Spring has come, and the weather in Tokyo is delightful. If you are looking for a great place to relax with nature, view beautiful flowers, enjoy a picnic, or even take a stroll through a park with the family, then read on for the top five places to enjoy the Tokyo sunshine:
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This park was originally created as a garden specifically for the Imperial family for recreation and guests of the family, and was designated as an Important Cultural Property. Shinjuku Gyoen boasts a size of 58 hectares and consists of 3 types of gardens: an English garden known for its gentle slopes and public gathering space during hanami season, a French garden with sycamore trees and a Japanese garden with a central pond.
During the year, there are numerous events held at the park; there are participatory events such as photography lessons and contests in addition to chrysanthemum flower exhibitions and traditional Japanese art performances of Noh theatre. Once every month, the Edo Tokyo vegetable market and Shinjuku Gyoen flower market are also held. It is prohibited to bring alcohol into the park to ensure that the peace and calm is kept at Shinjuku Gyoen. A visit to the garden is highly recommended during the cherry blossom and fall foliage seasons, but in general it truly is the ultimate place to take a break from the noise and bustle of the hectic Tokyo.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 200 / Child: ¥ 50
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Shinjuku Gyoen
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Shinjuku Gyoen
- Tours in Shinjuku Gyoen
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The 54-hectare park which is the 5th-largest in the city is divided into an A Zone which is a central park with fountains and a forest walking path, and a B Zone with a soccer pitch, an athletic field, a concert stage, sports facilities and an event hall. Entry is free so anyone is able to enter.
There is a wide grass field within the central park with its fountains, and on a good day, it’s great to just bask in the sun all day without needing to do anything or take that stroll among the trees and feel nature. There is a bird sanctuary where you can view wild birds that can only be found in Japan. And then at the cycling center, you can rent out bicycles and spend a wonderful time riding around the cycling course in the park.
Yoyogi Park is also famous for holding various events. On the weekends, the park is bustling with a wide range of activities such as seasonal events, flea markets, antique markets, art and dance performances, and music.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Yoyogi Park
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Yoyogi Park
- Tours in Yoyogi Park
During the Edo period (1603 – 1868), feudal lords across Japan had second houses in the capital Edo (present day Tokyo) because they were obliged to be in Edo for certain periods to engage in public services (the sankin-kotai system). They built beautiful gardens for these second houses where they entertained guests. For this reason, much passion was put into these gardens by feudal lords who competed with each other to prove that their clan was the best by creating the best garden; many clever ideas and arrangements were incorporated into the gardens. A garden craze ignited by these feudal lords caught on in the town of Edo. Hamarikyu is a garden that was built during this garden craze of Edo. The construction of Hamarikyu began in 1654 when Tsunashige Tokugawa, the young brother of the fourth shogun (military governor), started the construction of his estate. A number of construction projects for the garden and the buildings were conducted by successive shoguns and finally, the garden was completed during the times of the eleventh shogun, Ienari Tokugawa.
The garden is an “excursion type” garden in which visitors can enjoy a variety of changing views while strolling around the garden. Nevertheless, the garden stands out the most for its boldly created huge pond which was constructed by filling up and drawing seawater from the Tokyo Bay. This design was devised with the intention to create views that change by the states of the tide; in addition to enjoying these views, it is said that the residents and their guests had fun fishing saltwater fish which, riding the tide, entered the pond from the sea. The highlights of the garden are this vast seawater pond “Shioiri-no-ike” and the magnificent design of the garden with artificial rolling hills that were created to resemble a natural landscape.
Admission: ¥ 300
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Hamarikyu Gardens
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hamarikyu Gardens
- Tours in Hamarikyu Gardens
What makes Ueno Park special is that it is not just simply a park; you can experience history, science, and culture, and you can also spend time with animals. The park was originally part of the grounds of Kaneiji temple but was designated as one of the earliest public parks in Japan in the Meiji period (1868 – 1912). The park started out mainly as a place for viewing Kaneiji temple, Toshogu shrine and their cherry blossom trees. Subsequently, facilities were built one by one including museums of history and art, as well as a zoo.
Today, you can enjoy not only nature but culture at Ueno Park. After walking around for a while, you can always take a relaxing rest at cafes that have opened near the fountain park which is the focal facility of the Ueno Park. The nearby Tokyo National Museum exhibits approximately 114,000 objects including 87 national treasure items; the museum collection is the best in Japan both in terms of quality and quantity. Photographing is allowed except for the items of special exhibitions.
From mid-July to mid-August, the Shinobazu pond (Shinobazu-no-ike) will delight you with its beautiful lotus flowers. The huge lotus leaves with a diameter of at least 50cm cover the pond; a magnificent and cooling view. From mid-November, the leaves in the park begin to color; the park features ginkgo trees that line a path as well as keyaki (Japanese zelkova) and maple trees.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Ueno Park
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Ueno Park
- Tours in Ueno Park
Imperial Palace East Gardens
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On the grounds of the Imperial Palace East Gardens, which has been open to the public since 1968, stand the innermost circles of defense for old Edo Castle: the honmaru, ninomaru and sannomaru. At the sannomaru, there are also handicrafts that are open to the general public where you can gain insight into Japanese history. The castle tower also remains and visitors can climb up the stone-paved path. The tower was built to have a view of the entire area and so you can have a panoramic view of the Imperial Palace.
Within the Imperial East Gardens, there is a picturesque Japanese garden with ponds and garden stones among a lush green grove of trees. When you walk through the garden, you can certainly undergo a sense of relief and calmness from the rush of the city.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about the Imperial Palace East Gardens
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about the Imperial Palace East Gardens
- Tours in the Imperial Palace East Gardens