Japan is famous for its legendary gardening and landscaping techniques. From the Heian period, which took place between the late 8th and the early 12th centuries, gardening techniques borrowed from the Chinese became widespread among the aristocracy in the country. The first Japanese gardens were set up in the island of Honshu, and quickly took over Japan. Nowadays, there are endless free, public parks and gardens to spend a day off from work doing your favorite activities. These are some of the largest and most beautiful free, urban parks in the country:
1. Ueno Park [Tokyo Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsIt’s difficult to choose just one park from Japan’s capital city, which has a notable selection of semi-natural recreational spaces. We will pick Ueno because of its historical importance; dating back to 1873, Ueno is one of the first public parks established in Tokyo. Rather than just a green area, Ueno is an entertainment district of its own, housing a few museums, temples, boating lakes and a zoo (the oldest in Japan). The shinobazu Pond, completely covered in lotuses, is one of the most charming landscapes in the city.
Address: Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Tokyo PrefectureAccess:By subway: a short walk from Ueno Station, on the Ginza and Hibiya lines.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Ueno ParkWithin Japan: 3-3828-5644
2. Mino Park [Osaka Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsOsaka, the third largest and most populated city in Japan, has a fair share of beautiful parks, too. Mino stands out from the rest due to its unparalleled foliage, which turns all shades of red, green, brown and orange during the fall. Located just 30 minutes away from downtown Osaka, this scenic natural park is a perfect weekend getaway, and a top hiking area for locals and tourists alike. The Mino waterfall, which is almost 35 meters high, is the most photographed spot in the park.
Address: 562-0002 Mino-Koen, Mino City, Osaka PrefectureAccess:By train: just a short walk from Mino Station, on the Hankyu Mino Line.Recommended period: Fall.Contact:Mino ParkWithin Japan: 072-723-0649
3. Kiso Sansen Park [Gifu Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsLocated in Kaizu, Kiso Sansen is the largest public, urban park in Japan. Even though Kiso is beautiful year-round, spring is definitely the best time of the year to walk its paths. The park is decorated with millions of seasonal flowers, such as tulips, daisies and gypsophilas. The tulip festival, which happens in April each year to coincide with the cherry blossom, is the most popular attraction in Kiso Sansen, and a must-see. During the winter, 500,000 lights illuminate the park.
Address: 255-3 Aburajima, Kaizu-cho, Kaizu-shi, Gifu Prefecture 503-0625Access:By bus: take a local bus from Ishizu Station, on the Kintetsu Yoro Line, and get off at the Chisui Jinja Mae stop.Recommended period: Spring.Contact:Kiso Sansen Park Management CenterWithin Japan: 0584-54-5531
4. 138 Tower Park [Aichi Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsLocated in Ichinomiya City, very close to Kiso Sansen, this park has a 138-meter-high tower as the main attraction, the Twin Arch 138. Even though most visitors come into the park to take a look at the city from the tower’s observation deck, the recreational area is also famous for its colorful flowers and gardens. The Rose Stream, with nine different types of roses (almost 4,000 in total), makes for the most picturesque landscape in Ichinomiya. Entrance to the park is completely free, although admission to the observation deck is 500 yen.
Address: 21-3 Oaza Urazaki, Komyoji, Ichinomiya-shi, Aichi-ken 491-0135Access:By bus: Take a Meitetsu bus to Watabashi at Ichinomiya Station and get off at the Twin Arch 138 stop.Recommended period: Spring.Contact:138 Tower ParkWithin Japan: 586-54-7106
5. Maruyama Park [Kyoto Prefecture]
Credit: www.flickr.comKyoto counts with several note-worthy green spaces, such as the Botanical Gardens, the Kamo-gawa Riverside and the city’s very own Central Park, Kyoto Gyoen. Maruyama, however, is the most conveniently located and the best spot for cherry blossom viewing in the Kyoto prefecture. The park, which has been named a Place of Scenic Beauty by the Japanese Government, is most famous for its impressive weeping cherry tree, which gets lit up at night.
Address: 473 Maruyamacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0071Access:By bus: take bus number 100 or 206 from Kyoto Station and get off at the Gion stop.Recommended period: Spring.Contact:Maruyama ParkWithin Japan: 75-561-1350
6. Ginowan Seaside Park [Okinawa Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsThose who don’t fancy looking at flowers and sitting on wooden benches might prefer visiting Okinawa’s Ginowan Park, which looks more like a beach resort than a public recreational area. Some of the attractions found in Ginowan include a tropical beach, a fish pond, a playground zone for the little ones, a picnic area, a multi-purpose sports area and an outdoor theatre. Ginowan is a popular park for families and athletes, especially baseball players, who use the park’s facilities to train for spring and fall seasons.
Address: 4 Chome-3-1 Mashiki, Ginowan-shi, Okinawa-ken 901-2224Access:By bus: take a local bus to the Round 1 stadium, located right next to the park.Recommended period: Summer.Contact:Ginowan Seaside ParkWithin Japan: 098-898-3000
7. Rinshi No Mori Park [Okinawa Prefecture]
Credit: www.flickr.comWe are closing this list with yet another free Tokyo park we simply couldn’t leave behind; Rinshi No Mori. Its tall, old trees are the main attraction here, especially in the summer. During July and August, when Tokyo becomes a superheated earthly hell, Rinshi provides hundreds of miles of shade and splash ponds to cool off. Kids love it! The park is also a good spot for hiking, biking and bird watching.
Address: 5 Shimomeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo; 2 Koyamadai, Shinagawa-ku, TokyoAccess:By train: 10-min walk from Musashi-koyama Station, on the Tokyu Meguro line.Recommended period: Summer.Contact:Rinshi No Mori ParkWithin Japan: 03-3792-3800by Virginia Gonzalez