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The Institute for Nature Study in Tokyo

Tokyo’s Institute for Nature Study near Meguro Station is a great place to see wildlife.  The birds and other animals weren’t quite apparent on my first visit, though.  They must have been hiding.  But, the trees and flowers made up for that.  It was an enjoyable day exploring the outdoors in the big city.

Institute for Nature Study administration building

Maybe the wildlife was so hard to find because the place is so forest-like!  Something could be right next to you but invisible due to the number of trees, flowers and plants.  And with everything so thick, the sights and sounds of the city become muted.   In some parts of the Institute, you might think you are far out in the country.  You need to be patient here.

Institute for Nature Study story tree

The institute is like Koishikawa Botanical Gardens.  They are working parks and in very natural states.  Both of them are hilly in some areas, too, the Institute even more so.  You won’t see much of the outside world as parts of it lay in a valley.  There are no great views, like Shinjuku Gyoen or Hamarikyu Gardens.  Once you get past the entrance, you’ll be in a seemingly wild area!  Tokyo nature photographers love it.

Concrete paths are few.  Some areas are pretty muddy.  There are ponds and a mini-marsh.  The institute is for the city’s wildlife, to give them a home.  It isn’t for human entertainment, so don’t go there in high heels! 

Institute for Nature Study pond

You can enjoy secluded paths and lengths of earthen walls from Edo times.  And if you want to enjoy a picnic during the warmer months, there are picnic tables.

duck in pond

A brief history of the Institute

During Japan’s feudal era, it was the site of a residence for a daimyo.  Unfortunately, hardly anything remains now.  An enormous tree, “The Pine Tree of Tales” (物語の松), is said to mark the spot where his house once stood.  During the late 1800s, it became a gunpowder warehouse for the army and navy.  In 1917 it became an Imperial Estate. It fell into its current form in 1949. 

What does the Institute for Nature Study have for photographers?

  • A few remains of a daimyo’s residence (gardens and sculptured ponds)
  • Birds and animals
  • Trees and flowers
  • Nature photo gallery in the Visitor Education Center
  • There are two notable trees, the Fabled Pine and the Dragon Pine.  They are huge Japanese black pines several centuries old.  
nature photographers at Institute for Nature Study

Photography tips

  • Tripods are allowed
  • If you specifically want to photograph birds, choose a long one.  Even 200 mm will be too short.

Where is the Institute for Nature Study?

Two stations are nearby:

  1. Meguro – served by the Yamanote line and several subway lines.  Leave via the east exit.  
  2. Shirokanedai – served by the Nanboku and Toei Mita subway lines.  

From both stations, the park is roughly a 10-minute walk. 

Here is a Google Map:

Admission costs

320 yen

Institute opening hours

  • From September 1 to April 30, the Institute is open from 9 am to 4:30 (with the last entry at 4 pm).  
  • From May 1 to August 31, it is open from 9 am to 5 pm (with the last entry at 4:30 pm).
red and yellow autumn leaves

For more nature articles in Tokyo, look at:

Other photo spots near the Institue for Nature Study

Wrapping up

The Institue for Nature is similar to Todoroki Valley and Koishikawa Botanical Gardens.  All three are in very natural states and great places to escape the concrete jungle for a short time.  

But most importantly, if you want to enjoy some nature in Tokyo but can’t or don’t want to travel far, this is one place that needs to be on your list.  It is excellent for photographers who don’t have time to travel far. Being so close to the Yamanote Line is a real bonus.  Please leave questions and comments below.

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