Having stayed in the vicinity several times, somehow I’d never stumbled across Shinjuku Park! This sunny morning was a perfect time for a visit, and it was a lovely place to relax for a few hours, away from the busy city. You’d never believe you’re right next to the busiest station in the world.
It’s a large park with green open fields like where we had our picnic, benches and wilder, natural areas like the shady forest you can see in the video, as well as more formal Japanese gardens. The pools, bridges and tea-houses look very Japanese and, even if you’re not into visiting gardens, are an elegant touch of traditional Japanese style.
Shinjuku Park vs Yoyogi Park
Compared to Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku Park is more beautiful and lush, and has the traditional gardens. It might depend when you visit, but in my experience Yoyogi is more full of action, with groups of people getting up to all kinds of things (we even saw people in suits rehearsing a play with plastic guns!). There’s really no reason not to visit both when you’re in the area, and Yoyogi is a good place to escape for a picnic when you’re in Harajuku.
Whenever I’ve visited parks in Tokyo, they’re always full of life, and it’s great to see people out using their open spaces and making the most of them. Not just walking and sitting; as you can see in the video we spotted a photography class, a man painting and a tai chi group. This may be because Tokyo’s so densely populated and houses are small; people tend to go out more for their activities. I’ve also heard that musicians are often not allowed to make noise at home, especially in apartments, so they go out to practice – which just adds to the atmosphere!
While the breads and cakes in convenience stores are good, they’re so much fresher at bakeries. If you spot one while you’re in Japan I’d definitely recommend trying some treats! There’s a wonderful selection of items both cute and delicious. The same was true for the bakery we visited in Nakano, which had that delicious maple syrup melon pan.
One of the special things about visiting another country is the different set of flavours – edamame in mochi bread is completely different to anything you’d find in a bakery in the UK and it was delicious. I really wish I’d tried more things (if only my stomach was bigger!). I’m already looking forward to them next time.
How to get to Shinjuku Gyoen
Shinjuku Gyoen is an easy walk from Shinjuku Station and the main area of Shinjuku, which has lots of shops and restaurants. There are signs on the street nearby to follow (in English as well as Japanese). Remember that Shinjuku Station is huge, with many exits on different sides, so follow the signs for the South Exit.