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Tokyo's Incredible Urban Oasis: Complete Guide to Shinjuku Gyoen

Tokyo's Incredible Urban Oasis: Complete Guide to Shinjuku Gyoen

Date published: 8 January 2020
Last updated: 14 September 2020

Shinjuku Gyoen is a very large public park. All sorts of flora can be enjoyed here throughout the year such as the cherry blossoms in spring and the autumn leaves in the fall. And this expanse of nature is located in Shinjuku! It feels like a completely different world.

In this article we will tell you in detail about its many attractions and how you can get there.

Table of Contents
  1. An overview of Shinjuku Gyoen and its history
  2. How to get to Shinjuku Gyoen
  3. What to see in Shinjuku Gyoen - From gardens to restaurants!
  4. Shinjuku Gyoen restaurants, cafes and tea rooms
  5. Setting for the animated film “The Garden of Words”

An overview of Shinjuku Gyoen and its history

Shinjuku Gyoen has a long history, beginning with it being the residence of Lord Naito, a vassal of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Later, it was used as an agricultural test site, and was completed in May 1906 as an Imperial Garden. In 1949, it was re-designated as a national garden and opened to the public. With the centennial anniversary of its opening in 2006, it has remained popular as an urban oasis.

How to get to Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Station is also called a labyrinth. The distance from Shinjuku Station to Shinjuku Gyoen is short, but if you go out the wrong exit, you will suddenly find yourself in a completely different world. Shinjuku Gyoen also has three entrances which differ depending on where you enter. Below we will explain how to get to each.

Shinjuku Gyoen: Getting to the Shinjuku Entrance

Shinjuku Gyoen has three entrances: Shinjuku Gate, Okido Gate, and Sendagaya Gate. Of these the Shinjuku Gate is the primary entrance. It is located about a 10 to 15-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station and as it is used more than the other two entrances it is considered to be the main entrance.

We recommend you use the following route when going from JR Shinjuku Station to Shinjuku Gyoen.

① Go out the JR Shinjuku Station Southeast Exit.
➁ Using the escalator and elevator at the southeast exit of JR Shinjuku Station go down to the plaza in front of the station.
③ Cross over the street and go straight along the side of the girder bridge.
④ Continue on to Koshu Kaido and then cross at the Shinjuku 4-chome intersection.
⑤ Continue straight along the road, cross at the pedestrian crossing beyond the Sekaido, and then go over the pedestrian crossing on the right.
⑥ After crossing the street, turn left and go straight.
⑦ The Shinjuku Gate will be on your right and the Information Center on your left.

Shinjuku Gyoen entrance, Shinjuku Gate and Information Center

In addition, when going by train it is a 5-minute walk from Exit E-5 of the Shinjuku Sanchome Station on the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line, a 15-minute walk from Seibu Shinjuku Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line, a 5-minute walk from the Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Exit on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, and a 5-minute walk from either C1 or C5 of the Shinjuku Sanchome Station on the Toei Shinjuku Line.

To get there by bus, use any of the following: board the Toei Bus Shina 97 going to the Shinagawa Garage at the West Exit of Shinjuku Station and get off at the Shinjuku Sanchome bus stop; board the Toei Bus Ike 80 going to Higashi Ikebukuro 4-chome at the East Exit of Shibuya Station and get off at the Shinjuku 4-chome bus stop; board the Toei Bus Haya 77 going to Waseda at the Shinjuku Station West Exit and get off at the Shinjuku Isetan-mae bus stop; or board the Shinjuku WE Bus and get off at the Shinjuku Gyoen bus stop.

Shinjuku Gyoen: Getting to the Okido Entrance

There is a parking lot next to the Okido Gate, which makes it convenient for those going by car. There is a large greenhouse near the entrance.

When going by train, take the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line to the Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station and go out Exit 2; from there it is a 5-minute walk.
By bus, board the Toei Bus Shina 97 going to Shinagawa Garage at the Shinjuku Station West Exit and get off at the Shinjuku 1-chome bus stop or board the Toei Bus Haya 81 going to Sodai Seimon at the Shibuya Station East Exit and get off at the Yotsuya 4-chome bus stop.

