Tokyo: 10 Things to Do

5. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Park Tom Bonaventure / Getty
  • Print
  • Email
  • Share
  • Single Page

If Yoyogi Park is the most entertaining green space in Tokyo, the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is the most beautiful. Ask for a map in English ("Ay-go mappoo?") as you walk in so you can be sure to hit all the major gardens: English Landscape, French Formal, Japanese Traditional (with teahouse) and the curiously named Mother and Child Forest (Haha to Ko no Mori). There's also a lovely Taiwan Pavilion; go inside and look out the second-story windows.

In late March and early April, cherry blossom season, the central lawn areas are particularly stunning. Consider bringing a picnic lunch. You can buy a variety of take-away items at the gourmet food hall in the basement level of Takashimaya department store, just south of the Shinjuku Station (east of the JR line tracks) and about 500 meters west of the garden's Shinjuku gate entrance. If you get the itch to shop, there's also a massive Tokyu Hands department store in the same mega-mall complex (called Times Square), selling everything from gold body stockings to Japanese tea sets and stationery. Next door is a behemoth Kinokuniya bookstore. The foreign books floor is a good place to find Japanese manga that has been translated into English; some of these are even suitable for kids.

My second favorite garden in Tokyo is Hama-rikyu (admission: $3), which was a feudal lord's retreat during the Edo period. There's an old-style teahouse on a tidal pond, a 300-year-old pine, a grove of plum trees and a peony field. The duck hunting grounds were once used by the Tokugawa shoguns. (The cluster of Shiodome skyscrapers just beyond makes a startling backdrop.) Located at the mouth of the Sumida River, Hama-rikyu is also a stop on a passenger ferry line that you can take up to Asakusa or out to Odaiba.

Shinjuku Gyoen is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and closed Tuesday in weeks in which Monday is a national holiday. Admission is about $2 for adults, less for students and children. Take the JR Yamanote line to Shinjuku, south exit; walk east down Koshu Kaido, a main thoroughfare. Or take the Toei Shinjuku line to Shinjuku-Sanchome.

For Takashimaya or Tokyu Hands, the entrance is across from Shinjuku Southern Terrace — after Krispy Kreme, turn left and take the bridge over the train tracks.

For Hama-rikyu, take the Toei Oedo line to Shiodome station. You can also take the JR Yamanote line or either the Ginza or Asakusa Metro line to Shimbashi, but you're looking at a 12-minute walk from there.

Connect to this TIME Story

Interact with
this story

  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Linkedin

From our

Get the Latest News from
Sign up to get the latest news and headlines delivered straight to your inbox.