My cousin and I were left to explore Shinjuku on our own. It’s my favorite day because we were left to our own devices and we were able to test how good our sense of direction is. It took us a lot of walking and a few wrong trains but we always managed to find our way. I’m really thankful that we were given this free day to explore a new side of Tokyo.
We were supposed to go to Shinjuku Gyoen first but it was still closed when we got there so we looked for nearby places and went there first. The closest one was Hanazono Jinja so we decided to go there.
The Hanazono Shrine is one of the most important shrines in Tokyo. Built during the Edo period, it is dedicated to Inari — god of fertility and worldly success. As such, it is a shrine frequented by businessmen to pray for successful business ventures. We went there pretty early but there were already a handful of people dropping by to say a quick prayer.
To get to Hanazono Shrine: take the east exit from Shinjuku Station. Walk along Yasakuni Dori and you will see a large red torii gate. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station.
SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN
Tito Onnie suggested that we visit Shinjuku Gyoen, and since we were really planning to go, we gave it a shot. After visiting Hanazono Shrine, we headed to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
It’s a huge place with the following gardens: English garden, French garden, Japanese Garden, and a greenhouse. It’s so amazing to see such a spacious space in the middle of a busy city.
We entered the greenhouse and they have various plants ranging from desert plants to tropical plants. They even have a waterfall installed inside.
Shinjuku Gyoen is also a popular Hanami spot. But since the cherry blossom season is already over in Tokyo, we didn’t get to see the park covered in it, but we still had an amazing time.
The NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building can be seen from Shinjuku Gyoen. It’s the world’s second tallest clock tower.
There are a lot of resting houses scattered across the park because you would really do a LOT of walking. I was feeling feverish when we went so I kept sitting down because it really felt like my legs were about to give up on me! If you’re planning to visit, wear your most comfortable pair of shoes!
Shinjuku Gyoen National Park is open every day from 9AM – 4:30PM except Mondays (except during the cherry blossom season and the Chrysanthemum Exhibition for which they are open everyday). Admission fee is 200Y. Shinjuku Gyoen is about a 15-minute walk from Hanazono Shrine, and a 10-minute walk from the south exit of JR Shinjuku Station.
TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT BUILDING
We still had a lot of time before we had to head back to Zama City so we decided to check out the observatory at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Tokyo Tocho) to have a bird’s eye view of Tokyo.
Tokyo Tocho has two towers, each with its own observation decks. I have read that on a good weather, Mt. Fuji can be seen from the observatory. It was pretty foggy when we went so we weren’t able to catch another glimpse of the mountain but we still had a good time.
We had a panoramic view of Tokyo and its surrounding nearby prefectures and it was such a beautiful sight to take in.
Entrance to the observatory is free. There are two ways that you can get to Tokyo Tocho. First is by walking west of the JR Shinjuku Station (this is the route we decided to take). There is a map in the station that would guide you and there are signs pointing towards the direction of the building so you wouldn’t get lost. Or you can opt to take Oedo Subway Line and get off at Tocho-mae Station.
We had a pretty good time exploring Shinjuku on our own. If only I haven’t been feeling feverish, we would’ve gone to Harajuku as well! Maybe next time? Definitely.