Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑) in summer

Take a sharp right as you enter the turnstiles of Shinjuku Gate of Shinjuku Gyoen and follow the big loop along the western end of the park, you arrive at the traditional Japanese koi pond (Kami No Ike, Upper Pond). This western most located pond is one of the most picturesque in the park complete with arched stone foot bridge and rolling Japanese pines through years of deliberate stunting. Perched on the northern end to one side of pond is a shaded pavilion with the vantage point to pause and take in the idyllic scenery. Tokyo heat and humidity in the summer can be punishing and braving the bench out in the open would be ill-advised.  Walking over the footbridge, pond surface bristles and you notice the koi’s race towards you with their jaws wide open. These guys are smart (and some are alligator-proportions).

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Looking out from the pavilion, ever-present Docomo Tower looms tall over the Japanese Garden

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Shaded pavilion perched on the northern end to one side of the pond

Another way to escape the heat and mosquitoes is to head straight into Rakuutei traditional tea house as you cross the bridge. This is the smaller of the two tea houses in the Japanese Garden and perhaps less atmospheric as it is encased by opaque Japanese sliding doors and windows. It does have the advantage of being less crowded.  Red bean paste Japanese sweet served with matcha is Y700 and comes with completely atmosphere killing, voucher dispensing ticket vending machine from which you buy the voucher and present to the kimono-clad matron to be served. Matcha is perfectly foamed and I nurse my mosquito bites nibbling at the red bean sweet.  Recharge here to brave the heat once more and walk towards Taiwanese Pavilion.

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Matcha at Rakuutei, foamed to perfection

The lawn in front of Taiwanese Pavilion is the perfect spot for a Japanese picnic (read bento and sake from the nearest combini). Shoutentei, the larger of the two tea house is near by to supply ice bars to cool you down. Taiwanese pavilion was presented by the Japanese residing in Taiwan to the crown price (later the Emperor Showa) for his imperial wedding ceremony and built in the Minnan (southern Taiwanese) architectural style. Taiwanese Pavilion marks the eastern end of Japanese section of the park and you can cross the bridge to enter the English section where the vast flat lawn opens up.

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View to the lawn in front of Taiwanese Pavilion from Shoutentei, larger of the two tea houses

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Vast and open, English section of the garden.  Bring mat and SPF 50, sun tanning is allowed

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