Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Spring Sakura
After all the shopping and eating in Shinjuku (“What to Do at Shinjuku Tokyo, Japan?“,“What to Eat in Shinjuku Tokyo? (Part 1)” and “(Part 2)“), I needed to find some respite in the nature. So glad there’s a huge garden, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, walkable from our Shinjuku airbnb and Shinjuku train station. Depending on the flowers you like and the time of the year you are going, it’s not necessarily a must go on your first trip to Tokyo (read on to find out which season to visit).
Shinjuku Gyoen was first built during the Edo period on the private residence of Naito Kiyonari, a trusted vassal of Ieyasu Tokugawa, Japan’s first shogun (military dictator/de facto ruler). During Meiji era, the government converted the site for agricultural experiments and research. It later became an imperial estate, named “Shinjuku Imperial Botanical Garden” and then opened to the public after World War II as “Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden”.
General Visitor Information
If you are coming from Shinjuku train station, you will walk about 10-15 mins walk before reaching the Shinjuku Gate. Then, proceed to purchase your ticket at the information center for ¥200 (S$2.50) / adult.
It will probably take you 1 to 2 hours to walk around Shinjuku Gyoen and appreciate its beauty and of course, take photos. :) Best to go early to avoid the crowd!
- 9:00am – 4:00pm (Gates close at 4:30pm)
- Tues – Sun, closed on Tues if Mon is a national holiday, closed on Wed if consecutive holidays. However, garden is opened throughout March 25 to April 24, and November 1 to November 15
Different Parts of the Garden
With an area of 58.3 hectare, the garden is subdivided into a few major gardens: French Formal Garden, English Landscape Garden, Japanese Traditional Garden, and Mother & Child’s forest (Hahato-Kono-Mori). Other than these themed gardens, there are other areas in Shinjuku Gyeon to visit as well.
These other points of interest in the Shinjuku Gyeon include:
- Old Imperial Rest House: Built for the imperial family, it used to be a clubhouse during the latter half of Taisho era.
- The Greenhouse: Visit to enjoy the tropical and subtropical plants, orchids and endangered plants.
- Taiwan Pavilion: It’s built in 1928 using the architectural style of southern Fujian province of China to commemorate the wedding of Emperor Showa. Enter the Pavilion and look out the windows on 2nd floor.
- Restaurant Yurinoki: The building is built using solar panels and environmental friendly materials. You can find an exhibition hall and restaurant here.
- Tea House (in the Japanese traditional garden): Enjoy powdered green tea served with Japanese sweet in this traditional tea house. Beside it, you can find Yulan Magnolia and snowy blossoms during spring.
Different Season, Different Flowers
The garden is worth a visit, but like I said, it also depends on the type of flowers you like.
This is when fewer blooms are seen, except sightings of fragrant paperwhite flowers and red berries on certain types of trees. Or you can also enjoy orchid flowers reaching their full bloom in the greenhouse. However, if you are a bird lover, then winter is the best for bird watching in Shinjuku Gyeon–spot thrush (birds) from Siberia and also mandarins and mallard ducks swimming in the ponds of Japanese Traditional Garden.
Immersed in autumn colours as the leaves on the tulip trees, sycamores, ginko trees and maples begin to change colours. Enjoy the autumn foliage at the Avenue of Sycamore trees that’s near to French Formal Garden. It wasn’t autumn when we were there, hence we only get to see bare trees. Even then, it was beautiful.
Also during this period (1-15 Nov), you can visit the annual Chrysanthemum exhibition, related to the Imperial household, held at the Japanese Traditional Garden.
During summer, the roses in the French Formal Garden and the tulip trees in the English Landscape Garden bloom. Cicaadas will be buzzing and dragonflies flying above the luscious lawn. But when we were there during early March, these gardens were almost barren.
p.s. these European gardens were designed by a French engineer.
I read that the cherry blossom season only starts from late March to early April. So I was disappointed that we were going to be in Tokyo but have to miss it by 2 weeks! >.< We were there in early March. However, I didn’t give up hope, I started scouring Instagram hashtags to see if any Sakura is spotted yet. Turned out, there were some early blooms in other parts of Tokyo but we wouldn’t be able to make it there. But it represents a slim hope for us in Shinjuku Gyeon.
We stepped into Shinjuku Gyeon, and quickly looked around for the early blooms of Sakura. I was so desperate to find it that we even mistook a tree for being a cherry blossom tree. We walked for about 15-20 minutes and still didn’t spot any. So I was getting a little disappointed.
Hubby went to toilet near the Tea House (Shouten-Tei) and I continued to walk around, through a narrow path and out to an opening. Lo and behold, there stood a huge cherry blossom tree. I gasped out loud. It literally took my breath away. Too bad hubby wasn’t by my side to see Sakura for our first time!
It was simply stunning. And since there weren’t many Sakura trees around, many tourists were crowding around this tree to take picture perfect photos! We took countless photos before leaving the grounds reluctantly, only to find another two to three Sakura trees along Middle Pond (Nakano-Ike). Nevertheless, we still had to take a couple more photos of the trees, now with different background. Hur hur.
The cherry blossom trees were simply stunning, especially as we see those pretty pink petals falling softly to the ground like gentle rain, covering the ground in pink. It was therapeutic for me.
Be sure to visit if you are there during the season! According to Shinjuku Gyeon’s brochure, there are about 65 varieties of cherry blossom and 1,100 trees blossoming successively in the garden. I cannot imagine the spectacular sight.
Oh ya, we also managed to see the Yulan Magnolia tree, which has large flower blooms, as we were about to exit the Shinjuku Gate. However, after seeing the beauty of sakura, it paled in comparison. (p.s. On the other side of the Tea House, not the Sakura tree side, you may also find the Yulan Magnolia bloom.)
Before the beauty fades away in a moment, let us enjoy the present.
Do you have other recommendations of where to go in Shinjuku? Tell us below or on our Facebook Page or Instagram. Moreover, bookmark this page > Overview Itinerary: Hokkaido and Tokyo (Winter/Spring 2016).