Tokyo Guide: Shinjuku Gyoen Park
A Guide to Shinjuku Gyoen Park 新宿御苑
Cherry blossom on Nakanoike Pond, Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo
Shinjuku Gyoen Park is a large, 144 acre (58.7 hectare) park in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward, and is an urban island of Japan's seasonal beauty. Shinjuku Gyoen has gardens, woods, a large and picturesque pond, and hundreds of cherry trees (sakura) which make Shinjuku Gyoen one of Tokyo's most popular cherry blossom viewing venues in early April.
Shinjuku Gyoen is home to more than 20,000 trees from all over the world and is a nature lover's delight in the variety and beauty of its flora.
Shinjuku Gyoen is a Tokyo park where you can feel completely surrounded by immaculately tended natural beauty while still just within earshot of traffic, and still within view of the skyline punctuated with towers.
Shinjuku Gyoen includes a French formal garden, an English landscape garden, a Japanese traditional garden, a "Mother and Child Forest", a maple hill, an azalea hill, several ponds, and a Taiwan Pavilion. Shinjuku Gyoen's great open spaces, forested areas, and lovely groves of cherry and plum trees make it the ideal retreat for individuals, couples and families alike who want a taste of nature without having to leave Tokyo.
Also on the grounds of Shinjuku Gyoen Park are the
-information center and art gallery, 9am-4.30pm: near the Shinjuku Gate. To be checked out BEFORE you go through the Park's ticket wickets. No access from inside the Park. English maps of the Park available on request.
-greenhouse: admittance from 11am to 3pm (gates close 3.30pm): near the Okido Gate.
-old Western-style Imperial Rest House: built in 1896 for the Emperor and now designated an Important Cultural Property. Open on the second and fourth Saturday of the month from 10am to 3pm: between the Okido and Shinjuku gates.
Shinjuku Gyoen began life in 1590 as part of a grant of land that the great warlord who, from 1600 would rule Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, made to one of his vassals, Naito Kiyoshige.
Almost 300 years later, when Japan started modernizing, Shinjuku Gyoen was the site of Japan's first early experiments with foreign horticulture and forestry, beginning in 1872. Then in 1879 the land became the Shinjuku Imperial Botanical Garden under the control of the Imperial Household Agency.
In 1906, the name changed to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden when it was remodeled by the French landscaper Henri Martine, a professor at the Versailles horticultural college. The opening of the newly named Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden coincided with Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War (see also Hibiya Park) and was attended by the Emperor himself.
Shinjuku Gyoen's famous cherry blossoms (sakura) date from 1917, and its crysanthemums from 1929. The sakura and the crysanthemums remain, but the small zoo that was set up in 1926 is no longer.
In 1947, following the democratization of Japan after World War Two, Shinjuku Gyoen changed from being imperial to national land, and was opened to the public under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in 1949. In 1971, administration of Shinjuku Gyoen was taken over by the Ministry of the Environment.
9am to 4pm (gates finally close at 4.30pm).
Open every day except Monday (closed Tuesday if Monday a national holiday).
Shinjuku Gyoen Park is closed for New Year from December 29 to January 3.
Open continuously (i.e. Mondays too) during:
-March 25 - April 24 for cherry blossom (sakura) viewing.
-November 1 - 15 for the Shinjuku Gyoen crysanthemum exhibition.
200 yen if 15 years old or over;
50 yen for 6-14 year olds;
Free for under 5 year olds
A Shinjuku Gyoen Year-Round Passport (blue for the men, pink for the ladies!) is also available for 2,000 yen per annum for adults, 1,000 yen for high school age, 500 yen for children. See the Shinjuku Gyoen website (Japanese-language only) for details.
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-to Shinjuku Gyoen's Shinjuku Gate from JR Shinjuku Station (south exit) is about 10 minutes walk; from Shinjuku Gyoen Mae Station, exit 1, on the Marunouchi subway line, about 3 minutes walk; from Shinjuku San-Chome Station, exit C5, on the Shinjuku subway line is about 5 minutes walk.
-to Shinjuku Gyoen's Okido Gate from Shinjuku Gyoen Mae Station, exit 2, on the Marunouchi subway line, about 3 minutes walk.
-to Shinjuku Gyoen's Sendagaya Gate from Sendagaya Station on the JR Sobu line; Kokuritsu Kyogijo Station on the Oedo subway line, about 5 minutes walk.
Enjoy a short slideshow of Shinjuku Gyoen in its early spring beauty, when the cherry trees are in full blossom and the crowds are out under them.