With the end of the rainy season comes the scorching Japanese summer, but in between — if we’re lucky — there’s a short period of pleasant warm early summer days. Use that perfect time to get outside, avoid the crowds and enjoy our selection of some of Tokyo’s lesser-known garden treasures.
1. Nezu Museum Garden
The private garden of Nezu Museum is only open to exhibition visitors but well worth the admission price to marvel at the architecture and grounds. The garden was severely damaged during the Second World War but still retains many period features, including several tea houses and various statues. Two ponds are connected by small streams amongst the dense foliage and natural landscape. A modern glass-walled café overlooks the gardens so you can enjoy the view whilst you dine.
Where: 6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
Admission: ¥1,300 for museum exhibition (includes garden access)
2. Tonogayato Garden
This Japanese garden in Kokubunji was constructed in 1913 and has been open to the public since 1974. Taking advantage of the natural valley terrain, the garden’s charm lies in the stark contrast between the lush open lawn at the top and the bamboo forest and waterfall below. The large freshwater pond boasts a natural spring, in addition to smaller goldfish ponds. A wide array of flowers, a wisteria trellis and a delightful tea house can also be enjoyed in the appropriate seasons.
Where: 2-16 Minami-machi, Kokubunji
3. Mukojima-Hyakkaen Garden
This historic Edo flower garden is located in a quiet corner of Sumida Ward with clear views of the nearby Tokyo Skytree. Originally it was populated mainly by plum trees, many of which were replaced over time to make sure the garden would be in bloom all year round. Though small in number, the variety of flowers and plants from all over Japan provide a wonderful setting for quiet contemplation, or perhaps a romantic stroll. A welcome respite from the urban landscape of the modern metropolis.
Where: 3-18-3 Higashi-Mukojima, Sumida-ku
4. Mejiro Teien
The perfect sanctuary to escape from busy city life. Hidden away in a quiet residential area, this impeccably maintained garden centers around a pond with stepping stones and hexagonal shaped floating hall. The construction and design make the most of the garden structures, creating a harmony between nature and manmade elements. A wide variety of plants and trees can be experienced all year round, and there is also a small grass area suitable for a relaxing picnic. Looking out across the water, the beautiful Zen atmosphere is guaranteed to offer a moment of calm.
Where: 3-20-18 Mejiro, Toshima-ku
5. Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome
Located on the reclaimed landfill Yumenoshima (“Dream Island”), this botanical garden was opened in 1988. Over 1,000 species of tropical and semitropical plants are housed inside the three interconnected domes, in addition to an exhibition hall, theater, café and shop. Each dome presents a different climatic zone from rain forest to “tropical village” to plants from the Ogasawara Islands. Alongside the ferns, palms and rubber trees, there are other unusual types on display, including aquatic and carnivorous plants.
Where: 2-1-2 Yumenoshima, Koto-ku