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Do As Tokyo Does Harajuku to Tokyo, Park Photowalk
(Entered Aug. 30, 2009)
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As much as I like to make Tokyo out to be nothing but a big, grey slab of dirty concrete, it actually has some decent parks and sightseeing spots. When I was looking at the area between Harajuku station and Tokyo station on Google Maps, I noticed that there were a bunch of parks all seemingly within walking distance of each other. I had just found the theme of my next photowalk, and without further ado, I grabbed my D80 and attendant lenses and headed out the door.

First stop, Meiji Shrine. Yoyogi park lies just around the corner but I decided to give it a miss as I've been there hundreds of times before and know exactly what it has to offer. If you're interested in doing the 'full' Tokyo park walk, feel free to head there first though.

harajuku tokyo photowalk meijijingu torii

For a weekday, Meiji was fairly crowded, but not annoyingly so. My main goal in Meiji Shrine was to find its small open park area which I've been to only twice, and that few people seem to know about. Most people head only to the main shrine pictured below, and think there's nothing more on offer. There's also a small pond/garden area that you have to pay 500 yen to enter which I mistakenly did. Take my advice and give it a miss as there is nothing to see. I left quickly, photo-less and disappointed.

harajuku to tokyo photowalk meijijingu shrine

After a bit of searching I finally found the place I was looking for in the north area of the complex. A huge open space devoid of people. I wandered around in peace for a while. Great for picnics and dates.

harajuku to tokyko photowalk meijijingu park

Having a lot more ground to cover though, I didn't linger too long. Take the north exit of Meiji Shrine and head up the road past Yoyogi station (pictured below) and keep going until you reach the area around Takashimaya in Shinjuku. Once you get on the East side of the station, you'll find Shinjuku Gyoen one street over from Shinjuku Dori.

harajuku tokyo photowalk yoyogi and docomo tower

You'll need to pay 200 yen to enter Shinjuku Gyoen, but it's not a bad deal as the park is huge and uncrowded. Wander around to your heart's content.

harajuku tokyo photowalk shinjuku gyoen

Once you get deeper inside there are fewer and fewer people around. Of course things would be different in cherry blossom season with thousands of people everywhere, but in August there isn't much to see except trees and grass. Good enough for me though as all I really wanted was to leave the noise and craziness of Tokyo behind for a while, a service which Shinjuku Gyoen admirably provided.

harajuku tokyo photowalk shinjuku gyoen docomo tower

Now comes the hard part. Distances seem short on maps, but the reality is something else. Heading out of Shinjuku Gyoen, take a right and continue on down Shinjuku dori. Keep walking until you hit Yotsuya station. To your right is a big park like area called Akasaka Goyouchi which is supposedly the domain of the royal family and can only be entered on special occasions, so just keep on going straight and you will eventually get to the Imperial Palace moat (pictured below. The walk between Shinjuku Gyoen and the Palace is at least an hour (at a fast pace), but it can seem a lot more when you're walking in the hot sunshine. Be prepared.

harajuku to tokyo photowalk imperial palace moat

I took a right at the moat, choosing to head down to the Otemachi and Hibiya park area, but if you take a left and go up, you can check out Yasukuni Shrine and Kitanomaru park, both of which have decent views.
On my journey past the Sakurada gate, I ran into these two cormorants sunning themselves. I broke out the telephoto lens and tripod for this one, and in a couple minutes I had attracted a crowd of people wondering what was so interesting.

harajuku tokyo photowalk cormorants

Though it might not look it from the picture (below), there were tourists galore here. I'm not really sure why people always gather and hang out at the entrance to the palace when you can't even enter, but gather they do. Well ok you can enter occasionally, but only on special days of the year. Not today though.

harajuku tokyo photowalk imperial palace moat

By this time I had been out in the direct sun for a couple of hours, and had a severe craving for shade. I mistakenly overshot Hibiya Park by a very wide margin, but decided to give it a pass as I've been there many times before, not to mention I had now been walking for about 5 hours pretty much non-stop. If you do want to head to Hibiya park, head back the way you came for about 15 minutes and take a left.
Here I am coming out of the shade-less palace area, Tokyo Tower in the distance.

harajuku tokyo photowalk imperial palace road tokyo tower

A cold beer, though an optional part of any photowalk, provided a nice way to wrap things up. I found a nice bar/cafe in the Marunouchi area (maybe the most picturesque boulevard in Tokyo) and sat for a while relaxing while I waited for Kumi to get off work.

harajuku tokyo photowalk corona

Overall an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Here's the area in question, and the path I took.

harajuku tokyo photowalk map



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