Updated at: 2016-12-29
Of the many natural and beautiful parks in Japan, Shinjuku Gyoen （新宿御苑） is located conveniently in central Tokyo and is well known for its stylistic blend of gardens. Originally built on the private space of a feudal lord in 1906 as an imperial garden, Shinjuku Gyoen was redesignated as a national garden after the war. Much of it was destroyed and the park underwent reconstruction. Today, the 144 acre park consists of gardens of Japanese, French and English design as well as a modern Greenhouse showcasing a diverse range of tropical and subtropical fauna.
It’s easily accessible location in busy Shinjuku makes it an ideal location for unwinding, strolling and viewing the seasons. The park can be reached via a short walk from Shinjuku Sanchoume Station or Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station. Alternatively, you can also take the WE bus （新宿 WEバス） from Shinjuku Station for 100 yen.
Shinjuku Gyoen is most famously photographed in during cherry blossom season with over 10,000 trees situated in the park. The three main gates of entry are the Sendagaya Gate, Okido Gate and Shinjuku Gate. The information centre located at the Shinjuku Gate provides a lot of helpful English information including an English map of the entire park.
To fully explore the many areas the park has to offer, I would recommend allocating at least 2 hours. You could even spend an afternoon here on a picnic just to take in the still and beautiful surroundings. All the gardens are extremely well maintained making it a perfect photo location for couples. The park also offers many resting locations such as the traditional tea house where you can experience traditional Japanese tea and sweets.
Particular favourites of the park were the Taiwan Pavilion (Goryotei), a building that was presented to by voluntary Japanese in Taiwan to commemorate the Imperial wedding ceremony of the the Crown Prince in the early Showa era (1927). The building really stands out from the traditional gardens and is one of the few genuine Chinese style buildings in Japan. It was interesting to know that Japan has some very well maintained Chinese style buildings. The open air view from the verandah overlooking the pond is particularly spectacular.
Having gone in Summer, it was refreshing to enjoy an icecream on a bench at one of the rest houses. One thing that you should be careful of in Summer however, is the mosquitoes so remember to bring insect repellent. Although it would have been nicer to visit in Spring when the park is the most photographic, it was nice to see people outdoors and enjoying picnics in the shade - something I wish I had prepared. Unlike most parks, the place prohibits sports, pets and alcohol. It would be nice to be able to host social activities here but you probably wouldn’t want to ruin the beauty and royalness of the grounds with rubbish from human activity anyways.