Yoyogi Park (代々木公園) is a large park located in the Shibuya Ward of Tokyo, Japan. It is adjacent to the popular Harajuku district and the famous Meiji Shrine. Yoyogi Park is an incredibly popular place for people to hang out, relax and pursue outdoor activities. Sundays are especially popular with many hobbyists flocking to the park. One of the frequent parkgoer’s and attractions are the rockabilly dancers, dressed straight out of the movie “Grease,” and dancing the afternoon away. They can be seen just a short walk from Harajuku Station. The spring season also welcomes many people to the park to picnic, see friends and drink underneath the many cherry blossoms in full bloom. This is a major event in Japan, known as “hanami,” and most parks get very crowded. Due to its size, Yoyogi Park is one of the most popular destinations to have a cherry blossom viewing party. Yoyogi Park has plenty to offer, including picnicking areas, bicycle paths and sports courts. Let’s learn a little bit more about the exciting history of this park.
History of Yoyogi Park
The 133 acre site that is known as Yoyogi Park in the present day was actually the location of the first successful powered aircraft flight in all of Japan. It was later converted into an army parade ground before its redevelopment into the “Washington Heights” military barracks in 1945. “Washington Heights” served as the home to many United States military officers during the Allied Occupation of Japan. In 1964, Yoyogi Park was the location of the Olympic Village and temporarily housed athletes from all over the world who had made the journey to compete in Japan. The Yoyogi National Gymnasium was constructed solely for the Olympic Games and still stands to this day. By 1967 the area was mostly converted into a park, and a park is what it remains to this day. However, Tokyo’s unsuccessful 2016 Olympic bid included a provision that would have redeveloped the park again, replacing some areas with modern courts and sporting features. In 2014, Yoyogi Park was temporarily closed due to an outbreak of dengue that originated in the park. However, Yoyogi Park was quickly reopened and things were back to normal in almost no time.
Things to do in Yoyogi Park
The park is divided into two sections; the more well-known forest section is closest to Harajuku Station and includes ponds, open fields and a bird sanctuary. The second part of the park is the concrete walkway and outdoor stage that can be reached by crossing a bridge. In between these two sections sits the Central Plaza with a large fountain.
Food and beverage stands can be found throughout the park and there are fixed locations serving food and drinks at the gate near Harajuku Station as well as next to the outdoor stage. The concrete pathways are perfect for running or biking and a bicycle rental facility is available on-site. The spacious grassy fields on the forest side make for great picnic spots or a relaxing place for yoga. Many people will play music either on a portable player or possibly live, if you’re lucky. The grassy area is also a great place to play catch, throw a frisbee or to enjoy a game of badminton. For basketball or soccer, just venture over to the other side of the park to make use of some of the free courts that are available. If you brought your furry friend along to enjoy the day, there is a fenced in dog park available.
The historian inside of you may wish to see some of the Olympic Village remnants or the “Sample Garden.” The “Sample Garden” is a small garden that includes seeds from all over the world, brought by Olympians who wanted to show their appreciation to Tokyo for hosting the games. And don’t forget to check out the beautiful golden ginkgo trees in the autumn. Yoyogi Park has plenty of ginkgo trees that paint the sky a bright yellow.
One of the greatest things about Yoyogi Park is its festivals. Most of the festivals are held near the outdoor stage where there are many performances, from music to dancing and more. Aside from performances, these festivals include pop-up shops where you can purchase some great trinkets or keepsakes. Food and drinks are usually served as well. There are festivals celebrating different cultures like the Thai Festival, Cambodian Festival and Taiwan Festival; and there are festivals for events like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo or Tokyo Pride. Depending on the festival, items available may not be so common in Japan, so enjoy learning about different cultural aspects and heritage.
Attractions around Yoyogi Park
Yoyogi is one of the the largest and most central parks in Tokyo, right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of Harajuku and Shibuya. After (or before) enjoying the lush green park there are plenty things in the surrounding area that are worth exploring. Venturing out into Harajuku you can walk through the infamous Takeshita-dori to see the unique kawaii fashion, cute shops and possibly try a crepe. On the other side is NHK Studio Park, an interactive museum that is fun to explore with kids as there are many activities for them to see and do. It’s fun for adults too.
Possibly the most obvious attraction near Yoyogi Park is the famous Meiji Shrine. Hailed as one of the best shrines in Japan, this shrine is massive and includes museums, walking paths, a food court and more.
An important final note about Yoyogi Park, it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Please note that some facilities do close in the early evening. Additionally, admission to Yoyogi Park is completely free, and parking is available for those who are arriving by car.
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Yoyogi Park is a great spot, right at the heart of Tokyo where you can take a refreshing stroll in nature and see the locals enjoying their free time. With so much to see and do in the park and its surrounding areas, you are sure to return to Yoyogi Park again and again. Whether you want to meet friends for a picnic, take a leisurely walk or are hip to try something unique and new at a festival, Yoyogi Park has got you covered. What’s your favorite thing to do in Yoyogi Park?
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Trevor Jones is an educator and an aspiring marketer. Originally from the United States, he moved to Tokyo in 2017. Trevor enjoys exploring new destinations and sharing his experiences. He can be found on Instagram at @tjones312
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