Through the Ages: The Greenhouse of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

If you are planning an extended trip to Tokyo, chances are that at least one of your days will be rained out. Don’t let that stop you from emerging from your hotel and enjoying the city.

In addition to Tokyo’s countless museums, there’s one more perfect place to escape gloomy weather: The Shinjuku Gyoen Greenhouse. Best of all, it won’t cost you a dime (or a yen) to visit (beyond the 500-yen fee to enter Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden).

2019-07-24   Visit: Parks & Nature, Shinjuku, Tokyo,

The Birthplace of western horticulture in Japan

The modern greenhouse (completed in 2012) is located besides the ruins of its Meiji-era predecessor.

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

The greenhouse is popular with photography enthusiasts.

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.

This sign categorizes plants by their use (food, spices, medicinal, materials, etc.). There is plenty of information throughout the greenhouse, but unfortunately almost all of it is in Japanese. Have your favorite translating app ready.

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.

Cyperus papyrus, the historic plant that ancient Egyptians used to make paper.

Don’t miss out

Deserts, jungles, and the tropics, all under one roof.

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.

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Writer / Translator

Originally from Riverside, California, I've been living, working, and writing in Japan since 2009. Japan has become my second home, and I'm especially fond of Shinjuku, Tokyo. That being said, I also love getting out into the countryside and exploring the entire country. Through Tadaima Japan, I hope to share the wonders of Japan with a wider, international audience. Check out my articles if you enjoy exploring on foot, convenient cafes, and affordable dining.


Address 11 Naito-machi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0014
Hours Hours vary by season. See website for details.
Price 500 yen (greenhouse is free to enter)
Close Mondays (if Monday is a public holiday, the park is closed on the following day instead), December 29 – January 3
Access Five-minute walk from Shinjuku-gyoenmae Station (Exit 1)
via the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line
Phone +81-(0)3-3350-0151
Language Japanese