Inokashira Park—Green Oasis in the Heart of Kichijoji
Just twenty minutes west by train from downtown Shinjuku, Kichioji is one of Tokyo’s most popular areas for recreation, and the Inokashira Park there is a major reason. Forgive the cliché, but this expansive park truly offers something for everyone. Whether you’re planning to spend only an hour there or stay for the entire day, you can easily tailor your visit to suit the ages and the interests of those in your group.
A good spot to catch up on some reading.
There are two stations serving the park, but most visitors come through Kichijoji Station, which is an express stop on both the JR Chuo Line and the Keio Inokashira Line. This route will also deliver you close to the center of Inokashira Park with easy access to its main attractions. The other station, Inokashira-Koen on the Keio Inokashira Line, might look closer to the park on a map, but it is a local stop, requiring travel on a slower train. Also, this station’s location is not very convenient for most visitors heading to the park.
The majestic Inokashira Pond.
Inokashira Park was Tokyo’s first suburban park opening in 1917 and currently measures 428,390 square meters. As a well-established green space in the city, the park features some 20,000 trees and is a delight for nature lovers. The centerpiece is the lovely Inokashira Pond, which is roughly 1.5 kilometers in circumference.
Birds of a feather: swan boats are a popular attraction.
The pond is home to a wide variety of birds, including one that is clearly an introduced species—the swan boat. A leisurely trip on the lake in one of these whimsical vessels is immensely popular, particularly for visitors with children or those on a romantic outing. If you prefer something a little more inconspicuous, there are also rowboats available to rent. However, if you or your partner are superstitious, be forewarned: according to local legend, couples who take a boat ride might incur the wrath of the jealous goddess Benzaiten and subsequently break up!
Benzaiten Shrine sits at the edge of Inokashira Pond.
Benzaiten has her own shrine, tucked away near the northwest edge of the pond. Benzaiten Shrine is small but picturesque. Close to the pond and surrounded by foliage, it offers some excellent spots for stunning photos.
Picture perfect: the shrine offers plenty of places to take beautiful photos.
Benzaiten herself is generally depicted with eight arms and is a goddess of water, which explains the location for her shrine.
For further views of the shrine, walk over the wooden Benten Bridge.
A little bit of history.
Another point of interest nearby is the Ochanomizu Spring, whose waters, it is said, were used for preparing tea by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. In fact, Inokashira Pond itself was a source of water for residents of Tokyo during the Tokugawa (or Edo) period (1603 to 1868).
Row, row, row your boat—just be prepared to wait in line during cherry-blossom season.
The park really comes into its own in the spring, when a profusion of pink blossoms attracts people who gather to enjoy picnicking or strolling under the cherry trees. If you don’t mind waiting in a long line, inevitable during the peak season, rent a boat for another wonderful view of the blossoms from out on Inokashira Pond.
Fresh green foliage is everywhere.
Spring is certainly the most popular time to visit Inokashira Park, but the park is worth a visit in any season—with its lush greenery in the summer, vivid colored leaves in the autumn, and elusive migratory birds in the winter.
What looks good today?
If you get hungry during your visit, there is a variety of food, ranging from Japanese-style noodles to Western cuisine, available throughout the park.
The zoo is divided into two sections, the smaller of which features water creatures.
Families might also be interested in the small zoo, which is located in the middle of the park and includes the main zoo and a smaller aquatic-life park. There is an entrance fee, which gives admittance to both of these. If zoos are not your cup of tea, there is more than enough nature and wildlife to enjoy elsewhere in the park.
Where to next? There is so much to see and do at Inokashira Park.
You may also want to visit the Ghibli Museum, dedicated to the work of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki and his creations with Studio Ghibli. You will need to purchase tickets online in advance for this very popular attraction; no reservations can be made or tickets purchased at the museum. The museum is located on the far side of Inokashira Park, past some tennis courts and playing fields when coming from Kichijoji Station, which is a twenty-minute walk away.
Before heading home, be sure to explore the environs of Kichijoji Station. It isn’t difficult to see why Kichijoji regularly tops surveys of the most desirable areas to live in Tokyo. Despite being convenient to central Tokyo, Kichijoji manages to maintain an intimate atmosphere all its own.
The road between Kichijoji Station and the park is lined with cafés and shops.
You probably caught a glimpse of some trendy boutiques and eclectic restaurants while walking from the station to the park, but that was just a taste of the shopping and dining opportunities available in Kichijoji. Ducking down one of Kichijoji’s side streets, you are never quite sure what you’ll find, but it is almost certain to be interesting.
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This article was written by Louise George Kittaka.Back