We woke to welcome sunshine the following morning – it wasn’t really warm, but at least no rain was forecast, so we decided to take the opportunity to visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, just a couple of subway stops away. It was delightful, with different sections each having a distinctive character, which made it seem larger than its 144 acres. The Japanese garden was picture perfect in the sunshine, with the maple trees just coming into fresh green or coppery leaf and many late flowering cherries still in full bloom. Little Japanese style pavillions peeped out from the trees, and koi carp swam unter the lake’s arched bridges. Two stately rows of bare, white trunked plane trees flanked the rosebeds and clipped azaelea hedges in the French formal garden, and a sweep of green lawn with artistically placed trees played homage to Capability Brown.
The blooms in the garden’s main cherry had fallen, leaving a carpet of white below the trees, but elsewhere the picnickers and camera snappers were out in force (even though it was a weekday) and the cafeteria was packed – but a helpful employee showed us how to select our meal and get a ticket from the vending machine, and somehow she managed to find us a seat at the bar facing the window to eat our udon noodles (which included slices of fish paste decorated with cherry blossom flowers in honour of the season).
My right shin suddenly and inexplicably became very painful, so we left the garden and headed for the subway home with a quick detour via Takashimaya. In common with most Japanese department stores, its basement held a food department that was as much a photo opportunity as a retail one. Row upon row of display counters held exquisite cakes, sweets and biscuits in beautiful packaging, all with eye watering prices. Colourful salads and pickles sat in large bowls. Folded slices of pink and white marbled wagyu beef lined up in neat rows. Sushi and sashimi were artistically arranged on platters. It was all very attractive but way beyond our means – although we did pick up some butter from the more normal supermarket section, something that we had failed to find in our Koreatown places.
On the journey home we jumped onto a train that was already at the platform, and paid for our over confidence by being whizzed straight through Higashishinjuku and eventually stopping 3 stations down the line in Ikebukuro. It wasn’t a problem as we just crossed the platform to get a train back, but evidently in future we would be well advised to check the electronic sign for the red ‘express’ designation!