A trip to Tokyo is not complete without visiting the Hibiya Park, a massive public park located down south of the Imperial Palace. It stands as the first ever Western-style park in Japan and is home to a wide array of activities and events.
Overview and Brief History of Hibiya Park
Hibiya Park, or referred to as Hibiya Koen by the locals, is located in the city of Chiyoda, right between the Shinbashi district, Kasumigaseki government district, and the Imperial Palace’s east gardens, covering an estimated total area of 161,600 square meters.
During the Edo Period, it housed several residences of the Nabeshima and Mori clans and was frequently used as a place for army maneuvers up until the Meiji Period. The area was converted into a public park in 1903, making it one of Japan’s oldest city parks.
Layout of the Hibiya Park
Two massive flower gardens built in a Western style make up a relatively large percentage of the Hibiya Park. One garden mostly features tulips flowers, while the other houses different kinds of roses. Walking to and from either garden, visitors can come across several restaurants and a handful of stalls that sell snacks and refreshments.
The Hibiya Park also houses several facilities for visitors to enjoy including a couple of music domes, a charming park museum, a public hall, a tennis court, and a library. For the convenience of visitors, an underground parking area is available.
Other notable points of interest within the massive public park include its wide array of trees, pond, and several mementos from different parts of the globe, for example, a Liberty Bell from the United States, a stone epitaph, a Remus and Romulus statue from Italy, and a gneiss block from Antartica.
Activities & Events at Hibiya Park– Oktoberfest (Beer), Festivals, Garden Picnics, Etc.
Being a massive park filled with more than enough open spaces and stunning architecture to serve different events at a time, tourists can enjoy and participate in various activities at the Hibiya Park on nearly any given day of the year.
Some of the most popular and common things to do at Hibiya Park include:
Aside from the tulip and rose gardens of the Hibiya Park, a Chrysanthemum display can also be enjoyed by visitors every November. Given the park’s location near the Imperial Palace, different kinds of Chrysanthemum flowers, which are closely linked to the Emperor, are maintained at the park.
During each month of the year, at least one type of Chrysanthemum flower can be seen in full bloom.
The two music domes of Hibiya Park feature permanent seating, making them great venues for small and big concerts. At present, there are no annual concerts being held at Hibiya Park. Instead, visitors are provided with a wide array of performances all throughout the year.
Hanami Matsuri, or cherry blossom viewing festival, is a popular activity in Japan and is held at different times of the year (usually during the month of April), depending on the area’s blooming period. Hibiya Park houses its own set of cherry blossom trees which can be found in several clumps scattered across the area.
Although not as popular of a hanami spot as Tokyo’s other parks, the Hibiya Park has its own charm and allows visitors to go on pleasant walks across its space to fully appreciate the blooming cherry blossom trees. Its open spaces also serve as great spots for hanami picnic parties.
As mentioned, the Hibiya Park used to serve as a military base during the Edo and Meiji Periods. The park still features remains of the former parade square, which is now referred to as the Health Field.
Among the many events held in this area, the Run for the Cure serves as the most popular annual fundraiser in the park aimed to collect money for cancer research and awareness.
Hibiya Bon Odori
Hibiya Bon Odori refers to the annual dance festival held in Tokyo and different parts of Japan. This event features traditional music and performances, all of which are aimed to celebrate one’s ancestral spirits and pay them proper respect.
The festival is usually held during the month of August but sometimes starts as early as June or July.
Hibiya Park Fountain
The Hibiya Park Fountain serves as the park’s most popular attraction, given its rather large size. At night, the fountain is especially stunning to look at thanks to its colorful illuminations.
The Hibiya Oktoberfest, as with other Oktoberfest events, is all about the German celebration that involves a lot of dancing, music, food, and beer. Actual dates of the festival vary from year to year but usually start by the end of September and run through the second week of October.
The Horse Fountain really is a drinking fountain for horses. The Hibiya Park has this feature because it was built way before the first car was ever developed in Japan. For a long period of time, the fountain has remained unused.
The Imperial Hotel can be located on the eastern side of the Hibiya Park. It is considered to be a legendary hotel in Japan because it was established by an emperor. The property is quite a luxurious sight to see in contrast to the modest features of Hibiya Park.
Interestingly enough, the Hibiya Park also houses a wedding chapel that comes complete with its very own French restaurant. This chapel can be located right at the heart of the park and is actually frequently chosen by tourists and locals for their wedding venue.
The Park Museum of Hibiya Park is relatively small in size but houses more than enough artifacts to tickle one's fancy. Furthermore, it is located within a European-style guesthouse that dates back to the year 1910.
The playground of Hibiya Park is ideal for families traveling with young children. A lot of locals hang out with their young loved ones at this section and simply spend the day playing on the swings and slides.
The Hibiya Park features a total of four restaurants, all of which carry a fancy ambiance. Regardless of one’s preference, choosing to dine at any of the four is guaranteed to satisfy one’s appetite.
