Heavenly Gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen – Japan

Bolstered by the large and eventful breakfast, which I wrote about here, and visiting Tokyo in Crimson Leaves Season, we were keen to explore a traditional garden, on our first day in Japan. At the top of our list was the Gyoen National Garden, a green oasis that is completely amidst the busiest commercial district in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Gyoen National Garden, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Background of Gyoen

Originally a residence for one of Japan’s feudal Lord during the Edo period, the Gyoen National Garden fell under the control of the Imperial family in the twentieth century. Although much of the garden was then destroyed during World War II; you would never know it, as Gyoen is nothing short of a tranquil, well tended masterpiece of Japanese horticulture.

Traditional Japanese Garden Design at Gyoen

With the NTT Docomo building towering stoically above Gyoen’s tree line like an old world Imperial Guard, it is easy to remember the Shinjuku-Shibuya metropolis is never far away. However, the hard concrete lines of modernity are significantly softened by the more natural lines of the leafy foliage and traditional Japanese garden fixtures.

Very photogenic.

NTT Docomo Building from Gyoen

The Gyoen Guide Map offers us the chance to fully comprehend the scale of the park and orientates ourselves to ensure we see all the individual gardens and differing botanical features contained therein. Entrance, (with guide map in English), costs 200 Japanese Yen.

We don’t want to miss anything!

Gyoen’s Shinjuku Entrance Gate

chrysanthemum shows

The small fee we pay to enter the garden is truly value for money, as the day we visit there is also a special floral display of cultivated chrysanthemums, which attracts the attention of many Japanese citizens.

How glorious are these?

Light rain only enhances the organic beauty around us, as the raindrops linger on the leaves. This delights my daughter as it makes for excellent photographic opportunities.

And we have the ubiquitous, clear-plastic umbrella to shield us. Very Japanese.

“Maple trees can be seen in large numbers around the Japanese garden and Momijiyama (maple mountain) on the [Gyoen] park’s eastern side. The colors typically appear from mid November to mid December. “

Tokyo Tourist Guide
One small Maple tree showed its Crimson coat. In a few weeks time, the others would too.

Our arrival is a week or so early to see the majority of crimson leaves in Tokyo, for the temperatures are unusually warm. Despite this, I find the trees are magical and remind me of a medieval Northern forest, or a scene from a Lord of the Rings novel.

The leaves are still golden and green, but soon to be crimson red.


Each path within the garden invites in us, a different mood, vista and experience.
You can see hanging bouquets of chrysanthemums in the display in the background.
Despite the overcast conditions, the Pavilion was a place of tranquility and reflection, in more ways than one.

The carp pond

No Japanese garden could be complete without a Carp pond – and Gyoen has one.

Again the city reminds you it’s not far too away.

Carp pond – Gyoen National Garden
A serene spot to reflect, meditate and rejuvenate in Gyoen. Lucky Carp fish.

Autumn avenue awesomeness

However, for this sub-tropical Australian resident, the ultimate heavenly experience is yet to come when I discover the avenue of Sycamore trees, a feast for local photographers. It is such a delight for me. I truly am in awe of these trees and their burst of colour.

What photographer wouldn’t want to capture this?

This is Autumnal earth, resplendent in shades of sienna, brown, rust, bright yellow and green, all coalescing in an intense and harmonious collection of wholesome organic beauty.

The child in me wanted to run and kick up the fallen leaves, throw them in the air, rake them into a pile and jump on top of them. An Autumnal experience that exists only in my dreams.

Gyoen national park is a Japanese treasure, particularly if you visit at Crimson Leaf Season
Stunningly picturesque

Never before had I seen an avenue of trees that captivated me in such a way and I didn’t want to leave. [You have to remember we don’t have such deciduous trees in my home zone, so I’m super excited.]

sendagaya gate

Reluctantly, after several hours exploring and a gazillion photographs taken, we walk towards the park’s Sendagaya gate and find yet another magical path through the trees.

There is a special light through here. It is hard to define and see in the photo, but it is there.

Gyoen National Garden – A perfect spot to sit and ‘Ponder About Something.’

Linking to Friendly friday photo walk a challenge hosted by me and Snowmeltssomewhere



84 thoughts on “Heavenly Gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen – Japan”

  1. Stunning! Your pictures are gorgeous and capture the ambience perfectly! I love how you contrast the park with the modernity surrounding it. And your excitement over leaves is infectious! Thank you for sharing your tour!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. For me, the leaves were very special as I had never seen them like that before. I am glad you liked them too, Lindsay! Such a surprise to find that green space in the concrete jungle that is Tokyo.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We made it over to Tokyo several times when we were in Okinawa. But never made it to the gardens. 😢 so now I explore them through you! We have falling leaves here and I still find them magical! Lol. Especially an alleyway like the one you experienced. Very cool!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah, so lucky to see that more frequently. But then again, if I had this vista close, I might be tempted to quite work and live in the park all day! How long was the trip from Okinawa to Tokyo?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Lol. So true. Okinawa to Tokyo was a 2 hour flight. But then, as you may have encountered, the trip from the airport to any real part of the city is a journey in and of itself!!! We took trains mostly. Or walked. You?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. We took the subway/trains and walked. One day we walked a long way – but as we weren’t sure of the correct station to alight, it was easier this way and we saw interesting things along the way. Slept well that night! It is a moot point. Is it quicker to take a plane and wait the allotted time before boarding and wait in queues on arrival or catch a bus/train and walk. Perhaps it evens out?

