Day 4: Shinjuku Gyoen on the cherry blossom season

HAVE you ever wandered around a Japanese feudal lord’s estate? I did. Well, at least once it was.
Sakura petals so delicate that the cold winds can blow them away off the branches.

The green space in Tokyo central was a land bequeathed by a shogun to a feudal lord in the Edo period. This became the Tokyo residence of the Lord Naito and his family, who created and completed a garden in 1772.

Shinjuku Gyoen was once the property of a feudal lord, Lord Naito.

It was converted to a botanical before it became an imperial garden in 1879.

Air raids during the 2nd World War II razed most of the garden, but was rebuilt and opened as National Park Shinjuku Imperial Gardens in 1949. In 2001, it was officially named as Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

Today, Shinjuku Gyoen is one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks. It’s a tranquil area a relaxing escape from the busy metropolitan district of modern day Edo.

Hanami in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Within the area of more than 58 hectares and a 3.5-kilometer circumference, three garden styles are laid out, a configuration completed in 1906—the French Formal and English landscape gardens in its distinctive the symmetrical style on the north of the property, and to the to the south is the traditional Japanese garden that features large ponds and bridges, well-manicured shrubs and trees, and several pavilions including the KyuGoryotei (aka the Taiwan Pavilion), which was erected for the Showa Emperor’s wedding.
Soon robed in green. The symmetry of trees at the French & English Gardens
This way to the Japanese traditional garden.
A water feature in the Traditional Japanese Garden of Shinjuku Gyoen
The view from the higher ground of the Japanese Traditional Garden in Shinjuku Gyoen

In November, temporary pavilions are erected in this area for the chrysanthemum exhibition.

The greenhouses have always been an integral part of the garden since 1892, it’s where horticulture work transpires.


The new greenhouse, built in 1950, is a showcase as well with its permanent display of over 1,700 tropical and subtropical plant species.

With that amount of plants in the greenhouse, imagine what Shinjuku Gyoen can hold. No less than 20,000 trees are in this garden—tulip trees and cypresses first planted in the Imperial Gardens, majestic Himalayan cedars dwarfing other trees, and hundreds of cherry trees that take turns in blooming.

Dwarfed by nature’s giants.
One of the most photographed scenes in the garden.

Come spring, it’s not surprising why Shinjuku Gyoen is a crowd drawer and named as one of the best places in Tokyo for the hanami.

More people arriving.
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of Tokyo’s best hanami spots

The 1,500 cherry trees (approximate) reach its peak bloom at separate times from the onset of the cherry blossom season— the Shidare or Weeping Cherry blooms in late March, the Somei or Tokyo Cherry in early April and the Kanzan Cherry in late April.

Amazing tree. The sakura blooms even from the tree trunk.
Blooms from a single tree. There are 1,500 sakura trees in the garden.
Spot the colors of 2016 on this shot.
This must be the Shidare, the weeping cherry blossom tree.

The extended display allows visitors a longer period of celebrating the season.

The park was in my bucket list and I made sure I visited it in springtime.

Losing myself in sakura

The place is not hard to locate. The south gate (one of three gates) is a 10-minute walk from the JR Shinjuku station. You could ask any tourist police stationed along the roadsides or just follow the throngs of people ahead of you. During this season, chances are they’re heading towards the park.

Follow the crowd, they will lead you to the garden.

Even from a distance, I gasped at the sight of the millions of blooms ahead.

I cannot imagine how it is living like Lord Naito at the center of this beauty, but I am content on walking beside and under the clouds of petals that exist fleetingly.

If the garden is magical in spring, they say it’s as phenomenal in autumn when shades of gold and red radiates from the landscape.

The photographer & his muse. One among the few seen in the garden
The muse
And another beauty.

Open daily during the cherry blossom season from late March to late April from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Entrance fee: 200yen. Experience: priceless!

For Y200 I was taken inside Shinjuku’s heaven in springtime.
Sayonara, for this day at least. Hundreds leave the garden at closing time.

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