Central Park is famous in New York, Stanley Park is famous in Vancouver, and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is famous in Tokyo! This marvelous oasis in the lively district of Shinjuku can keep you busy for a couple of hours in any season.
Personally, I have good memories in this park, both dates and simple walks with friends! I also noticed a temporary event with tents at least once so you may too witness something special in Shinjuku Gyoen. Next time the cherry trees are in full bloom there, I’d like to eat a simple bento box while admiring the flowers, which is a popular way to enjoy Shinjuku Gyoen that I have not really tried yet.
Marvelous park and peaceful oasis
The large Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (almost 60 hectares) has different areas: Japanese landscape gardens (south), a symmetric formal French garden with roses (north-east), and a British landscape garden with wide lawns (north-west). More than 20000 trees including 1500 cherry blossom trees and special varieties such as tulip trees and Himalayan cedars form a marvelous and peaceful area. Choosing one of the many paths based on your likes, your mood, the weather that day, and the season, you may stumble upon a beautiful greenhouse with various tropical and subtropical vegetation, an art gallery, the Kyu-Goryo-Tei Taiwan Pavilion, the Rakuutei tea house where you can drink matcha green tea, or a restaurant.
Thanks to the small entrance cost and rules enforced, this park is less crowded and more tranquil than the other famous parks of Tokyo such as Yoyogi Park, except during the season of “sakura” cherry blossoms. Enjoy a nice walk along lovely ponds with turtles swimming, cross bridges, picnic and relax together on the lawn, and wonder about the skyscrapers in the distance! The paths do not get too muddy with rain so you can still enjoy the park with a big umbrella for two 🙂
As a couple, the best way to enjoy Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is to visit it again and again at different moments of the year to enjoy the sight and perfume of different flowers!
From spring to winter
Depending on the season, the appearance and best point of Shinjuku Gyoen changes completely: cherry blossoms in spring (after perfumed plum & peach blossoms in March), greens in summer, chrysanthemums (with an exhibition in early November) and yellow/orange/red leaves in autumn, and the greenhouse in winter! You can enjoy cherry blossoms from the middle of March to the end of April, with trees blooming at slightly different periods depending on their species (a dozen there). Seeing cherry petals fly with the wind while walking under these beautiful trees makes Shinjuku Gyoen amazing. However, the crowds are then a bit too much for my taste. Like me, you may prefer this park in autumn: many species of trees change colours in Shinjuku Gyoen, not just maple trees. Go check the south-east corner (momijiyama area) between the middle of November and the middle of December!
This park is very beautiful and peaceful because many rules apply:
- Do not bring alcohol, plants, fire…
- Do not smoke except in the designated areas.
- Do not use balls, frisbees, boomerangs, ropes, radio-controlled helicopters, drones, music instruments…
- Do not practice roller-skating, rollerblading, tree climbing…
- Do not damage or take plants.
- Do not feed or harm animals.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden has three access gates. North-west, Shinjuku Gate is a 10-minute walk east from the New South Exit of JR Shinjuku Station, a 5-minute walk from Shinjuku-gyoenmae Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line, and a 5-minute walk from Shinjuku-sanchome Station on the Fukutoshin Subway Line. North-east, Okido Gate is a 5-minute walk from Shinjuku-gyoenmae Station. South, Sendagaya Gate is a 5-minute walk from JR Sendagaya Station on the local Chuo/Sobu Line. Of course, you can also walk from one of the many hotels in Shinjuku district.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is closed on Mondays (except during the cherry blossom season and Chrysanthemum Exhibition) as well as a few days at the end of December and beginning of January. The other days, you can enter between 09:00 and 16:00 and must exit before 16:30. The entrance fee is only 200 yen.
Shinjuku Gyoen is basically flat so there is no problem if you are tired after a hike at e.g. Mount Takao or if you have a hip/knee problem. The park is mostly accessible by wheelchair but users are advised to arrive via Shinjuku Station or Shinjuku-sanchome Station.
Lunch or dinner in Shinjuku
Some love the basement food court of the nearby Isetan department store: you can find bento lunch boxes with meat, fish, vegetables… as well as bread and sweets. This food court is convenient to eat completely different things if your partner does not want to try the same things as you 🙂 If you prefer to eat in a nearby restaurant, I recommend the stylish Cafe La Boheme (great pizza & pasta), Halal Ramen Ouka for Muslims, and Ain Soph. Journey Shinjuku for vegans & vegetarians. If you just want to sit after your long walk, look around for one of the many local coffee shops then enter the first one with seats available side by side!
Enjoy green Tokyo!