The entrance to the Institute for Nature Study is in front of Meguro Street, about a 10-minute walk from Shirokanedai Station, or Meguro Station. In this area, there used to be a residential castle of a powerful family 400 to 500 years ago. After that, the daimyo of Takamatsu-han domain (powerful feudal lords in Edo period) built his suburban residence. Later, a military explosives warehouse was placed, and after the control changed from the army to the Imperial Household Department, the area became to be called Shirokane-goryochi until it became the present state. Because the site had not been open for general public for a long time, the natural environment preserved abundant lives. In 1949, it was designated as a natural monument, as well as a historical landmark.
The urban scenery surrounding you will completely change when you take a step inside the park. The thickly thriving forest is surprisingly overwhelming. Lanes and trails inside are maintained, but as much as possible, trees and vegetation are left as they are. This natural forest with minimum artificial maintenance will draw your interest in various ways.
Because the ground is very large, and the management limits the number of visitors to no more than 300, you will not feel that it is crowded. Even those who do not like busy places can spend a relaxing time here. We recommend you to take short rests in between your stroll. Resting areas and lavatories are available within the park.
When you walk further into the park, a conspicuously large tree will come into your view! This tree was named Orochi-no-Matsu (giant snake pine) because the bark looks like that of an orochi (a large snake), and is said to be 300 years old. It is amazing that such an old tree is still thriving in the middle of the city! You will feel the warmth and energy of nature, bathing under the twinkling sunbeams streaming through the leaves of trees.
After leaving the forest, you will find an aquatic botanical garden with a stretching swamp and wetlands in an open area. You can leisurely walk on a wooden footpath that is cross-linked over the boggy area. You may want to stretch your body and take a deep breath in the middle of nature.
The Institute for Nature Study
After strolling around the park, now let's move to the nearby Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. This art museum, which opened its doors in 1983, is out of ordinary among other museums in Tokyo. Located in the middle of the city, the museum harmonizes its art exhibitions, which utilize the former official residence of Asaka-no-miya (a branch of the Japanese Imperial Family) constructed in the early Showa period employing an Art Deco style, and the lushly green garden. After improvement of the old building, and an extension for a gallery and a cafe was added, the museum was re-opened in November 2014. In front of the art museum, there is a wide spread of lawn. You can put down a mat and eat your meal on this lawn.
Walk along the approach to the museum, you will arrive at the entrance of the art museum's main building, which used to be the former residence of Asaka-no-miya. The Asaka-no-miya couple, who were charmed by the then popular Art Deco style in France, had this building constructed in 1933 as their residence. It is now considered as a historical structure. The interior is the perfect recreation of Art Deco style by skilled artisans and designers from Japan and France. The building is filled with so many highlights that it is no exaggeration to consider the building itself as a work of art. The main and new buildings are connected within the architecture, but entering each structure requires a special entrance fee.
After buying your souvenirs, you can take a rest at Cafe du Palais located in front of the museum shop. The fatigue you have accumulated during the day will surely disappear while viewing the scenery outside through the glass window. You need to have your admission ticket for the art museum to use the cafe. Be careful not to lose it!
The popular orders in the cafe are the original chiffon cake (featuring seasonal flavors like lemon and elder flower) and the blend coffee (Teien Blend). The chiffon cake has fluffy texture and light taste, and goes extraordinarily well with the specially blended Horiguchi coffee. If you are hungry, we recommend you to order the special meal set that includes a sandwich, chiffon cake, and a choice of coffee or black tea. The black tea is made from the tea leaves of the well-established tea shop Betjeman & Barton in Paris.
The view from inside the store is lovely, but we also suggest you to use the terrace if the weather is good. Being surrounded by the wide clear sky and plenty of greenery, it is as if you were at an art museum in the highlands. You will certainly have a pleasant time with the open feeling the place brings.
*This information is from the time of this article's publication.