Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park Pushes the Definition of Public Space
Learn about Tokyo’s communities with a virtual visit to one of their most famous public parks.
Yoyogi Koen (Yoyogi Park) is Tokyo’s Central Park. Wedged between the fashion-conscious Harajuku and the spiritual Meiji Jingu Shrine, Yoyogi is a place where Tokyoites congregate. Its status as one of the biggest free-to-enter parks in Tokyo draws in locals and tourists alike. Some come to wonder around the wide space, a luxury in one of the world’s most populous cities. Others may come to make a picnic on its greenery, perhaps by one of the lakes that dot the park.
Its proximity to Harajuku has also made it a hotspot to spy on the city’s subcultures. Every Sunday at around 3pm, rockabilly dancers gather to put on a performance. Other Tokyo subcultures, such as cosplayers and martial arts clubs, also gather here.
It’s also an event space and will play host to some events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Moreover, it’s where some of Tokyo’s international community also put on events to showcase their culture. This year will see the park utilised as space for the Vietnamese and Taiwanese festivals. However, in typical Tokyo fashion, the events also often range from the traditional, such as the upcoming antique market, to the downright wackiness of the annual Yoyogi Koen Zombie Walk.
Despite this, it’s arguably most associated with the cherry blossom during hanami season. It’s this time where thousands flock to set up a picnic with drink and food among the pink plantations. I was lucky enough to visit during this season, although not early to ensure a place beneath the cherry blossoms. Competition is so fierce that some even camp overnight to ensure they have the best spot. Even if you can’t find a place to sit, I’d recommend visiting and soaking up the atmosphere of this uniquely Japanese tradition.
Events such as these also reveal how important green spaces such as Yoyogi Koen are. Yoyogi Koen is a place for Tokyoites to gather and celebrate the latest seasonal tradition or event. It also reveals Tokyo’s communities to the visitor or inquisitive resident. What’s more, it proves that even in a city as dense as Tokyo, wide open space can still be possible. Yoyogi Koen does all this whilst also being an oasis of greenery amid the concrete grey of the Tokyo urban jungle. Make sure you visit whatever the season on your trip to Tokyo.
In the mean time, however, check out the photos below of my last trip to Tokyo: