens in one, with English, French and Japanese-style gardens.
The French formal area is considered the most romantic. This is because of the abundant flowers, especially roses. This part of the park is especially popular in the fall when the majority of the flowers bloom. You can also see hundreds of trees changing colors before the cold winter months. The English garden features expansive open lawns surrounded by flowering cherry trees.
The Japanese garden is an integral part of the park's origins, with large ponds dotted with islands and bridges. Well-manicured shrubs and trees surround the water together with several pavilions. While beautiful year-round, this garden should not be missed in spring and fall.
The garden was originally built as the private residence of Lord Naito—an Edo era (1603-1867) feudal lord. In 1906, the garden was converted into a private imperial garden by the Meiji government.
During WWII, the garden was destroyed during the air raids. Once restored, the garden was converted into a public park.
The garden remains associated with the Imperial Family. The Showa Emperor (1901-1989) considered Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden such an important part of his childhood that his funeral was held here as an official state ceremony on February 24, 1989.
Cherry blossom season
If you're in Tokyo during sakura season, Shinjuku Gyoen is a beautiful place to experience Japanese hanami (viewing the cherry blossoms). The 1,500 cherry trees color the park in many shades of pink. Bring along a picnic lunch and join the fun. Hanami is a truly Japanese experience.
Keep in mind, however, that the garden prohibits alcohol consumption. Because of this, the garden is a popular cherry-blossom viewing choice for those with babies and children.
More to see and do
The Taiwan Pavilion is an authentic Chinese structure built to celebrate the Emperor Hirohito's wedding, paid for by Japanese people living in Taiwan at the time.
The greenhouse at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden looks like a glassed-in indoor jungle. This botanical garden features orchids, unusual plants from the subtropics, plants in danger of extinction, large trees, ponds and waterfalls. It's divided into jungle, pond and tropical areas.
Recreate anime scenes
Makoto Shinkai's 2013 anime film, The Garden of Words, is set in Shinjuku Gyoen. He made the film from a desire to preserve the beauty of the park in the event of a natural disaster, based on his feelings after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011.
Many scenes in the film use Shinkai's photos as the base for the illustrations. A majority of the film's action takes place at one pagoda in the park. If you're a Shinkai fan, the area makes for a perfect photo opportunity.