When I think of Tokyo images of sky scraping towers, intricate knot twisting railways, and futuristic robots come to mind. So imagine my surprise when I discovered the twin emerald green oases of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and Yoyogi park. The two floral sanctuaries provide a welcome respite from the sometimes overbearing steel and glass cage of the city.
Shinjuku Gyoen is an amalgamation of different parks world parks. Flora from across the globe has been transplanted to create a mishmash of trees, shrubs, flowers and underbrush that somehow all fits together immaculately. There’s French Formal, Japanese Traditional, English Landscape, a Mother and Child forest, and a curious Taiwanese Pavilion set along a lovely picturesque pond.
Admission is 200 yen. Take the JR Yamanote line to Shinjuku, south exit; walk east down Koshu Kaido, a main thoroughfare. Or take the Toei Shinjuku line to Shinjuku-Sanchome. Shinjuku Gyoen is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and closed Tuesday in weeks in which Monday is a national holiday.
Nearby the fifties are alive and well in Tokyo. Well, at least in Yoyogi park the fifties live on as Japanese dudes and dudettes rock on to fifties style rockabilly. With a boom box set up and blasting sixty year old tunes from an American bygone era. Clad in boots, denim jeans, shirtless and topped with an Elvis styled hair these guys rock out until their bodies shine with sheen of sweat that glimmers almost as bright as the gel in their hair. Not to be out done the ladies flounce around in poodle skirts like its outdoor sock hop! which is exactly what it is.
That about sums up Yoyogi park. Expect the unexpected. Maybe my friends and i chose the wrong time because besides the crew of fifties sock hoppers we didn’t see any of the anime action or manga inspired teens outfitted in their respective cos play gear. Nor did we glimpse any wide eyed lolita wannabes or goths brooding in black wearing teen angst like a dusky jewel. Though we did spot a group of skate boarders who all played with a little toddler. He must have been the son of the only girl in the group. It was cute to see all the guys turning tricks on their bikes and boards for the little guys amusement.
Yoyogi also boasts an array of folks just out to escape the city. Couples picnicked. Groups of friends played baseball or Frisbee. Guys and gals took their well heeled breeds out for a stroll. A contingent of drummers pounded away as the sun set.
Take the JR Yamanote line to Harajuku, Omotesando exit, or the Chiyoda line to Yoyogi-koen, exit 4. Yoyogi Park is open from dawn to dusk. Admission is free.