Institute for Nature Study: A photo guide

Institute for Nature Study Administration building
The entrance and administration building.

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.

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 patience.

The institute is like Koishikawa Botanical Gardens. They are working parks 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!

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!

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. Even for relaxing, it is great.

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 and finally fell into its current form in 1949.

What can you photograph at the Institute for Nature Study?

  • 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.

Photography tips

  • Tripods are allowed.
  • If you specifically want to photograph birds, choose a long one. I’ve found a 200 mm to be too short.

Other photo spots near the Institute for Nature Studies

Institute for Nature Study details

See the park’s location and opening hours on the official website.

Wrapping up

The Institute for Nature is similar to Todoroki Valley and Koishikawa Botanical Garden. All three are in very natural states and great places to escape the concrete jungle for a short time. You can recharge your batteries in all of them.

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.

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