Three Great Parks In Tokyo
One of the best ways to get a sense of life in a new city is to see how the locals relax. Here are three great Tokyo parks that will give you a green break from the concrete jungle.
Yoyogi Park is the home of some of the best international food festivals, free open air concerts, one of the great flea markets in Tokyo and the infamous rockabilly dancers who have been strutting their stuff every Sunday for decades. There’s always something happening. It’s also within walking distance to Meiji Jingu Shrine, Shibuya, Harajuku and Omotesando, so you really have no excuse not to visit. It’s beautiful in autumn, silent in winter, thriving in summer and one of the best locations to witness the excitement of the cherry blossom season in the city. And then there’s the people. It’s the meeting spot for hundreds of social clubs and students groups so don’t be surprised to see dance troupes practicing , musicians playing, and fledgling comedians rehearsing their routines. You can bring food along with you or try one of the yatai, food stalls, selling Japanese fast food at the entrance. Our advice is take a long walk around the park with camera in hand and maybe even try and participate.
Inokashira Park is located about 30 minutes from Shibuya in the trendy suburb of Kichijoji, home to one of the great traditional Japanese shopping arcades. While not central as Yoyogi park, Inokashira Park is almost as big with a multitude of activities to enjoy including a small aquarium, a zoo, an aviary and indoor rain forest, an amusement park for the under 7s and a large pond complete with rowboats and paddle boats.
It really comes alive on the weekends when street performers such as magicians, balloon shapers and musicians entertain crowds of all ages, and the pathway running alongside of the main pond is given over to an artist flea market. There are a couple of restaurants in the park but the queues to get in are very long. We suggest buying something at one of the convenience stores or cafes that you will find on the streets that lead down into the park from Kichijoji Station and walk about soaking up the atmosphere.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a short walk from the south side of Shinjuku Station or an even shorter walk from Shinjuku-gyoenmae station, and well worth a look if you are interested in gardens and a more serene park experience than the hustle and bustle of Yoyogi and Inokashira. The park was originally part of an estate belonging to one of the feudal lords from the Edo period. It was then an imperial garden and only opened to the public after World War 2. The park is composed of three main sections – a traditional Japanese-style garden, a formal French garden and an English landscape garden. They are so convincing that you can forget how close you are to one of Tokyo’s busiest towns.
Unlike the other two parks we’ve mentioned, this one charges an admission fee, and it’s probably best to bring along a something to eat and drink if you are planning to stay a while as there is not a lot of choice once inside the park. Technically, balls are not allowed to be thrown or kicked around, nor are badminton and frisbees permissible. But it is a beautiful park nonetheless and well worth wandering over to if you’re looking for a break from Shinjuku.
Shinjuku_gyoenPhoto by Ben Beech