According to ancient tradition, Spring in Japan begins at the start of February. We had seen people with their cameras, eagerly snapping pictures of early narcissi, but this did not stop the snow from tumbling down. The snow was still on the ground when we visited the Shinjuku National Garden the next day. But this did not diminish its beauty.
A Traditional Japanese Garden
This is a garden laid out on classical lines. We strolled through the “English Landscaped Garden” – mostly trees and wide lawns – where early spring violas peeked through the ground. Then into the “French Formal Garden” with its symmetrical hedges and flower beds.
But it was the Traditional Japanese Garden that we had come to see. It was everything that I had expected: little bridges crossing a lake brimming with golden carp, trees and bushes laid out in perfect harmony. Even the snow seemed carefully placed to blend in with the landscape.
Unfortunately the Japanese Tea Room was closed: a pity as a hot cup of tea would have been ideal for fending off the biting cold wind. We walked around the lake instead, noting the reflection of Tokyo’s high rise towers in the water, a reminder that ancient and modern sit side by side here.
The Greenhouses of Shinjuku National Garden
Eventually we escaped into the warmth of the greenhouses. These were full of tropical and subtropical plants; we wandered past bunches of bananas and brightly coloured orchids, my camera steaming up as it registered the change in temperature.
But when we emerged the sun had come out, bringing the whole garden to life. A group of visitors had clustered around a cherry tree, its blossom slowly starting to unfurl. A welcome sign that Spring was on its way.