Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world. It’s an urban metropolis of tiny, winding streets and looming skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. I pass by a sea of people every day and all around me is a concrete jungle. When I first arrived I thought jumping on a train and heading out to the countryside would be the only way I could see greenery ever again. However, that isn’t the case! Tokyo is full of beautiful greenery and abundant with flowers, both in stores to buy, and growing along the edges of well-worn pathways.
Tokyo has many parks, ranging from small patches of grass with a bench to multi-acre paradises. The most famous of these is the Imperial Palace Eastern Gardens, smack-dab in the center of Tokyo. These gardens are an outer part of the palace where Japan’s Emperor resides, and are open to the public. They contain a beautiful collection of plants from all over the country, and the entire area is surrounded by a moat which protected the Shogun during the historic Edo period.
Right now is hanami season, when the sakura (cherry blossoms) are in full bloom. People go in droves to relax and watch them, often getting up early in the morning when the sun rises to secure the best spot they can find. Many parks have Spring and Sakura festivals in which they commemorate the blossoms with delicious food stalls and music. These festivals occur rain or shine, all over the city where you can find cherry blossoms during the time they’re in bloom!
Even if there’s no time in your busy schedule to unwind in a park, Tokyo has many other surprising green spaces. Rivers of all sizes flow throughout the city, and you may find yourself at any time following the path of a stream or crossing a scenic park to get from one point to the next.
For such a futuristic-looking city, there are old shrines and temples hidden all over the place. These are quiet, peaceful, even sometimes ancient spaces that house gods. Larger shrines and temples have areas where you can make an offering to the gods, which is most usually money. A mere five yen is good to offer because five yen is pronounced “go-en” in Japanese, which can also translate as “good fortune.” Aside from cherry blossom viewing, people often visit these temples and shrines to pray for good luck in an upcoming endeavor. On my daily walk to school I usually pass at least four gorgeous shrines, nestled into nooks between buildings or standing solemnly between residential homes.
So if you ever come to the great city of Tokyo and feel stressed hurrying around the crowded train stations, feel free to stop and smell the roses (or sakura, or lilies, or any other flower you come upon)! Parks and shrines are open year-round and there’s always some greenery to be found in the giant metal jungle that is Tokyo.
The world awaits…discover it.