The Birthplace of western horticulture in Japan
The original Shinjuku Gyoen Greenhouse was a 100-square-meter glass structure completed in 1875, when the park was a government-run experiment center for the purpose of promoting western agriculture.
The Meiji Era brought technological advances to the greenhouse, and sometime between 1893 and 1895 temperature regulation features were added to the facility. This made it possible to cultivate tropical and subtropical plants, making the building a true western-style greenhouse and a beacon for horticultural efforts throughout Japan.
The original greenhouse, along with the rest of Shinjuku Gyoen, was decimated during the air raids of World War II. By 1958, the greenhouse had been rebuilt and would undergo several renovations over the following decades.
The greenhouse that you can visit today opened in 2012 and is located next to the ruins of the original Meiji-era structure. It is a modern marvel that houses over 2,700 species of plants from all over the world, with an emphasis on protecting endangered species.
Experiencing the greenhouse
I use the term “greenhouse” loosely, as the facility you’ll find in Shinjuku Gyoen is much more than a mere glass room with flowers or berries. In reality, the looming glass structure is more like a biodome that you’d find on a massive spacefaring vessel from your favorite science fiction movie. Thankfully, entering the greenhouse is as simple as stepping through a door—no ticket taking or pomp and circumstance required. If you’ve paid to enter Shinjuku Gyoen, then the greenhouse is free for you to explore at your leisure.
Once inside, you’ll be delighted by the sheer variety of plants and the biomes on display. It’s fascinating to see coffea arabica, cyperus papyrus, and several varieties of cactus all under one roof. Best of all, you can enjoy this escape into nature during any season, even when the park is deluged by rain in June or covered in snow in February.
Don’t miss out
If you are planning to visit Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen probably has a spot on your itinerary. Be sure to make the most of your time in the park by exploring it end-to-end, taking in all that it has to offer. The greenhouse is an often overlooked park feature that can turn the gloomiest of days into an opportunity to explore several beautiful, natural habitats, all under one glass roof.