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Experience, Nature,

A refreshing stroll in the forest ー in the middle of Tokyo! The Institute for Nature Study at Shirokanedai

The park of the ‘Institute for Nature Study’ is an urban oasis. You don’t need to travel outside of Tokyo to observe nature and insects. Here you can enjoy the different flowers and other plants changing according to the four seasons. A stroll in the large park is super relaxing! Read all the highlights from our visit to the Institute for Nature Study!

The size of the park is 20 hectares. That’s about 4 times as large as the Tokyo Dome (the famous baseball stadium in Tokyo). People in Japan tend to describe the size of places by comparing it to the Tokyo Dome. The point is, this park is pretty large!

The institute’s official name is ‘Institute for Nature Study, National Museum of Nature and Science’, often called the Institute for Nature Study for short. It manages the park and its historic sites.

Inside the natural-education park, you will find signs with explanations about the trees, flowers, and so on. This allows visitors not only to enjoy the park but also to learn more about nature. Currently, the information is written only in Japanese, but if you use a translation app that detects and translates printed writings, you should be OK! This will help you to find out more about the plants right on the spot.

If you want to learn more about the highlights of the season before exploring the park, just stop by at the Education Management Building. They have a display with photos of seasonal flowers and insects.

The Museum Shop inside the Education Administration Building

It’s a walk in the park!

Let’s start our stroll! The park has a variety of zones with different landscapes. There are deep forests, grasslands, ponds, and streams. The atmosphere is completely different depending on the place.

The “Robo Botanical Garden” has a rather wide trail lined with high trees.

Looking closely at the landscape, you will see small hills here and there throughout the park. These are called “earthworks”. They were artificially created about 500 years ago to prevent foreign enemies and wildfires.
Originally, there was a feudal mansion of a rich family on this land. Like the “earthworks,” there are some traces that this place once had been maintained by its inhabitants. But later, it was untouched. This makes the park a valuable place to see Tokyo’s nature before it became a densely populated area.

Monogatari no Matsu (Fable Pine)”

During the Edo period, some parts of the park were a samurai residence and a garden. Take a look at the pine tree called “Monogatari no Matsu (Fable Pine)”. Close to the ground, the tree trunk and the branches wind elegantly – like bonsai trees. This indicates, that gardeners took care of the tree. However, halfway through, as soon as they stopped pruning, you can see that the tree started growing straight up towards the sky.

The first insect I found was this dragonfly by the pond!

Creeks and marshes

Another impressive area is the “Aquatic Botanical Garden (Suisei Botanical Garden)” and the wetlands, which have a completely different environment than the forest area. You can observe the plants that grow near the water and the creatures that live there.

The wetlands are an open space with the sunlight coming through to the ground. It’s a completely different atmosphere compared to the rather dark forest.

In nature’s hands

Once you get to the far end of the park, you will find another ancient tree. It’s a huge big pine tree called “Orochi no Matsu (Great Serpent Pine)”. Actually, it was so tall that you could see it from the windows of the Yamanote line trains. In the fall of 2019, it was overthrown by a typhoon leaving the roots exposed. However, the tree is still alive and since it didn’t block the trail, the institute’s staff decided to leave the pine tree as it is for now.

This enormous pine is one of the vestiges of Matsudaira Sanukinokami’s Edo-era villa. It is about 300 years old and is also known as the Great Serpent Pine.

To protect the environment of the park, only 300 people can enter the nature education park at the same time. This also means, that the park never gets crowded.
Feeling the sunbeams shining through the leaves of the trees on your skin, observing butterflies and fireflies, and taking a stroll through the open wetlands will really ease your mind.
So if you are looking for some relaxing time in – almost – wild nature inside Tokyo, THIS is the place to visit!


Institute for Nature Study

http://www.ins.kahaku.go.jp
5-21-5, Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/MQse33kCfCW8Jbdb6
Nearest Stations: Meguro Station, Shirokanedai Station

*Please check the official website for opening hours and closed days.
* You can access “Information about Highlights” that allows you to check the seasonal highlights in advance here: http://www.ins.kahaku.go.jp/season/oldseason/index.php
* As a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and Covid-19, staff will measure your temperature and ask you to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before entering the park.
Please wear a mask and be careful when coughing, etc.


 

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writer

I was born and raised in Kiel/Germany. When I was 16 I came to Japan for the first time. I fell in love with this beautiful country, so I returned after my university graduation. Since then, I have been living in Tokyo - and I don't plan to change anything about that ;-) My hobbies are taking a stroll around the city, taking photos and drinking coffee.

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