On Saturday I got up bright eyed and bushy tailed and headed off for Shinjuku-Gyoen, one of Tokyo’s largest parks. Once again though the weather was not so bright nor bushy, having deteriorated further since the previous day.
Unsurprisingly, the line to get in was rather colossal. I forgot to take a photo of the in line in the morning, so have a photo of the out line evening instead , and just imagine that everyone is facing the other way. Yep, that greyish blueish roof you see in the center left is the ticket gate.
Shinjuku gardens has a no alcohol policy (Alcohol consumption in public spaces in japan does not appear to be illegal, but don’t quote me on that.) and security guards were checking each individual bag briefly, rejecting those who were carrying such items (typically tourists who didn’t get the memo). Despite the crowds and these checks, the line progressed quite quickly, taking less than 10 minutes before it was my turn to hand over my 200 yen (about $2.20) and enter. Because of its size and abundance of cherry trees and despite its no alcohol policy, Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the most popular spots in Tokyo for Hanami parties (think Sakura viewing picnic). The central grassed areas are perfectly equipped for this, providing not only ample blossoming trees, but also enough room for just about everyone to find a decent spot.
I’m used to shinjuku park being all but deserted, so the sea of people and blue picnic mats (why do they have be such a gross colour? -_-) was definitely a change from my perspective. Despite the number of people, the park didn’t feel overly crowded, though getting photographs without humans in them was often impossible (i gave up on that BTW). The trees here seem to have been at their peak, with several of the earlier flowering varieties already losing their petals at a rapid rate, while late flowing varieties were well on their way to blooming. Most now have the green shoots of leaves poking through the bark, so by this time next week i should expect many of the trees to be all but bear of flowers.
Much like in Ueno the day before, I found that the central area, lined with abundant cherry trees, was not only the busiest area, but also one of the least photogenic areas, large swaths of trees (especially when surrounded by blue mats) typically don’t actually make for very good photographs.
Shinjuku garden is actually split up into separate areas, each based off a different style of garden making. The central area, were everyone seemed to be content chilling under the trees, is the northern side of the English landscape garden section. Moving south from here gave relative relief from the crowds (though there were still plenty of people.) As well as a nice change of scenery.
Not much overly interesting happened down here, but the scenery was nice and without the crowds, the garden started to feel more like i remember it. Because i don’t have much interesting to write about this section have a few photos instead. Apparently they are worth a thousand words each.
Moving further east, i found a section comprised mostly of maple varieties. Honestly, this is much more my jam than wall to wall Sakura. I love the cherry blossoms but as i have said before, i find them very difficult to take photos of. Trust me, they are much nicer in real life than i make them look on here. The lack of cherry’s in this area meant it was relatively unoccupied and peaceful. Still, under the shade of a centuries old Japanese maple its hard not to feel peaceful.
From here i moved on to explore the Japanese gardens section. This area was far more heavily populated than the eastern end of the park, but gave spectacular views contrasting the nature of the park with the looming monolith of the NTT DOCOMO building in the background.
Some of you who are familiar with the works of Makoto Shinkai may be feeling that some of these shots are familiar. That is because “The Garden of Words” his most recent work, was set primarily in Shinjuku-Gyoen. Shinkai San’s works are typically story boarded from real life photos of the setting location, which gives most frames much more realism than is typical of animation. Of course his films, amongst the most visually striking animation to come out of Japan, are usually far more beautiful than the original setting. I’m looking forward to the rainy season so i can return and try to recreate some shots from that film. Below is the tea-house, where the majority of The Garden of Words is set.
From here i meandered around the eastern section of the Japanese gardens, following the stream of people and occasionally stopping to shoot a photo. While taking the shot below, i became aware of a Japanese couple nearby talking about me, though I couldn’t figure out what they might be saying. After taking the image and preparing to leave, they asked me if i could take their photo using their phone. I took a passible but fairly mediocre shot, the best i could do with a phone and the weather. Handing the phone back to them I asked them to check they were happy with the photo, not wanting them to return home to see a disappointing image. They assured me before checking it that it would be fine, “because i was a professional” I found this response most amusing, but insisted they check because i’m in no way a professional Photographer. They must have liked the photo though, because their reaction (after the obligitori “SUGOI!!!”) was to call over several of their friends for photos too. I soon had a hand full of smartphones and a small queue of people… I don’t think the image was that good. Decent yes, but not spectacular. I realised after the fact thought that I should have been charging 😛
That pretty much sums up the day. I went home, had some din dins and went to bed. though not before making a start on processing the grey cast out of my favorite images.
More updates to come soon, there is less of a back log now that Shinjuku park is out of the way, so hopefully it wont take me too long. Until then, enjoy the sunshine wherever you are! i wish i could get some!