Shinjuku Gyoen: Getting to the Sendagaya Entrance
The Sendagaya Gate is the least used of the three entrances, however, if you enter here the large lawn area known as Children's Square is nearby.

When coming by train it is a 5-minute walk from Sendagaya Station on the JR Sobu Line and a 5-minute walk from Exit A5 of the National Stadium Station on the Toei Subway Oedo Line.

When coming by bus, board the Kuro 77 Toei Bus going to Meguro Station at the Sendagaya Station and get off at the Sendagaya Ekimae bus stop, or board the Haya 81 Toei Bus going to Sodai Seimon at the East Exit of Shibuya Station and get off at the Sendagaya Ekimae bus stop.

What to see in Shinjuku Gyoen - From gardens to restaurants!

Shinjuku Gyoen is 58.3 hectares in area and 3.5 square kilometers in circumference, so it may be difficult to choose where to go first. Here, we will introduce selected spots that you should definitely visit when you come to Shinjuku Gyoen.

A Japanese garden where you can enjoy the uniqueness of Japan
When you come to Shinjuku Gyoen, be sure to stop by the Japanese garden. This is a spacious area that is very Japanese in style. Not only Japanese but also many foreign tourists visit here, taking lots photos, and very much enjoying the garden.

Elegant Japanese garden

This Japanese garden perfectly conveys the image and culture of Japan. It was designed to go along with the flow of the pond.

Carp coming up to the surface

There are many carp swimming in the pond of the Japanese garden. Sometimes you can even see turtles sitting on rocks.

The Former Goryotei, a historical structure you can visit
The Former Goryotei, is one of only a few authentic Chinese-style structures in Japan. The roof style, color, and interior faithfully convey the Chinese style.

The Chinese style architecture of the Former Goryotei

There is a peculiar tranquility in the Former Goryotei, and it has a cool atmosphere different from other places in the Japanese garden.

A view of the pond from the Former Goryotei

You can view the pond from inside the Former Goryotei. The reflection of the trees and sky on the pond are so pretty that one never tires of looking at them.

Western-style gardens
The formal garden is a beautifully symmetrical garden. In the center the flower beds contain about 500 roses of 110 different varieties, and on the left and right extending for about 200 meters is a row of sycamore trees. In this garden, you can enjoy European style scenery, which is different from the Japanese style and Asian style scenery.

Symmetrical formal garden

It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to walk from the Japanese garden to the formal garden. The transition from the Japanese Garden to the Formal Garden is made effortlessly and is one of the masterpieces of Shinjuku Gyoen.

Centrally placed rose flowerbeds

Rose flowerbeds. We could see autumn roses when we made this report in the middle of November. The best time for viewing autumn roses is from the middle of October to the end of November.

A row of sycamore trees with beautiful autumn leaves

Among the many spots in Shinjuku Gyoen, the sycamore trees are especially beautiful, evoking a romantic feeling like one in a movie scene. People of all ages come to enjoy and photograph the autumn leaves.

Landscape garden with impressive wide lawn with buildings in the background
The landscape garden is a garden characterized by open grass and huge trees. Between the towering tulip trees, the symbolic tree of Shinjuku Gyoen, skyscrapers can be seen.

A landscape garden with a pleasing open lawn

The landscape garden is a garden characterized by open grass and huge trees. Between the towering tulip trees, the symbolic tree of Shinjuku Gyoen, a skyscraper can be seen.

The NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building can be seen from between the trees

On the lawn you can see people lying on the grass and families enjoying picnics. Isn't it a really pleasant place on a sunny day?

Large greenhouse where various kinds of plants can be seen
There is a large greenhouse that reopened in 2012 near the Okido Gate.

You can see tropical plants from all over the world, Japanese plants from the Ogasawara Islands and Okinawa, and you can also see western orchids since Shinjuku Gyoen is the birthplace of full-fledged orchid cultivation in Japan.

Large greenhouse where you can enjoy tropical plants and plants from all over Japan

The large greenhouse is warm even in winter, so if you come to Shinjuku Gyoen in winter, this is a good place to get warm.

