Immerse yourself in the Autumn Color of Leaves at Shinjuku Gyoen, an Urban Oasis, Shinjuku
Feel the Changes of the Four Seasons at the Masterpiece of Landscape Gardens that Represents Japan
This season is when the autumn season advances and when the chill of winter approaches. This is when something wonderful happens in Japan - "kouyou," which means "the changing colors of the autumn leaves." "Kouyou" is a natural phenomenon Japan is famous for that signifies the state of the leaves of deciduous trees turning red or yellow before it falls from the trees. Although many tourists may think of Kyoto when thinking about "kouyou," did you know that there is a secret hideout place, "Shinjuku Gyoen" that is perfect for appreciate this gorgeous phenomenon? What's better, it is only a five-minute walk from Shinjuku Isetan Store.
Shinjuku Gyoen was constructed in 1906 as a garden of the Imperial Family of Japan. It was created on the land that belonged to the federal lord of Takato Domain which was located in Southern Shinshu (around the modern day Nagano prefecture) in Edo Period (1603-1868). It was then open to the public as a national garden for the citizens after the Second World War. Shinjuku Gyoen is made combined a French Formal Garden, English Landscape Garden, and Japanese Garden. It is famous for being a masterpiece of landscape gardens.
Let's head to Shinjuku Gyoen to see the "kouyou." The first place I arrived is the "English Landscape Garden." The sight of people strolling around and having a picnic is like Central Park in New York. You can also find Shinjuku Gyoen's symbol, the 30 meter-tall tulip tree.
Behind the gorgeous zelkova and tulip are the tall, high-rise buildings. It is the kind of scenery that reminds you that Shinjuku Gyoen is an urban oasis.
I next went to the Japanese Garden, wanting to find a traditional scenery of Japan. The zelkova reflected in the water of "Tamamo Pond," one of the four ponds in the park creates a beautiful, traditional atmosphere. One of the most famous Japanese trees, the Japanese maple is highly popular even abroad for its gorgeous red color during the "kouyou" season.
The gradation of colors of the Japanese maples that have just started turning red and the rest of the green leaves is stunning. The peak season for "kouyou" this year is from the end of November until the beginning of December. You get to see Japanese maples with rich hues that looks as though it is on fire.
What makes Shinjuku Gyoen a great tourist spot is that it also offers great food, besides that wonderful nature that changes its appearance every season. This time, I went to "Restaurant Yurinoki" in the English Landscape Garden that serves food using ingredients that has a historical relationship with the park. Let me now introduce my top recommendations from the restaurant.
"Satogaeri " Set
This set that literally means "returning to the home you grew up" was named for reflecting the history of Shinjuku Gyoen for growing western vegetables for the first time in Japan. The set includes dishes and miso soup using Edo Tokyo vegetables, and deer ham, smoked salmon, roast beef, and smoked duck.
Aged Loin "Tonkatsu" Set
This set includes soft, aged loin tonkatsu (Japanese fried pork cutlet) served with three unique dips: Naito red pepper yuzu citrus pepper, wasabi mayonnaise, and an original tonkatsu sauce.
【Ecological Cooking Menu】Ecological Omuraisu Set
This set offers a great chance of tasting the highly popular "omuraisu" that wraps ketchup-flavored rice with an omelet. It is cooked using an ecological, environmentally-friendly cooking method.
Shodoshima Island Olive Cider
120 years ago, Shinjuku Gyoen was an agricultural experimental station that cultivated and researched foreign vegetables, fruits, trees, and flowers. Olives were also grown here for the first time in Japan. Honoring the legacy, the restaurant serves olive cider, a locally-made cider of Shodo Island which is famous for olives.
The passing of time somehow feels slower and more peaceful at Shinjuku Gyoen. It is also great to see how the imported trees from foreign countries magnificently coexist with the native Japanese trees, resembling the interchanges of Japan with foreign countries. We invite you to come and stop by this urban sanctuary to experience "kouyou," the natural phenomenon that is a treat only during this season.
Opening Hours: Park 9:00-1600 (Closes at 16:30)
Closed Days: Mondays (the next weekday if the Monday is a public holiday), December 29th - January 3rd s
Admission Fee: Adults ¥200, Elementary & Jr. High School Students ¥50, free for babies and young children