              Liked by 1 person

            2. We enjoyed walking, too. So much to see. And photograph! And yes. I’m sure it does even out. I think they have a cruise from mainland to Okinawa, though… next time that might be my option. lol

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Your pictures are just lovely! I spent two amazing years in Japan and it is surely one of my favorite places to be:) I did visit Tokyo a couple of times but could not make it to the gardens… thanks for these! I did not have a good camera back then and I was also not much into photography at that time and so the only regret about my time in Japan is not having pictures that somewhat capture the serenity and beauty of that place. Isn’t it simply beautiful?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is beautiful, indeed acacohonuslife. I lament that we were not able to take a seemingly infinte amount of photos like we are able to now, when I think about my trips to Europe( via Japan). I had to selectively chose a photo worthy shot and cross my fingers it would turn out when I got home. Two years in Japan? That is lucky! Were you teaching or working there? I am curious.


  3. A great experience through your photographs. Truly inspiring. I feel like packing up and moving there. The Japanese care about beauty. It shows everywhere. even in how food is prepared and presented. Compare that with the look of a lamington or a hotdog. Still, Sydney’s botanical gardens are beautiful too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I feel like that when I see photos of Scandinavia, Gerard. And yes, Japan is enticing in lots of ways. However, home has other kinds of beauty that folks from overseas might treasure like we treasure Japan. In the meantime, you and Helvi should really take a holiday there. Jetstar have some great affordable prices, and it is very popular for Aussies as a destination. The food is quite inexpensive compared to Australian prices. So happy you liked my photo montage of Gyoen.


  4. Beautiful puctures! When in Tokyo I would make it a point to go to this park. My first attempt happened to be a Monday and the park was closed. The second was a success and we saw it in spring. I would love to see it in Autumn.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. The 4 Seasons are something that don’t exist in the tropical and sub-tropical zone in which I live, in Australia, MrsWayfarer. So, I do get excited when I get to experience a real Autumn and a snowy Winter. But it is true, every season has a different atmosphere and look. Have you posted about the cherry blossoms in Osaka? That would be fun to see.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I agree! I come from a tropical country so these seasons have their magical effect on me – well, mostly those that we do not have like fall, winter and spring – because it feels like summer all year round where I live. I have yet to blog about my Japan travels and will definitely prioritise the sakura in Osaka. 😋

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yes, you know exactly how I feel, Mrs Wayfarer. Summer all year round here, although it gets cold at night in winter. Daytime temps are beautiful though. Do you have the same awful summer humidity that we have?


            2. Humidity is the one that makes summer more challenging here in Manila. Much as I would like to walk around at lunchtime – I’d think twice unless I’m ok to be drenched with sweat when I get back

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jo, and I am so sorry I didn’t find this comment earlier. I found it in the spam folder. Spam indeed! This comment is not spam, I told WordPress! The chrysanthemums were so large, I had neer see anything near that size before. As for the sycamores/plane trees, you must have seen them before in England?


  5. Ohhh, so beautiful and great to feel your enthusiasm and childlike joy. ❤ I’m afraid that I wouldn’t wish to leave this oasis for the bustle of the city. The photo of the bench and leaves is glorious, as are the twisted trees. Splendid!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was hard to leave Manja so it was just as well it was staying to rain a little heavier, otherwise I wanted to longer for much longer. It is surprising that a lot of foreign visitors miss out on seeing this beauty, as they stick to the tourist sites and don’t think of paying an entrance fee to a park. Do you have sycamores like these growing in Slovenia? I don’t remember seeing any like this in Italy.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Are they plane trees? I didn’t I know that! They have some in Melbourne! But I have not seen them in an avenue like in Gyoen. I will go look at your link now. Thanks so much, Manja.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Hey Manja, you are correct. The sycamore is the plane tree. However there are different species and it seems the Japanese species is a long lived larger tree with a spreading crown hence the avenue in Gyoen looks a little different as do the ones in Melbourne (they are like the European ones) I had heard a few years back, that the plane trees in Melbourne, Australia are pretty valuable as they are the only ones in that species that aren’t afflicted with some kind of disease. (Being an island Down Under miles away from anything helps sonetimes). So they have been sending cuttings overseas to help replace/rehabilitate the diseased ones in Europe. How’s that?

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Funny how it balances out. Australian often lament our so called, “tyranny of distance,” from the main theatre of society but in many aspects it is a great thing! ‘The land of plenty’ – indeed!

              Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved those Lordof the Rings trees too Amanda, and the Avenue of Sycamores, (or Plane trees apparently). I love where I live, but I too miss the autumn colour that farewells summer, and the rebirth that spring brings. The delights of cooler country living.
    Amanda, an aside from this post – ive been prompted by WordPress to update my outdated twenty eleven theme, and am trialling twenty seventeen. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll stick with that one though. Which theme do you use? Your blog is always beautifully laid out, possibly though more related to your skills than the theme. I lack both skills and confidence when it comes to anything tech.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is a shame we don’t have the true seasons but it does make them so much more vivid and delightful when we go places where they do.
      Re blog – Thanks for the lovely compliment on my blog. I actually think I was using twenty eleven, I will check. I just play around with all the controls until I get something that looks right. I will get back to you in a minute or so.


    2. I am using sketch, as a theme, Chris. I have changed the colour and the randomized header as well by uploading an image. Just have a play with all the controls and experiment. If you get stuck with finding a particular control, google will surely have a walk through somewhere. Can’t wait to see the new look blog!


  7. Just few days ago on my blog we were talking about autumn colors of Poland and Japan, and here I see some lovely photos of autumn from Japan 🙂 Japan is truly a beautiful country, isn’t it Amanda.. The greens in the first photo is absolutely lush, I can almost feel the freshness through the computer screen. Gardens and parks are even more charming when they are in the middle of a city. All photos are beautiful!


    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment, Pooja. You are so correct. Green spaces are so restorative for our spirit and when they are accessibly for the majority of us, even more appreciated. In fact, the city dwellers probably need them more than the country folk, in some ways. We have to travel further to find spaces where we can breathe fresh air and feel nature all around us. It seems to be a very important human need, something I was disucssing in a subsequent post. How far do you have travel to reach the outer areas of your city, where there is lots of nature, Pooja?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are right, Amanda. All the future urban planning and predictions include a lot of green spaces for the ever growing urban population. I don’t have to travel that far, Amanda. I live 15-20 minutes from the center and we have lots of trees and parks around. To reach more nature, I need to drive around 20 minutes.


            1. Well Greece sounds very exotic to me. Wonderful nightlife, great food options and all amongst fabulous history. Very different from my lifestyle in Australia. I meant the comment in a nice way. My apologies if this was offensive in any way. It is just an expression we use here to indicate a great lifestyle.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Don’t worry .. i didn’t understand that’s why i asked you!!

              As anywhere in the world there are levels in the way of living!!

              There are people that can affort all you have written as great nightlife, expensive life …
              And there are other that can enjoy life in nature, in our beautiful islands, the sea, the sun, the history, the philoshophy of every single moment!!

              I belong to the second category and i am really proud that i am living in Greece!

              Kisses from Athens !!!!

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Thank you, Efi. Wealth comes in many forms. It is not always material wealth that provides us with the most enjoyment and energy! The things you mentioned, nature and the sights around you, and the intangible are worth even more. Hugs from Brisbane!


            4. Yes i agree with you my friend!! You have Moreton island there so you can find all these there !!! Kisses thank you for the beautiful comments.

              Liked by 1 person

            5. Moreton Island – Yes I have been there and even posted a pic here and there some time back on my blog
              Australia is blessed with many distinctive plants and animals as well as landscapes. I am grateful for that but I guess I am so used to it I take it for granted sometimes. As I got older, I became entranced with European and Scandinavian landscapes.

              Liked by 1 person

            6. What a wonderful beach Amanda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

              And your poem also !!!


              Parchment sands blow gently in the early onshore breeze,

              like kisses of dried out lips,

              towels flutter in sunshine, sweat, and surf,

              muffled squeals of delighted children,

              salt sprays and sunscreen coats the skin like the morning dew

              must-have ice- creams melting on sticky fingers;

              The sleepy afternoon return home.


              Thank you for sharing!! I wish you to visit my country and all other places you want!!!!


    1. Thank you for saying so. It is a wonderful travel destination. I would enjoy visiting each year to see more. That funny blend of east and west is so fascinating. This last time we explored more of rural Japan. And you? Do you go there often?


  8. What month did you visit Japan? The leaves are such beautiful colours, I am going in August and September so I don’t think I will see the autumn leaves and just lots of green instead! Me and my boyfriend were thinking about whether to visit these gardens or not as we have a tight schedule, this post has made me really want to visit. It is so well written and makes me want to see it for myself! Off topic but in one of the pictures i thought there were giant spiders on the gate but then I looked again and realised it was just black rope 😂😂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment on my post. You won’t see any Autumn leaves sadly – I was there in the beginning of November. Tokyo begins getting red leaves then and it goes through to December. Still a wonderful destination any time of the year. I can recommend the garden for a quiet stroll around. They have a diverse range of plants too, so you might see some flowering at that time of year.


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