Tokyo has a reputation for being ultra-urban, but there are actually gorgeous (and huge!) gardens all over town. Stroll around one of these beauties to feast your eyes and restore your soul – I guarantee you’ll forget you’re in the middle of the world’s biggest city.
A delightful undiscovered park in a part of town more known for its nightlife and swanky living
A wonderful place to stroll before eating, drinking & clubbing in Roppongi, Nakameguro or Ebisu • Lovely and uncrowded in every season • Especially good in mid-late Feb (plum blossoms) & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves)
DENPO-IN SECRET GARDEN at Senso-ji Temple
Open only a few times a year, this secret garden in the middle of Senso-ji temple in Asakusa is usually reserved for priestly meditation
Amazing view of the Senso-ji pagoda, reflected in two different pools • Open during cherry blossom season for viewing the two famous weeping cherry trees • Entry is through a museum featuring rare giant prayer plaques • Especially good in late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria) & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves)
HAMA-RIKYU TEI-EN GARDEN
Sweeping vistas and a large pond with several bridges make for dramatic landscapes • A favorite spot for wedding photos • Especially good in mid-late Feb (plum blossoms), late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria & peonies), mid-late Sep (cosmos) & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves).
JINDAI BOTANICAL GARDENS
Amazing flower displays in every season
A must-see in azalea season • Spacious and not crowded • Beautiful forest stream walk with steppingstone bridges • Famous for plum blossoms (Feb), cherry blossoms (Mar-Apr), azaleas (Apr), wisteria (May), chrysanthemums (Nov)
KIYOSUMI TEIEN GARDEN
My go-to garden for soul-restoring serenity • Cool, green and uncrowded in every season • Beautiful Japanese garden-style views around every turn • Stroll around gorgeous lake with awesome steppingstones • Especially good in iris season
In this beautiful garden, you’ll forget you’re in the middle of the world’s largest city
Lots of bridges and ponds • Walk through many styles of gardens, each more beautiful than the last • Especially good in mid-late Feb (plum blossoms), late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria & peonies), late Sep (native red amaryllis), mid-late Nov (autumn leaves) & if it snows
KYU FURUKAWA GARDEN
A beautifully preserved Meiji Era delight with a formal rose garden and a jewel of a Japanese stroll garden
Famous for its roses in June • Spectacular fall leaves • Serene Japanese stroll garden with great bridges
This formal stroll garden is a secret surprise amid the skyscrapers of Shimbashi
Large pond reflects meticulously pruned pine trees • Late-blooming double cherries reach their peak along with the azaleas, giving late-April visitors an extra treat • This garden is so undiscovered, you will probably have the place to yourself • Especially good in early-mid Apr (cherry blossoms), mid-late Apr (azaleas), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria & peonies), late Sep (native red amaryllis), mid-late Nov (autumn leaves) & if it snows
MUKOJIMA HYAKKA-EN BOTANICAL GARDEN
This is not an especially scenic garden but it’s full of fascinating Japanese specimens you won’t see anywhere else.
Bush clover tunnel is well worth seeing in late September – early October • Plants mentioned in haiku and literature are well represented • Has some really strange plants you won’t see anywhere else
NAI-EN GARDEN at the Meiji shrine
The Emperor and Empress Meiji’s garden, beautiful any time of year
Famous iris garden • I saw a live tanuki (raccoon dog) here in May!
NI-NO-MARU IMPERIAL GARDEN
This tiny gem is inside the Imperial Palace moat, and most people don’t realize it’s one of the most incredible places to see azaleas in all of Japan
Features blooming cherries, wisteria, and iris, but it’s the azaleas that will take your breath away • This small garden is more beautiful than the Imperial Palace East Garden, and a shorter walk from the entrance • Especially good in late-Mar to early-Apr (cherry blossoms), mid-late Apr (azaleas), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria & peonies), & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves)
NISHIARAI-DAISHI TEMPLE GARDENS
Two famous peony gardens: the tree peonies bloom from mid-late April, and the fragrant herbacious peonies bloom from late-April to mid-May • There are also several small strolling gardens with nice bridges & waterfalls
Famous for plum blossoms in mid-late February • Well worth the trip!
17th century garden designed around 88 views from famous waka poems.
Large pond • Teahouse • Open at night and lit up during cherry blossom and autumn leaf seasons • Stand selling miso dango in autumn and winter • Especially good in late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), mid-late Apr (azaleas), late-Apr to early-May (wisteria & peonies), late Sep (native red amaryllis), mid-late Nov (autumn leaves) & if it snows
Magnificent stroll garden with a mix of natural areas and interesting historical buildings
Meandering paths with lots of bridges • Thatch-roofed farmhouse you can go inside • Pagoda and teahouses galore • Lots of great birds, including kingfishers and herons • Special early opening hours for lotus season • In Yokohama, an hour outside Tokyo
SHINJUKU GYŌ-EN NATIONAL GARDEN
A stunning garden, right in the heart of Tokyo
The best, most, and longest-blooming cherry trees in town • Killer chrysanthemum exhibits in November • Flowers blooming year-round • Beautiful in any season
Less than forty minutes by train from Shinjuku Station, this huge park has it all, and is amazing in every season!
Promenade of gingko trees with a beautiful fountain • Lovely Japanese garden • Excellent playgrounds for kids • Giant lawns for picknicking & large dedicated BBQ area • Miles of bike trails • Boats • Especially good mid-late Feb (plum blossoms), late-Mar to early Apr (cherry blossoms), mid-late Apr (azaleas), mid-Sep to mid-Oct (cosmos) & mid-late Nov (autumn leaves)
To find out what’s blooming every month of the year, check out the seasonal extravaganzas page!
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had