Tokyo Shinjuku Gyoen
During late March and early April, Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the most popular spots in all of Tokyo to see cherry blossoms. It’s also wonderfully scenic in the fall, when the trees turn to red and gold. It’s located close to Shinjuku station, and comprises three different gardens, with sprawling lawns and several walking paths.
The park itself was originally the residence of a feudal lord during the Edo period (1603-1867). It was later transformed into a botanical garden, before becoming the private property of the Imperial Family between the turn of the century and the outbreak of World War II. Despite the fact that it was almost obliterated during the war, it was later rebuilt as a public park, reopening in its current form in 1949.
Shinjuku Gyoen: A combination of three different gardens
The oldest garden in Shinjuku Gyoen is a traditional landscape garden, with a number of large ponds. These have picturesque bridges and islands, and are surrounded by manicured bushes, trees and shrubs. This garden contains a number of pavilions, including the Kyu Goryotei, or “Taiwan Pavilion”, built to commemorate the Showa Emperor’s wedding day. Temporary pavilions are also erected for the first half of November, to house the floral displays of the garden’s annual chrysanthemum exhibit.
The two other gardens that make up Shinjuku Gyoen are French and English in style. The English landscape garden has numerous cherry trees, surrounded by wide, open spaces of lawn. You will also find a tropical greenhouse, an art gallery, an information office and a restaurant elsewhere in Shinjuku Gyoen.
Cherry blossom viewing
Cherry blossom viewing (known in Japanese as “Hanami”) takes place between late March and early April, and is a national pastime in Japan. Shinjuku Gyoen is a well-known spot for this, with hundreds of cherry trees in more than a dozen varieties. You can picnic on the lawns of the English garden, which is surrounded by about 400 blossoming trees. The park also has many trees that bloom slightly earlier or later than the main season, and is still worth a visit outside of peak period.
If you visit Tokyo during the fall season, and particularly after mid-November, the changing foliage of the maple trees is a wonderfully striking sight. These trees are concentrated around the Japanese garden, as well as at Momijiyama, or “Maple Mountain”, which is on the east side of the park.
Getting to Shinjuku Gyoen
You can enter the park via any of its three gates.
For the Shinjuku and Okido Gates, travel to Shinjukugyoenmae Station on the Marunouchi Subway Line. The gates are about five minutes from the station on foot. Alternatively, for the Shinjuku Gate, you can simply travel to JR Shinjuku Station and head east for about ten minutes from its “New South Exit”.
For the Sendagaya Gate, travel to JR Sendagaya station on the Chuo/Sobu line. It’s also about five minutes from the station on foot.
Opening Hours/Admission Fees
The park is open between 9:00 and 16:30, with last admission at 16:00. Entry is 200 yen. During cherry blossom season and the Chrysanthemum Exhibition, the park is open seven days a week. In the off-season, it closes on Mondays (or the following day, if Monday is a public holiday). The park is completely closed between December 29 and January 3.
The whole Shinjuku district has a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets. There are excellent, luxury hotels near the skyscrapers to the west of the station, and you will also find cheaper options to the east of the station and towards the Kabukicho (red light) district.