Shinjuku Gyoen: The complete photo guide

Shinjuku Gyoen cherry blossom trees and distant skyscrapers
Shinjuku Gyoen in spring.

Shinjuku Gyoen is a popular park in Tokyo. It is a great place to rest and relax, even though it is near one of the world’s busiest train stations. But for photographers like me, it is a terrific place. You can find something interesting there for every season. This article is my photo guide to it.

What is Shinjuku Gyoen like?

It is spacious. With its natural beauty, it is perfect for picnics. Even in the cooler months, people still have them on the lawns.

Spring and autumn are especially popular because they are the flower seasons. The most popular of which are the cherry blossoms. To be honest, I don’t like crowds, but I still recommend this place. The pictures are worth it. 

In other seasons, there will be fewer people. Summer can be hot and humid, which will keep many people away. Winter is the same due to the cold.

lawn and greenhouse
Shinjuku Gyoen's greenhouse.

Is the park only about cherry blossoms?

No, it has much more. It has three gardens, each with a theme:

  • Japanese Traditional Garden – has some large ponds with bridges. They give it that “Japan” feeling. 
  • French Formal –  is very romantic with its rose garden and lanes filled with sycamore trees. In autumn, the trees lose their leaves and cover the ground. Both are great for photographs. Photographers and their models often use it.
  • English landscape garden – has a huge lawn. Nishi-Shinjuku’s skyscrapers are visible behind its trees. Nature versus urbanity! The contrast is superb.
Shinjuku Gyoen English Landscape garden lawn
The English Landscape garden lawn.

A brief history of Shinjuku Gyoen

  • Hideyoshi Toyotomi gave the area to the Naitō clan. They built a residence and garden there during the early Edo period. After the Meiji Restoration, the house and grounds became an experimental agricultural center. 
  • A botanical garden followed, only to become an imperial garden in 1879. Like much of Tokyo, the air raids of World War II destroyed them. Fortunately, they were rebuilt.
  • On May 21, 1949, the garden became a public park. Since January 2001, the Ministry of Environment has controlled it. Its official English name is “Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.”  Gyoen means “imperial garden.”
  • In 1989, the park was the site for the funeral rites of Emperor Shōwa. His grave is at Musashi Imperial Graveyard near Mount Takao.

Why do photographers like Shinjuku Gyoen?

  • Cherry blossoms in spring. Shinjuku Gyoen’s are among Tokyo’s best. People come from all over the world to see them! Click here to see photos from the 2023 season.
  • There is a greenhouse housing over 500 plant species. It is a brilliant glass structure.
  • Chrysanthemums festival in autumn. Click here to see photos of the 2022 season.
  • Roses in spring and autumn at the French Formal Garden.
  • Starbucks for a break (okay, this has nothing to do with photography).
  • Shinjuku skyline.
  • Taiwan Pavilion. Japanese living in Taiwan donated it to commemorate Crown Prince Hirohito’s wedding.
Shinjuku Gyoen chrysanthemum display
There is a chrysanthemum exhibit in autumn.

Photography tips

  • Tripods are allowed, but don’t let them block other people (That is a real park rule).
  • It can get very crowded, especially during the cherry blossom season.
  • Be careful with cameras inside the greenhouse. High temperatures and humidity inside might cause moisture to condense on lenses.
Shinjuku Gyoen Taiwan Pavilion
The Taiwan Pavilion.

Other photo spots near Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen details

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

Wrapping up

I’m sure this park will impress you. It has something for every season. The flowers on display are amongst the best in Tokyo. It is a beautiful place and should be on every photographer’s itinerary. You could easily spend many hours there exploring every nook and cranny.

Shinjuku Gyoen is a true urban oasis. Have a break from time to time while taking photos there. Sit on the grass and enjoy the view. I’m sure you’ll love it. At any rate, it will give you a breath of fresh air!

My bonus tip

Shinjuku Gyoen has a belt of trees around it. So if you stand in the middle of the park on a winter’s day, the city sounds will be muted. It is a tremendous feeling.

For external articles about Shinjuku Gyoen, look at:

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