With its 53 hectares, Shinjuku Gyoen is such a large oasis of green in the heart of the city that it is almost unbelievable. Although the high-rises are advancing, there are enough trees and shrubs to provide shade, and there is enough space to dim the distant traffic noise. Shinjuku Gyoen is the former site of the mansion of the Naitos, a daimyo family that controlled this strategic area, the first post station just out of Edo. The estate was made into an imperial garden in 1906 and became a public park after WWII.
[Sketching at the pond of Shinjuku Gyoen. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]
There are three different types of gardens in Shinjuku Gyoen. By far the largest is the Japanese garden, centered on a pond that runs through the whole breadth of the garden. There are tea houses here and stone lanterns, wooden bridges and small streams, as well as a Chinese-style pavilion, all items necessary in a Japanese garden. One also finds azalea bushes, irises and hydrangeas; in summer the pond is covered with lotus flowers. Then there is an English landscape garden, mainly consisting of grassy undulating hills popular with picnickers. And finally, there is a French formal garden with an avenue of plane trees and rose beds. This exotic, Western garden must have been the pride of the park when it carried the designation 'imperial' in the first half of the 20th century.
Among the flowers, I have not yet made mention of the cherry blossoms, of which there are many, both weeping cherries, flowering at the end of March, and a late-flowering variety. Thus, for many weeks the gardens are decked out in spring colors. Autumn shows with chrysanthemums are held in the first two weeks of November. And, to round things off, for winter visits there is a large greenhouse containing tropical and subtropical plants, especially famous for its orchids. It truly is an all-year garden.
Address: 11 Naito-cho, Shinjuku, Tokyo. Tel. 03-3350-0151
Access: Shinjuku Gate: 5-min. walk Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line; or same distance from Shinjuku Sanchome Station on the Shinjuku Subway Line; Okido Gate: also 5-min. from Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line; Sendagaya Gate: 5-min. walk from Sendagaya Station on the JR Line.
Hours: 9:00-16:30. CL Mondays (except when Monday is a National Holiday, then the garden is closed the next day), year-end and New Year period.