Tokyo is the prototypical concrete jungle, with hundreds of skyscrapers spread out over the Kanto plain, covering more than 800 square miles in total. While Tokyo's northerly latitude precludes its from being an actual jungle, the city is surprisingly lush, thanks to a variety of green spaces, large and small, across its footprint. Here are the 10 best parks in Tokyo (and vicinity), no matter the sort of nature escape you've craving.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Exploring Shinjuku, whether strolling through Kabukicho or clinking glasses atop the Park Hyatt Tokyo in your own "Lost in Translation" moment, it can be difficult to imagine that one of the best parks in Tokyo is steps away. Yet Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a true oasis in the heart of the urban jungle, boasting more than 1,700 plants spread across 150 acres with more than two centuries of heritage.
Located in northeastern Tokyo a stone's throw from both ancient Senso-ji temple and ultra-modern Akihabara "Electric Town," Ueno Park is one of Tokyo's most popular green spaces. Ueno Park covers more than 5 million square feet, and is home not only to hundreds of species of plants and flowers, but also the five-story Kaien-ji pagoda. If you happen to visit Ueno Park on a cloudy or rainy day, fear not: The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum sits within the park's grounds, and perfectly complements the outdoor experience, rain or shine.
When you think of impeccably manicured Japanese gardens, you probably don't imagine that the center of Tokyo is where you can find one. Yet Koishikawa Koraku-en, located in Tokyo's bustling Bunkyo district, is one of the most beautiful parks in Tokyo. It's also one of Tokyo's oldest parks, having been built in the 17th century when the city was still known as Edo. Koishikawa Koraku-en is a great place to visit if you come to Japan for cherry blossoms, but don't arrive too early to see the standard somei yoshino variety at full bloom—many of the sakura in Koishikawa Koraku-en bloom late.
If you're looking for the best parks in Tokyo near hectic Shibuya and the wild alleys of zany Takeshita Street in Harajuku, Yoyogi Park is the place to be. This is especially true during cherry blossom season in late March or early April, when Japanese people flock here with their blue tarps and picnic baskets to enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing). It's also possible to see the iconic Harajuku girls in Yoyogi Park if you come on Sundays. Otherwise, come during the week if if rest and relaxation are your priority.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
"Tokyo" means "Eastern Capital" in Japanese. Surprisingly enough, Japan's Imperial capital is not only located in Tokyo, but right amid the skyscrapers of the Maranouchi district, just west of Tokyo Station. One of the best Tokyo parks also sits on the grounds of the Imperial Palace (the East Gardens are open to the public for tour). Just north of the Imperial Palace is where you'll find Chidorigafuchi, a moat that's one of the top spots in Tokyo for cherry blossom viewing.
At first glance, the wildest thing about Tokyo's Ginza district is the price tag on the some of the fruit sold in its department stores. Cantaloupes in particular seem to sell for a lot, often for hundreds of dollars per piece! However, as lovely as the neon signs and posh sushi bars of Ginza are, the rejuvenating quality of a stroll through Hamarikyu Gardens cannot be denied. After you stroll around the perimeter of this compact park, which juts out into Tokyo Bay, visit the tea house located at its center for a steaming cup of matcha green tea.
Think you can't find someplace truly wild within Tokyo's city limits? Located in Setagaya ward, which is almost home to Gotoku-ji "beckoning cat" temple, Todoroki Valley (also sometimes known as Todoroki Gorge) definitely doesn't feel like it's 30 minutes away from the world's largest city. In spite of how far away it feels, Todoroki Valley only takes about 30 minutes to walk through, even if you visit atmospheric Fudo Temple.
If you want an even wilder escape from central Tokyo, travel further west outside the city and ascend Mount Takao. As much one of the best parks in Tokyo as a bonafide hiking destination in its own right, Mount Takao has long been the destination of choice where stressed Tokyoites go to relax. Ride the Mount Takao cable car up to the observation deck (which is also home to a monkey park), or strap on your hiking boots and ascend it by foot. After exploring the rest of the mountain top, where you can visit Yakuo-in temple, descend back down and visit one of several onsen hot springs before taking the train back into central Tokyo.
Tokyo Tower is a polarizing landmark. Although designers had good intentions in attempting to disguise a telecommunications tower as an homage to the Eiffel Tower, many people (especially Japanese) find it tacky. Whatever you think of the Tower, however, it's difficult to deny the charm of Shibakoen, the park that sits at it's base. Shiba Park is especially beautiful during spring, when pink and white cherry blossoms perfectly frame the tower from most any angle.
Meiji Jingu Gaien
Around the time of the last Tokyo Olympics, in 1964, Meiji Jingu Gaien was home to the iconic Olympic Stadium, which has sadly since been demolished. That's the bad news. The good news? In addition to the fact that dozens of athletic complexes still exist here, Meiji Jingu Gaien is home to some of Tokyo's lushest acreage. The highlight of this is the so-called "Ginkgo Avenue" is the autumn season in late November and early December, which results in a bright golden color, both on the towering trees and the leaves that line the paths you walk upon.