Tokyo, one of the biggest metropolis on earth and, with no doubt, the most populated one.
Ads and huge tv screens anywhere, sparkling lights, skyscrapers, Shibuya’s famous scramble crossing, fast (not to mention punctual) bullet trains. These are only some of the images that likely cross people’s minds when they try to picture this modern city. It thus comes as a surprise to many that Tokyo is actually full of greeneries. Indeed, many beautiful parks and gardens can be found scattered around the city.
These areas become the “sacred” place for both visitors and residents alike to take a break from the grey landscape of Tokyo’s architecture. Parks offer a tranquil escape from the exciting but, at times, stressful city life. They also hold a very important role in Japanese social customs. Yes, because these locations represent the heart and soul of Japan’s social traditions during both the famous cherry blossoms and autumn leaves seasons. On these occasions, families and friends meet up to enjoy and cheerfully celebrate the beauty of nature.
If you’re visiting Tokyo and ever feel the need of a break far from the crowds and the noise of the city, but don’t have the time to go hiking somewhere, then you should definitely take some time to chill at these beautiful parks and gardens!
Here’s a list of those you shouldn’t miss!
Beautiful Parks and Gardens to visit in Tokyo
Probably Tokyo’s most famous park, Ueno offers the chance to relish the beauties of nature, while experiencing great cultural and entertaining activities. Its grounds house several museums, Tokyo’s well-known Ueno Zoo and the Toshogu Shrine. You can choose whether to explore one of these or just relax on a bench underneath the shade of a tree.
The park, whose alleys come alive with many street artists’ performances, is also known as one of the most popular cherry blossom spots. As a result, crowds of Japanese gather here in spring to hold their famous hanami parties (the Japanese tradition of admiring the beauty of flowers while enjoying some food and drinks).
Second most popular park in Tokyo, Yoyogi is a gem of nature right in the heart of the city. If you’re into meetups and group activities, this is the place to go. It is not uncommon to come across groups of people practicing their favorite pastime here, from yoga and kickboxing to any style of dance, music instrument, and much more! The park is thus one of the most popular meeting spots on weekends. It’s also one of the areas for couples to go chill during a nice date.
Interestingly, the south side regularly hosts many festivals, from local fairs to events introducing foreign cultures. The park is also located a few steps away from the famous Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku’s Takeshita shopping street. This makes it the perfect place to take a break after a morning of shopping or cultural visits.
For just ¥200, Shinjuku Gyoen offers a nice escape from the buzzing area of Shinjuku. The park is comprised of three different styles, a French garden, an English landscape garden and a traditional Japanese garden, making it a very interesting place to go for a walk. A greenhouse with tropical and subtropical flowers completes the scene.
Thanks to the high number of cherry trees, the park is also one of the most pleasant hanami spots in Tokyo. But not only! It’s also worth visiting in autumn when its beautiful maple trees turn into thousands of shades of red and yellow.
Known as one of the most beautiful Edo-style gardens, Rikugien was built around a large central pond. The garden is a MUST see in autumn, being one of the most fascinating spots to enjoy the autumn leaves. The annual Autumn Evening Illumination event also offers visitors a magical experience: you will enjoy the beautiful contrasts of the red leaves and night lights and their delightful reflexion on the pond. For this occasion, the park remains open until 9.00 pm (last entry 8.30).
HAMA RIKYU GARDEN
No doubts this is my favorite garden in Tokyo. Despite being quite small, Hama Rikyu offers you the landscape of a traditional Japanese garden with the starkly contrasting skyscrapers in the background! A contrast that will make you fall in love with such a spectacular view! Beyond the usual cherry trees, the garden is home to several different species of flowers which bloom in spring, including the beautiful canola flowers, which, around March, turn the garden into a stunning vast yellow field.
Located just 15 minutes away from central Tokyo, in the trendy neighborhood of Kichijoji, Inokashira park offers visitors several attractions. From a lovely pond equipped with rental boats, a beautiful temple, and a small zoo, to the famous Studio Ghibli Museum situated on the southern side. The park, which at weekends is filled up with street artists and musicians, is also a popular date spot among young Japanese. Both Kichijoji and the park are definitely worth a visit.
Another popular Hanami spot to enjoy the cherry blossoms, Koganei Park is the ideal place to relax while enjoying some physical activity. The park hosts an annual cherry blossom festival, held around the beginning of April. It is also home to the “Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum”, where you can enjoy the remainings of traditional Edo Period buildings. Why not combine a relaxing walk around the park, with a cultural visit to this open-air museum and learn more about Japan’s old customs and lifestyle?
SHOWA KINEN PARK
Showa Memorial Park is located 30 minutes away from Shinjuku, in the area that was once the site of the old Tachikawa Airbase. The park is famous for its seasonal flowers. Beyond its lush nature, it also offers visitors plenty of attractions, including many sports facilities, a large pond with rental boats, picnic areas, walking trails, beautiful Japanese and Western style gardens, a bonsai museum as well as the “Emperor Showa Memorial Museum“.
JINDAIJI BOTANICAL GARDEN
(¥500 to visit the main area)
Tokyo’s main botanical garden is the ideal place for flower enthusiasts. Here you will be able to admire several different botanical species, including beautiful azaleas, roses, plum and cherry trees. The garden also houses a greenhouse where tropical and subtropical species can be enjoyed throughout the whole year.
Right next to the garden, lies Jindaiji Temple, one of the oldest ones in Tokyo. The temple is worth a visit not only for its historical and cultural significance but also because of the beautiful surroundings, which will give you a hint of how Japan could have looked like in the old times. Near the main gate (Sanmon Gate) you will also find many delicious soba restaurants.
If you’re looking for a place to have a nice chill barbecue, Nogawa Park is the perfect spot! Located between the cities of Koganei and Mitaka, just half an hour away from Shinjuku, this lovely park is very popular among families who at weekends gather here to have picnics and barbecues. The area is also famous for its beautiful spider lilies which bloom between spring and summer.
Enjoy your relaxing day at one of these beautiful parks and gardens!
While these are among my favorites, there are still many more beautiful parks and gardens in Tokyo that are worth a visit. Why not go explore them during your trip to Japan’s biggest city and capital?
And if you still happen to feel the need of escaping Tokyo for a day trip, check out my article: “EASY HIKING ADVENTURES AROUND TOKYO“.