The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world so it goes without saying that there is so much to do and see when visiting Tokyo. One of my favorite things about Tokyo was the many urban parks and gardens sprinkled around the city. There is something so beautiful and interesting in the way the greenery and cherry blossom trees are set against a backdrop of high rise condos and office buildings. We scoped out a few of the most popular gardens and parks in Tokyo and had such a great time wandering through these urban oases!
These were the first gardens we visited and happened to be my favorite in all of Tokyo! We journeyed over to the gardens after visiting the Tsukiji Market but the park entrance is a short walk from the Shidome or Tsukijishijo subway stations. Even on a beautiful Spring Saturday they were relatively quiet and not over crowded with visitors. We spent some time wandering the grounds, enjoying the last of the cherry blossoms and marveling at this tranquil escape among the surrounding skyscrapers. We admired the picturesque tea house alongside the pond and one of our regrets of the trip is not stopping for afternoon tea here! Instead we found a bench along the Sumida River and embraced the sunshine and view of the water while resting our feet for a bit. Hamarikyu is a beautiful spot that should not be missed, especially if you’re visiting Tsukiji!
From what we could tell, this was the spot for Hanami parties which are a gathering of friends or families to enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms. We saw tons of groups picnicking on tarps under the trees, even at the tail end of the season. With all of the hustle and bustle at Ueno Park it definitely felt like a must-see and seemed to offer something for everyone. While we didn’t visit the zoo or nearby museum, we did pick up lunch from the food stalls and stopped to enjoy it overlooking the pond and surrounding buildings. They even have boat rentals, including swan shaped pedal-powered boats. Had it not been for the long lines, we totally would have enjoyed a romantic boat ride around the park!
A bit out of the way from the main attractions, the Rikugien Gardens were a peaceful escape from the busy city. These are best reached by the Komagome station, accessible by JR Train, which is always a plus for JR Pass holders! We grabbed a vending machine coffee and a few baked goods at the station and headed over to the park to stroll around. Although off the beaten path, this is still a popular tourist destination but the afternoon we visited was fairly quiet. A large pond is the focal point of these gardens where you can spot lots of koi and turtles. I wouldn’t consider this a must-do while in Tokyo but it was definitely a nice place to spend an hour or so if you have a free afternoon.
Meji Shrine & Gardens
Another stop we made was the Meji Shrine and surrounding gardens. We knew this was a popular tourist spot and it was certainly very crowded. This was the first shrine we visited in Japan and enjoyed seeing the grand torii gate at the Harajuku entrance, and the routine of the purification fountain which was entirely new to us. There are several walking paths surrounded by huge, beautiful trees which make for a peaceful morning walk. Also next door is Yoyogi Park which we did not visit but is known to be a great spot to picnic or exercise on a nice day. This is one of the top tourist destinations in Tokyo and can be easily seen while visiting other sights in Western Tokyo.
These are just a few of the many parks and gardens you’ll find when visiting Tokyo, but were definitely some of our favorite spots! Do you have a favorite urban garden, in Tokyo or elsewhere?