Of all the parks and gardens in Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen evokes to me the most Central Park in Manhattan. It’s not the size (it is less than one fifth of Central Park) but rather how the park is completely encased by the maddest section of the city yet feels peacefully detached from it. Minutes after you enter either through the Shinjuku or Okido gate, the wide and flat plane is laid out and you are instantly in a different world. Yet the juxtaposition of skyscrapers in the background, particularly that monstrosity NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building, is a reminder that the hustle and bustle is never too far away.
As you pass through the vast French Formal Garden and English Landscape Garden, meander cross the duck ponds and delve deeper into the smaller and denser sections the park, the city starts to fade away. Looking out to the Japanese Garden from Taiwan Pavilion and sitting lazily watching the warm afternoon sun idle by, now I own this park all to myself. I visited in mid-Jan, three days after a rare snowstorm in Tokyo, and it looked and and felt like early fall when the pines are blue enough and the grass softly tanned.
Shinjuku Gyoen was constructed on the site of a private mansion belonging to an Edo era feudal lord. It was first completed as an imperial garden in 1906 and then was opened to the public as a national garden after the Second World War.
Y200 entrance fee (this less than $2 fee is in fact what keeps this park rather sparse, so please oblige), open everyday except Monday, best to enter and exit through either Okido or Shinjuku gates and walk the entire park. Shinjuku gate is 5min walk from Shinjuku Sanchome station, Okido gate is 10min walk from Shinjuku Gyoenmae Station.