Institute of Nature Study meguro1/3
Photo: Institute of Nature Study
Toyosu Market rooftop garden2/3
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa
Hotel Chinzanso sakura3/3
Photo: Lim Chee Wah

The least crowded places in Tokyo

Get out of bustling Shinjuku to find these hidden, under-the-radar spots of peace and quiet, from Tachikawa to Toyosu

By Kasey Furutani
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Tokyo is one of the densest, most populous cities in the world. It can feel impossible to avoid the crowds or find a place to relax without queuing for a restaurant or getting stuck in a packed train. However, there are still some spots of tranquility in this exhausting yet wonderful city.

Now, with Japan considering a travel bubble with Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand, it might be time for tourists to start compiling their bucket list while keeping social distancing in mind. From gardens to temples, here are some of the least crowded places to spend a quiet afternoon in one of the world's greatest cities. 

Recommended: the most beautiful places in Japan

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
Photo: Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Largely underrated, the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is like hopping into a time machine. Unlike a typical stuffy museum, the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is a sprawling park that transports you to Tokyo in the Edo, Meiji and Showa eras (1603-1989). Spend the day wandering through preserved buildings, including bathhouses, Japanese and western-style homes and traditional storefronts, that have been saved from Tokyo’s rampant modernisation. Don’t forget your camera and comfy shoes – you’ll spend the whole day walking through old Tokyo and taking Insta-worthy snapshots. 

Institute of Nature Study meguro
Institute of Nature Study meguro
Photo: Institute of Nature Study

Institute for Nature Study

Are the crowds around Shinjuku Gyoen too much? Head to this nature reserve in Meguro instead, where you’ll find giant trees dating back to the seventeenth century, singing birds and seasonal flowers. Even though the reserve is just around the corner from bustling Meguro, the area is surrounded by trees, ponds and some small wild animals that give the impression of a pastoral forest. 

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Meguro Sky Garden
Meguro Sky Garden
Photo: Meguro-ku

Meguro Sky Garden

Sick of the crowds in ever-popular Nakameguro and Ikejiri-Ohashi? Look to the sky. The Meguro Sky Garden, a 400m rooftop garden smack-bang in the middle of the two wards next to the Meguro River, is a relatively overlooked green space devoid of crowds. What makes the garden so special is that it's built on the roof of a circular loop junction on the Metropolitan Expressway. Come take advantage of its anonymity and chill out with a bento underneath one of the thousand trees up in the sky. Going out has never been so relaxing. 

Jindaiji Temple, Chofu, Tokyo
Jindaiji Temple, Chofu, Tokyo
Photo: Floydian/Dreamstime

Jindaiji Temple and Botanical Gardens

Sure, Sensoji Temple in Asakusa is a must-see for any visitor, but if you’re looking for something more peaceful, Jindaiji in western Tokyo is your best bet. The Buddhist temple sports a sanmon gate dating back to 1695 and houses two picturesque halls surrounded by flowers and nature. You can easily spend the day here – grab a fresh soba lunch, snack on a sweet soy-sauce-covered dango and don’t forget to check out the nearby botanical gardens, which feature the largest rose garden in Tokyo. 

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Hotel Chinzanso sakura
Hotel Chinzanso sakura
Photo: Lim Chee Wah

Gardens of Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

The Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo’s 700-year-old Japanese landscaped garden is not just for its guests. Spend a quiet afternoon exploring the lush space that changes with the seasons: around 120 cherry blossom trees bloom in spring, summer calls for fireflies and hydrangeas, while maple leaves burn red in autumn. The gardens are a popular wedding spot for a reason – the traditional Japanese garden, complete with a heritage three-storey pagoda, is a spot of pure tranquility in the middle of northern Tokyo.

Showa Kinen Park
Showa Kinen Park
Photo: Showa Kinen Park

Showa Kinen Park

Tachikawa’s Showa Kinen Park in western Tokyo has over 160 hectares of gardens, parks and other plant life. The huge area of land can take a whole day to walk on foot, so rent a bicycle to see all the sights, including a bonsai garden, giant water fountain and two children’s playgrounds. The park has something to offer in every season – don’t miss out on late-season cherry blossoms, canoeing in summer and yellow ginkgo trees in autumn.

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Toyosu Market rooftop garden
Toyosu Market rooftop garden
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Rooftop of Toyosu Market

Toyosu Market is the hub for all things seafood related in Tokyo, but the rooftop of the Fish Intermediate Wholesale Market Building is a quiet contrast from the hustle and bustle below as it's often ignore by visitors. Chill out with a bento and admire the panoramic view of eastern Tokyo, including a rare, people-free perspective of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower. 

Tomioka Hachimangu

The largest Hachimangu shrine in Tokyo, Tomioka Hachimangu is located in Monzen-Nakacho, a suburb in east Tokyo. Known for hosting the Fukagawa Matsuri, held every three years in August, the shrine is surrounded by trees and easily identified by its giant torii gates. While you’re in the area, check out the neighbouring Narita-san Fukagawa Fudo-do Buddhist temple. Both the shrine and temple are known for blessing traffic safety, so bad drivers are welcome.

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