Sunday, April 9: After being stuck in my apartment all day Saturday because of rain, I am itching to get out to explore Tokyo on Sunday. My goal during my short time here is to visit a new place at least once every weekend, and maybe twice if the weather permits and I’m not too exhausted.
The forecast for Sunday shows a morning of cloudy skies with the rain holding off until noon. I wake up early Sunday, look out my window to see no rain, and immediately eat breakfast and take a shower. By the time I am ready to leave my house at 8 a.m. it has started raining. Bah! I know the cherry blossoms are peaking this weekend, so I need to go today or I’ll miss them. I prepare myself to brave the weather, armed with umbrella and walking shoes. I ride my bicycle – holding my umbrella over my head – to the bicycle parking lot near the train station.
My goal today is to do Walking Tour 17 from my book, Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City: Shinjuku: A District of Skyscrapers, City Hall, a Central Shopping Area, the Red Light District, and am Imperial Garden. Since it is “supposed” to rain later (even though it is already raining!), I figure I’d better do Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden first, to be guaranteed I’ll see the cherry blossoms. So, doing the walk in reverse, I take the train to Shinjuku and then transfer to the Marunouchi Subway line to Shinjuku Gyoenmae Station.
To get to Shinjuku, I take the Yokohama Line to Machida, where I transfer to the Odakyu line to Shinjuku. From Machida, there is a Rapid Express line, an Express line and a Local. The local of course stops at every stop. When I see the Rapid Express train is already packed at this early morning hour, I decide to try the Express; on that train, I get a seat and it isn’t that crowded. However, it is quite a bit slower than the Rapid Express, about 45 minutes compared to 26 minutes. Still, it’s nice to have a seat and not be packed into the Rapid Express train.
When I arrive at Shinjuku Gyoen and pay the 200 yen admission fee, I find an open area where everyone is posing with the few blooming cherry blossoms. I stop here and take a few close-up shots. Little do I know what other wonders the garden will hold.
The rain is that annoying drizzle that makes it difficult to keep the camera lens dry. It’s a struggle to hold both the umbrella and the camera and, at the same time, to keep wiping the rain off the camera lens. I also hope to stay dry myself. It’s quite a dark and dreary day, making many of the pictures look dull and blurry. I wish I could have visited this garden on a sunny day; it was beautiful in the rain but I’m sure it would have been spectacular on a blue-sky day.
Despite all these challenges, I am pleased with some of my close-up blossom pictures, as well as those of people standing on bridges under their umbrellas, and the cherry blossoms juxtaposed against the tea house. I also like the views from the Kyu Goryo-tei Pavilion, and the drooping branches of cherry blossoms over ponds, and the areas where there is both a canopy and a carpet of blossoms. Most of my landscape shots are horrible, but I put some here so you can get a general feel for this gorgeous garden.
The garden was built on the site of the private mansion of Lord Naito, a daimyo (feudal lord) of the Edo era. Completed in 1906 as an imperial garden, it was re-designated as a national garden after the Second World War; at that time, it was opened to the public. The garden has two parts: the northern portion is laid out as a Western garden combining French and English styles. The southern portion is a Japanese Traditional Garden, with paths, artificial hills, islands in ponds, bridges and stone lanterns. It is considered to be one of the most important gardens from the Meiji era.
I go on a little detour through a Mother-Child garden.
I like the cypress area, with its cypress knees and cypress trees.
I walk on a wooded path for a while until I see signs for the Japanese garden.
The Japanese Traditional Garden is my favorite by far, with the pink and white sakura interspersed with weeping willows, pruned trees and bushes, trained bonsai, rocks, ponds, and arched bridges. It feels so organic and natural, even though I’m sure it has been meticulously shaped.
It is such a shame it’s rainy and my photos are so unsatisfactory.
I attempt many times to take photos of the umbrellas on the bridge, but it’s frustrating because of the poor light and drizzle.
I spend time admiring the pretty little tea house surrounded by sakura.
Walking around the many ponds is a wonderful treat.
I love wandering out and about in the Japanese garden.
The Kyu Goryo-tei Pavilion is a Chinese-style pavilion which commemorates Emperor Hirohito’s wedding in 1927. From the pavilion are fantastic views of the Japanese gardens.
I wander over the garden’s 150 acres from around 9 am, when I arrive, until 11:30, and I’m sure I miss some parts of the garden.
I adore the sakura dangling their blossoms over the pond, mimicking the bowing of the Japanese people.
Finally, I find an open woodsy area with both a canopy and carpet of cherry blossoms.
It’s about time to move on to the second part of my walk, to the west side of Shinjuku station, where the shopping district and skyscrapers of western Tokyo reside. I’m also tired and getting hungry. I’m sure the skyscraper district will have some interesting places to eat.
The northern part of the garden, which combines an English and French style, is not of much interest to me. Maybe it’s better at other times of year, but at least for this weekend, it’s all about the cherry blossoms.
I leave the garden and head back to the train station, where I’ll catch the train back to Shinjuku. On the way, I see this pair of vending machines, in sakura colors of pink and red.