Tokyobling's Blog

Shinjuku Gyoen

Posted in Places by tokyobling on October 8, 2010

Tokyo is famous for a lot of things, and beautiful nature is definitely not one of them. When we get different quality of life rankings from (mostly) American expat consultancy groups we tend to hear how many square meters of parks there are per inhabitant in all major cities around the world and usually Chinese and Japanese cities rank at the rock bottom of those. In fact, the only Japanese city that I can think of that even comes close to having a reasonable amount of park space would be Nara, but even Nara can’t compete to European or North American cities.

But park space per inhabitant is not all that counts my friends! One thing many of these rankings fail to consider is the travel distance from park to home, and if you consider that, there are major parks within 15 minutes on the bus or train from almost all Tokyo homes. I have one major park within walking distance (15 minutes on foot) and two other huge parks within 15 minutes on the train or subway. Not bad!

So, if you are in Tokyo and interested in experiencing a little bit of greenery, the place where you get most bang for your bucks is without doubt the Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑). It is huge, and just walking through all of it will take qute some time. It is one of Tokyo’s imperial gardens but it was completely destroyed in May 1945 during the intense fire bombing of Tokyo at the end of the war. When it reopened in 1949 it was as a public park and it is now open most days of the year, during daytime hours only. One of the main attractions of the park is that it is actually not free to enter, you’ll have to pay 200 yen for the privilege. 200 yen is about half a Starbucks latte. In return, you get 58.3 acres of French, Japanese, English and Nature gardens divided in two Tokyo wards, Shibuya ward and Shinjuku ward. The Shinjuku Gyoen is easily one of the most well managed larger public parks in the world. As a photographer I often meet people interested in using the park as place for photo shoots, and although photography is allowed in the park, light stands and bouncers are not, unless you can find a way to do it undetected, which is not that hard if you are a little sneaky.

As I have stated many times on this blog, nature photography is absolutely not my thing and I think these pictures prove it. I shot these with my trusty old Nikkor 20mm f2.8 and put a POL-C filter on to get the sky properly. Interestingly, the large building in the last photo is the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building which also happens to be the tallest clock tower in the world (right until the rather amazing Abraj Al Bait Towers in Mecca or completed). It is the third tallest building in Tokyo (at 240m) and despite the prime location it is closed to the public and used primarily as a technical installation for cell phone services in the greater Tokyo area. You can tell that it is modeled on the Empire State building in New York, following a grand tradition of building and places inspired by landmarks in the Big Apple.

© All images copyrighted. Please use only with permission.

12 Responses

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  1. Lili said, on October 8, 2010 at 6:29 am

    I can only congratulate you for these beautiful pictures!
    The ones with the dappled sky are amazing!
    Japanese parks and traditional gardens are wonderful. Real oasis of beauty and tranquility in the urban jungle of great cities as Tokyo!
    And so clean… I’m so sad to see the lack of respect for Nature from a lot of people here in France…
    Unfortunately I haven’t visited this park. One more reason to go back to Tokyo!!!
    Thanks again for this piece of hapiness!!


    • tokyobling said, on October 12, 2010 at 2:36 am

      Hi Lili, and thanks for the wonderful comment! It’s always good to keep somethings to come back for. I love parks in France too, it’s been many years since I had time to stroll around in Paris or Nice though.


  2. Christoffer Lernö said, on October 8, 2010 at 7:20 am

    A really beautiful park! I saw similar interest in beautiful parks in Taiwan, whereas here in Sweden it seems like the politicians consider a park finished if they’ve made sure it has a lawn.


    • tokyobling said, on October 12, 2010 at 2:32 am

      Right you are! A lot of western parks are like that, a lawn and maybe a tree and that is all the government needs to classify it as a park. I sure wish we had more parks like this in Europe!


  3. Steve said, on October 8, 2010 at 8:02 am

    I love the gyoen at Shinjuku! One of my favourite places in Tokyo and such a contrast to walk through Shinjuku station and then head to park for peace and quiet.

    I have photos very like yours from hanami time in 2009 🙂 except not so well taken…



    • tokyobling said, on October 12, 2010 at 2:31 am

      Thanks Steve, your photos are beautiful. I have been there a few times during hanami season but I never posted photos from that, I think. It reminds me I have to go for next year’s season!


  4. exmonitress said, on October 8, 2010 at 9:23 am

    The ones with the dappled sky are amazing!
    ==> AGREE


  5. Julie (JUURI) said, on October 8, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Oh, yay! So intensely beautiful! I haven’t gone here before (ever, I think) so I’ll def. have to put that on my list for next time! And you are GREAT at nature shots, silly!


    • tokyobling said, on October 12, 2010 at 2:26 am

      Thanks for the kind words Julie. I still have a long way to go before I can take nature photos that even come close to matching what I can see with my own two eyes…!


  6. slouchingsomewhere said, on October 10, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Your photos look great to me as usual 🙂 I didn’t get to go to Shinjuku gyoen when I was in Tokyo so I love this post.


    • tokyobling said, on October 12, 2010 at 2:06 am

      Thanks! I’m so happy you like them. Well, it’s always good to leave a little something to discover for the next time you visit Tokyo. There are still a few places and things I have left blank on purpose, I don’t want to rush in and do all things at once, despite all these years I have spent here!


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