Apart from being an exciting and sprawling metropolis, Tokyo is also laced with a number of enchanting parklands. Taking a stroll through these majestic, manicured green spaces is often a welcome break from the bright lights and skyscrapers that make up much of the city.
For example, the famous Yoyogi Park is one of the largest city parks in Tokyo, easily found from the entrance of Harajuku Station and Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. Take a stroll through this expansive space to enjoy its array of ponds, lawns and woodland areas, whilst also partaking in some exceptional people watching, as the park is a popular meeting spot for some of the city’s most crazy and colourful characters.
My personal favourite outdoor area is Shinjuku Gyoen.
Although the beautiful and peaceful Shinjuku Gyoen National Park is easily accessed via MTR, I love a brisk walk and often take the scenic route all the way from Ginza. This route takes a couple of hours, but I really enjoy snaking my way past the stunning Imperial Palace in Chuyoda and stomping through the contrasting built up area of Yoksuya.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Park was completed back in 1906 and comprises of three equally delightful gardens; the English Landscape Garden, French Formal Garden and Japanese Traditional Garden. Make sure you pick up a map on entry as it will help guide you around the vast areas whilst hitting all the main points of interest.
The Taiwan Pavilion (Kyu-Goryo-Tei) is located within the Japanese Traditional Garden area and was originally built in 1928 in honour of Emperor Showa’s wedding. The architectural style is particularly enthralling as it stems from that of the southern Fujian Province in China.
A visit to the park’s grand greenhouse is a must. The last time I went there was on a particularly crisp, wintery day and I subsequently decided to enter the greenhouse to escape the chill. As I slid open the large, steamed up glass door, the hot, humid atmosphere hit me like a wet, sloppy kiss from a long lost relative. As you follow the arrows of the winding path, it’s amazing to see so many varieties of tropical and subtropical plants, including magnificent hybridized orchids, some of which don’t even look like they even belong on this planet.
It is easy to understand why so many city dwellers come here to escape the craziness of Tokyo city, which is located just beyond the outer walls. It is also a terribly romantic place which must only be accentuated during early spring, when apparently 65 different types of cherry blossom from over 1,300 trees come into bloom in dreamy unison every year.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is open between 9.00 and 16.00, but closed on Mondays. A minimal entry fee of JPY200 applies but is a small price to pay to enjoy the magical atmosphere of this pristinely kept green space.