Former Western-style Rest House is designated an important cultural property
The former Western-style Rest House, a facility designated as an important cultural property, is near the large greenhouse. Originally it was built as a place for the Imperial Family to rest when they came to view the plants in the greenhouse.

Later, after it was used as a rest house for the Imperial Family, it was turned into a club house for golf and tennis, and until 1994 it functioned as an administrative office. It underwent renovation in 2000 which was completed in 2001. It has been designated as an Important Cultural Property as a historic and culturally valuable building.

Western-style building in Shinjuku Gyoen, formerly the Imperial Rest House

Open to the public on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays every month. Please check the Shinjuku Gyoen website of the Ministry of the Environment for notices and park hours. Please note that it is forbidden to take photos inside the Rest House.

Shinjuku Gyoen restaurants, cafes and tea rooms

There are places and restaurants where you can take a break in Shinjuku Gyoen. These are good places to stop for a rest when walking about the expansive Shinjuku Gyoen.

Enjoy lunch at the Eco House Restaurant Yurinoki

The Shinjuku Gate is closest to the Eco House Restaurant Yurinoki. It is located in the landscape garden. The menu offers dishes made with ingredients related to Shinjuku Gyoen. The "Food Information Corner" introduces useful information for eco-conscious living, such as the history of vegetables and fruits and how to enjoy them in each season.

Recommended menu: Sika venison curry rice (with Naito pepper)

A recommended dish is the Sika venison curry rice (with Naito pepper). You can enjoy a curry made with Sika venison, a game deer meat of Hokkaido, together with vegetables related to Shinjuku Gyoen. Venison is rich in iron and minerals, low in calories, low in fat, and high in protein.

* Naito pepper is a pepper that was grown in Naito Shinjuku and is said to have created a huge boom during the Edo period. There are not many opportunities to eat venison, such as Sika venison. Why not try it when visiting Shinjuku Gyoen?

Terrace and shop outside the restaurant

Naito pepper crepe can also be purchased at the shop outside the restaurant.

Tea house Rakuu-tei where you can enjoy matcha

Tea house set in a plum grove

Tea house Rakuu-tei is a tea room located in a grove of plum trees in the Japanese garden. It features a magnificent Japanese-style building and garden, and is a spot where you can feel the Japanese soul known as wabi-sabi. At the tea room, you can enjoy matcha with seasonal Japanese sweets for 700 yen. Open: 10:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. It is also possible to rent the tea room if you make a request.

Cafe Hananoki inside the Information Center

Cafe Hananoki is a cafeteria located in the Information Center next to the entrance of the Shinjuku Gate. There are not only snacks, such as ice cream, but also light meals such as curries, so this is also a good place for lunch.

Cafe Hananoki inside the Information Center

Setting for the animated film “The Garden of Words”

Shinjuku Gyoen was also the setting for the animated film “The Garden of Words”. This work was also made into a huge hit movie, "Your Name", directed by Makoto Shinkai; the movie is noted for its beauty. It has become popular among fans of these works to make pilgrimages to Shinjuku Gyoen, which was the setting for the movies.

Although various places in Shinjuku Gyoen are depicted in The Garden of Words, the one that appears most often in the work is the arbor near the former Goryo-tei. It is a place where the main character Takao, a high school student, and the heroine, Yukino, exchange words. There is a scene in the movie where they drink beer, but please note that bringing alcoholic beverages or drinking them in Shinjuku Gyoen Garden is prohibited.

The arbor where the two exchanged words

Next is the wisteria trellis, which was used as a key visual in the Garden of Words. You need to be careful because it is so unobtrusive that you can overlook it if you are not careful.

A view of the wisteria trellis from the former Goryo-tei

The arbor and wisteria trellis are particularly popular spots and are widely recognized as "holy places" by fans. Fans of The Garden of Words will particularly enjoy visiting here.

There are many things to see in Shinjuku Gyoen; so many in fact, that you would not become bored even after a full day. If you have come to Tokyo on a trip but have tired of the hustle and bustle of the city, or if you want to soothe away the fatigue of everyday life, then you will certainly enjoy a visit here. You will feel as if your spirit has been refreshed.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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