A family day out at Tokyo Inokashira park
Shinjuku has been a hub since the days the Emperor ruled all of Japan from Kyoto. His Samurai general set up base in Edo, the then Tokyo in East Japan. Couriers traveling from Kyoto to Tokyo would take rest at Shinjuku, order the papers, rehash the key message to be conveyed. In short the neighborhood here was more open to seeing folks come and go, host them for a few days. This tradition carried on into the modern era. Shinjuku sees three and a half million people pass by its railway station every day. The neighborhood grew into a densely packed but a more heterogeneous mix of cultures. Naturally the places around Shinjuku, Meguro, Ebisu, Shibuya turned into a foreigner hub. Not only people but the Meiji restoration era welcomed Western ideas and influences as well. So The traditional Koens so far familiar with Zen minimalism started seeing European garden designs. Shinjuku Goen is one such new age classic, a national treasure now. In close proximity there is the Inokashira park, at Kichioji.
We visited Inokashira park this spring, in 2016. The road from the station to the park had many shops selling artsy items and ethnic knickknacks. The park itself is a nice mix of Western and Eastern styles. There is abundance of Poplars and weeping willows. Cherry blossoms come into their own in April. We missed the bloom period by a few weeks. But then the trees got covered in new green foliage, giving the entire horizon a lush green appearance all around. There were benches under the trees, by the side of the central boating lake. Musicians were playing guitars, performers were showing magic to groups of kids , artists were displaying artwork. Decorated gas lights hung by the walkways crisscrossing the park. Several bridges crossed the lake. A part of the park is separated out into a small zoo. The zoo houses a few varieties of birds, owls, cranes and small mammals like hedgehogs. There is a petting area as well.
The road heading right inside the park divides into several arterial paths. The main one takes a circular walk around the lake. Others branch into secluded areas good for seating for a while, or towards the zoo or the Ghibli studio.
Walking anti clockwise taking the main road, one goes past the bridge connecting to the boating pier, the zoo and leads to the Benzaiten temple. Benzaiten is Japanese form of Goddess Saraswati, Vedic God for arts and literature. A little vermilion color bridge heads out from the temple connecting back on to the main walkway. The road goes past another one or two bridges, by a set of benches under the green leaves, going past a few coffee / ice cream shops, and circles back to the opposite end of the park. There are fountains in the midst of the lake, spraying mist that partly covers the area, making some like the view while others may rue the modern invasion into an otherwise sedate country scenery.
Right in the middle of the park, at the area in front of the boating pier there are a few table and Chairs, a seating area, and rest rooms. There is also an entrance to the zoo here. Coffee and ice cream shops beckon a few steps away from here, across the main path heading out from the boating pier. The entire area around here has an English countryside feel. Especially the Rowing boats anchored at a side, the ice cream and coffee shops under the poplars and weeping willows may remind one of Peak District, Derby shire.
Further onward from the coffee shops walking still anticlockwise one approaches the end where the lake narrows into a small stream. There’s a little swan house, you can find the owners heading home if you happen to be here towards evening. A kiddy park with slides and swing is there at this end. The road curves back, with the embankment beside the lake being wider here. Artists performers and sundry entertainers set up their wares here.
The lake, the trees and the multicultural ambiance all added to the real estate value around the park. Single and two storied houses on the two sides of the approach road do look posh. And even the mansions on the other three sides surrounding the park having apartments balconies opening to the park also appear premium. No doubt it is a luxury to be living in such a place. But for us casual visitors also, there’s enough to do, take in and carry back home in the form of a well spent few hours.
Entrance to the park is free. Do follow the link to find more details on the park opening times, latest events and access information.