Parks and Squares in Tokyo
For a city full of sky-scrapers, Tokyo has its fair share of green areas to enjoy some solace. Japanese people adore flowers, which is most apparent during the annual cherry blossom season. Many gardens in Tokyo were created by nobles for their pleasure; while temple gardens are perfect for contemplation.
Happo-en, meaning 'Garden of Eight Views', are traditional Japanese gardens on what was once the land of a Shogun. One area features rare Bonsai trees, some over 500 years old. There is also an historic teahouse where visitors can experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
Originally part of the residence of feudal lords during the Edo period, Shinjuku Gyoen is a sprawling park with large lawns, trees and ponds, and is often said to be the most beautiful park in Tokyo. It’s a prime cherry blossom viewing site in season.
In stark contrast to Shinjuku Gyoen, Yoyogi Park, near Harajuku and the Meiji Shrine, is where you’re likely to see Tokyoites come out to play. On Sundays, hordes of hip-hop dancers and rockabilly gangs, complete with poodle skirts and Elvis impersonators come out in force.
Imperial Palace East Gardens
While the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace are generally not open to the public (except 23 December (Emperor's Birthday) and 2 January (New Year), the East Gardens of the former Edo Castle are. Visit the Museum of Imperial Collections that houses around 10,000 artworks.
Ueno Park was one of Tokyo’s first official parks, established in 1873. A variety of first class museums are linked by the green space, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the National Science Museum.
Flanking both sides of the Sumida River, this park offers a quiet retreat after sightseeing at Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa. In spring, more than 1,000 cherry trees on both banks burst into bloom; while in summer it’s the site of the Sumida River Fireworks Festival.
The Institute for Nature Study National Reserve
Perhaps one of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets, the natural reserve (Shizen Kyoiku-en) is situated in the heart of Tokyo, near Meguro Station. The park is operated by the National Museum of Nature and Science whose aim is to preserve Tokyo’s natural environment of forests and marshlands.
Based on the poetry of a 17th century haiku master, Rikugien literally means "six poems garden" and displays 88 scenes from famous poems in miniature. Winding walking trails lead to several teahouses. Maple trees turn the garden into one of Tokyo's best autumn colour spots.
Jindai Botanical Garden
Tokyo’s first botanical garden, Jindai has around 100,000 trees and thirty different areas which feature just one kind of plant. There’s more than 400 varieties of roses, and a riot of vividly coloured azaleas. Different flowering times means there’s something in bloom almost every month.
Hama Rikyu Garden
Created more than 300 years ago, this large attractive garden in central Tokyo alongside Tokyo Bay features a traditional Japanese garden complete with moon-viewing pavilions, a teahouse, and other remnants of its Edo-era origins, providing stark contrast to the skyscrapers of the adjacent Shiodome district.