Risky Ginkgo refers to a massive, old Ginkgo tree that is believed to be nearly five hundred years old. It was relocated to the Hibiya Park during the year 1901 when the city decided to expand the Hibiya Street.
According to records, the designer of the park made great efforts into saving the tree, even putting his job on the line. At the time, the event caused quite the stir and was publicized in nearly every local newspaper.
The public found it rather amusing that someone could be so passionate about saving a tree, so much so that he would put a good job at risk, hence the name of the tree.
Koyo is a term used to refer to autumn colors. Similar to Hanami, viewing autumn leaves is also a popular activity in Japan and done in nearly every region of the country.
Housing more than three thousand trees, the Hibiya Park is among the best spots in Tokyo for viewing Koyo. About fifty different kinds of trees can be found in the park, filling the Hibiya Park with diverse shades of yellow, orange, and red during the autumn season.
Shinji Pond actually consists of remnants of the moat of the Edo Castle. Somewhere near the pond, visitors can come across an ancient guardhouse that also used to be a part of the Edo Castle but is now entirely covered in ivy.
The Shisei Kaikan is a relatively old building that is best described to carry a Gothic ambiance. It was built during the year 1929 and can be found towards the edge of Hibiya Park, where the former State News Agency of Japan once stood.
At present, the stunning piece of architecture is among the few remaining Western-style buildings of its kind in all of Japan. Sitting in the modern city of Chiyoda, the Shisei Kaikan is worth visiting for its pleasantly outdated and out of place appearance.
The Tokyo Marathon usually takes place during the last week of February. Hibiya Park serves as the 10-kilometer finish line for the marathon. Tourists are advised to take a few moments of their day to check out the popular marathon and possibly cheer the runners on.
More Information about Hibiya Park
The Hibiya Park is open 24/7, 365 days of the year. Given that it is a public park, visitors are not required to pay any admission fee to gain access to its facilities.
Tourists can reach the park in numerous ways. Those catching a train on the Hibiya and Marunouchi Subway Lines can get off at the Kasumigaseki Station, while those taking the Hibiya and Chiyoda Subway Lines are advised to get off at the Hibiya Station; both stations serve as the nearest ones to Hibiya Park.
Alternatively, tourists may also choose to take a train on the Yurakucho Subway Line to the Yurakucho Station and take a short walk towards the park. The same station of the JR Yamanote Line is also within a walking distance from Hibiya Park.
Other Tourist Attractions near Hibiya Park, Tokyo
It is practically impossible for tourists to run out of things to do while in Tokyo, Japan. Before or after paying the Hibiya Park a visit, foreign travelers can choose to visit many other equally enjoyable attractions located around the area such as:
Tokyo Imperial Palace
The Tokyo Imperial Palace, or Kokyo, is situated on the former site where the Edo Castle once stood tall. It is a short walk away from the Tokyo Station and serves as the Imperial Family’s main residence.
In general, the inner grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace are off limits to the public, except on December 23 and January 2, which are dates that mark the Emperor’s birthday and the Emperor’s New Year’s Greeting, respectively.
A tour guide or two can be requested by those who want to gain more knowledge about the site’s history and explore the palace ground up close. However, it should be noted that these tours also do not have access to any of the Tokyo Imperial Palace’s buildings.
Imperial Palace East Gardens
The Imperial Palace East Gardens, which also goes by the name Kokyo Higashi Gyoen, makes up a portion of the Imperial Palace’s inner grounds. These areas may be explored by the public, so long as the restricted areas of the Imperial Palace are not breached. Remnants of the former Edo Castle can be found scattered across the site.
Tourists are advised to visit the gardens during the autumn season to see witness its breathtaking Koyo shades.
Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Tuesday – Thursday & Saturday - Sunday; Closed every Monday, Friday, and during the New Year Holidays (December 28 – January 3)
Admission Fee: No admission fee
Hama Rikyu refers to a massive landscape garden located right in Central Tokyo, particularly along the edge of Tokyo Bay. The seawater ponds it houses feature varied tide levels, which change according to the Tokyo Bay’s own.
The garden offers visitors with a pleasant teahouse for them to enjoy the beauty of Tokyo and spend some time away from the busy streets of the metropolitan city.
Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, daily; Closed from December 29 to January 3
Admission Fee: 300 yen per person
Koishikawa Korakuen is another one of Tokyo’s stunning Japanese gardens. This particular garden stands out from the rest as it is considered to be among the oldest and best ones in Tokyo.
The garden dates back to the early years of the Edo Period when it was developed using concepts from a Chinese poem. As such, the Koishikawa Korakuen features a mix of Japanese and Chinese elements that create a pleasant sense of harmony.
Hours: 9:00 Am – 5:00 PM, daily; Closed from December 29 to January 3
Admission Fee: 300 yen per person