Shinjuku Gyoen: A National Garden of Rich Folliage & A War Past

With a never-ending line of trees, flowers that blossom in all colors and sizes, and a dense green that spreads underneath the vast blue sky, Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the best natural attractions in Tokyo holding the district’s charm and remains as witness to the wars of the past.

It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and for good reason. Located in Shibuya and Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a large park with a massive 60 hectares of garden landscape.

It stands tall with over 20,000 trees, traditional buildings, and a history that is sure to pique your interest. Recommended as one of the top places to visit in Tokyo, this park is guaranteed to go on the sight-seeing list of every traveler stopping by in Japan.

The Garden’s Surprising Rich History

Photo credit: Wiki comms

Formed 400 years ago and is more alive than ever today, Shinjuku Gyoen was originally a residence for the Naito family, one of the nobles in Japan, during the Edo Period (1603-1868).  The residence was then bought by the Imperial Family in 1903 and converted into a botanical garden named “Shinjuku Botanical Garden” for recreational and entertaining purposes. While it still served as the imperial estate, this was the first step in turning the imperial botanical garden into the world-renowned Shinjuku Gyoen.

The park suffered misfortune when it was hit by the chaos of world World War II and was completely destroyed. The ruined gardens were then used as farmland to curb the famine that hit Japan during that time. In 1947, it was rebuilt under the new Japanese constitution and opened to the public as the now-famous “Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.”

Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens’ 3 Styles

Shinjuku Gyoen’s vast expanse of trees and flowers is divided into 3 separate styles with their own unique landscapes, designs and identity.

Traditional Japanese Garden

Since Shinjuku is situated in Japan and has a very prominent history with Japanese lords, the Traditional Japanese Garden is the most popular and oldest of the gardens. Ponds linked in traditional style and old tea houses recreate the atmosphere of the old Edo period.

A Taiwan-style pavilion sits in between the dense trees and is part of the garden’s history. This pavilion is called Kyu Goryotei and was given as a wedding gift to Emperor Showa by the Taiwanese community in Japan.

English Garden

A spacious place spread out across the area, the English garden consists of a western-style landscape with an equally western-style building. This particular building was built in 1896 and was used as a rest stop for the imperial family. This building along with the Kyu-Goryotei in the Japanese Garden are the only two things in Shinjuku Gyoen that survived the airstrikes during World War II

French Gardens

French Garden
Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut via Flickr

The second popular garden in Shinjuku Gyoen, the French Garden stands out from the rest of the landscape for its symmetrical structure and the vast array of flowers planted here. The different species of flora are fit for the specific four seasons so, in each season, the French Garden changes its blooming look and takes on unique landscapes that match the weather.

Tamano Pond

Tamano pond in Shinjuku Gyoen
Photo credit: Unsplash

As stated above, Shinjuku Gyoen was first built as a residence for the Naito family, and visitors today can see glimpses of the Edo-time with its landscapes. The Tamano Pond was where their garden, Tamagawa-en, used to be. A wooden bridge arches over a small lake in true Nihon style with a serene atmosphere.

The Best Place to Witness Japan’s Four Seasons

Shinjuku Gyoen’s natural landscape is famous for reflecting all four of Japan’s seasons. The best time to visit Shinjuku Gyoen depends on the season you love and what type of flowery landscape you want to see.

Spring (March to May) – Cherry Blossom Festival

A sight where a thousand petals scatter into the wind like pink rain, the cherry blossom festival in Japan is renowned for its Sakura flower viewing experience where hoards of people come together to witness this short-lived beauty.

Shinjuku Gyoen has over 1,000 cherry trees blooming coloring the scene in ethereal pastel pink. This is also one of the busiest times for the park where travelers and visitors of all ages and types gather.

Summer (June to August) – Hydrangeas & Roses

Visiting Shinjuku Gyoen in summer means seeing the thick lavender hydrangeas in full bloom from beneath your umbrella amidst summer rains. These beauties usually appear from June to July and are an experience akin to an anime scene.

The summer months are also the time when the roses in the French Garden come alive to say hello in all their red glory.

Autumn (September to October) – Annual Chrysanthemum Show

Photo credit: Unsplash

Shinjuku Gyoen in autumn is the time for the garden with its annual chrysanthemum show that takes place from November 1st to 15th each year. Chrysanthemum is known as Japan’s imperial flower and is grown with extraordinary care. They are displayed in impressive forms during the event.

The park also turns into beautiful shades of oranges poking out in between fading green.

Winter (December to February)

While Winter is known to be a barren white landscape, Shinjuku Gyoen in winter has some impressive camellias (the native flower of Japan) that make their appearance during the chilly days of the year.

A greenhouse with warmer rooms welcomes all visitors that want to take refuge and heat up their cold fingertips. The garden also has yukizuri (snow protectors for trees) in case the white flakes come flurrying down. Hop under these cone-shaped shields and you’ll keep yourself away from the snow.

One of Real-Life Anime Locations

A still of anime “Garden of Words” (above) with its real-life counterpart (below)

Shinjuku Gyoen is also one of the most famous anime places in real life among anime fans. Its beauty was captured in an anime called “Garden of Words” directed by award-winning director ‘Makoto Shinkai’. So don’t be surprised if this beauty pops up whenever you google “Garden of Words real life location”.

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