5 Parks to Show the 5 Faces of Tokyo
Tokyo, a city crammed with misconceptions, loose interpretations and false representations. But one thing is indisputable — nature is very much alive and at the forefront of every Tokyoite's consciousness.
Yes, concrete and glass is the undeniable prominence, but look a little deeper and longer and you'll discover a plentiful array of priceless parks and luscious greenery. Allow me to shine the spotlight on my favourite five.
Tokyo’s Pretty Face: Shinjuku Gyoen
If you're looking for a break from the small sidewalks and marching masses of Shinjuku, take a sharp sidestep and slide into the soft tranquillity that is Shinjuku Gyoen. A short stone's throw from Shinjuku centre, this sensual sanctuary of scented flora, gloriously green grass and always welcoming allure will make even the weariest traveller slow down a step or two.
Blend its newly-constructed, gargantuan greenhouse, home to horticulture from around the globe, with its lovely landscapes and breath-taking oriental backdrops to brew up a calming concoction which will last the whole day.
Tokyo’s Quirky Face: Yoyogi Park
If slow isn't the way you want to go, it would be a crime to pass up the prime park championed in all tourist guides — Yoyogi Koen. Unrivalled in wonderful weirdness but impossibly indescribable, every day brings a showcase of varying but voracious oddities. From tom-tom playing talents to tap dancing teens, the red carpet is always rolled out for those looking to revel in the relief of alternative and open-minded exploration.
Add to this a seemingly never-ending supply of weekly festivals, markets and bazaars, and you could find that an afternoon stroll turns into a stay extending way past sunset.
Tokyo’s Cultural Face: Imperial Palace and Kokyo Gaien National Garden
Oh, you came for the culture? That being the case, the Imperial Palace and Kokyo Gaien National Garden is the destination for you. Stride into the stress-free stratosphere of straight and flat planes, with views of the city where Tokyo's status as an economic superpower is sufficiently sustained. Who can sniff at a free chance to venture into the grounds where more than a whiff of genuine Japanese culture and history is found pulsating? Astounding stone structures, framed by a long moat — a reminder of a time when Edo was the central stronghold of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Nearby Hibiya Park is also famous and is the site of lively festivals and other events throughout the year.
Tokyo’s Peaceful Face: Inokashira Park
Okay, so time to take a back seat and sojourn to the suburbs. A short train ride to Inokashira Koen in Kichijoji will guarantee a gratifying opportunity to grab hold of a space that serves up unkempt woodland and a museum which celebrates Japan's greatest and most recognized animator — Ghibli.
Those pedal swans and rowing boats may look inviting, bobbing on a pond framed by overhanging trees, but beware. Legend has it that those daring to climb aboard with a loved one will soon see the sad demise of said relationship.
Tokyo’s Gritty Face: Ueno Park
Crying out for a crescendo? Not to disappoint, Ueno Koen will fill in any gaps that are still gaping in your Tokyo park experience. Time it just right for the cherry blossom season, enjoy a hanami flower-viewing excursion and you won't regret it. A park that oozes odours and overtures of the city’s past, with quirks and corners dating back to a forgotten culture, here you can strike up a conversation with the locals and you'll remember it for the rest of time.
Whatever you were hoping, Tokyo’s impressive portfolio of parks has you completely covered.