As one of Tokyo’s largest – free – green spaces, Yoyogi Park is a magnet for Tokyoites seeking sun, space and a chance to enjoy one of the numerous festivals held on the park grounds throughout the year.
Yoyogi Park was originally used by the Japanese military in the early 1900s. The first powered aircraft flight in Japan took place here in 1910, and the years leading up to World War II saw an increase in military parades and nationalist demonstrations.
After World War II, the occupying American forces repurposed Yoyogi Park as a housing compound for military families, renaming the site Washington Heights. A number of shops on Omote-sando cropped up to cater to the new residents. As the 1964 Olympics approached, the military moved out and the residences were used as part of the Olympic Village during the summer games.
Today, only one of the old housing units remains, a testament to the history of the park. The rest of the area has been returned to nature, with sprawling lawns and shady groves. Bike and jogging paths cut through the park, and a small training bike path for kids occupies a quiet back corner.
For many Tokyo residents, Yoyogi Park offers the opportunity to pursue loud hobbies or group activities that are near impossible in the crowded conditions of most Tokyo residences. Musical instrument practice, dance parties, large yoga sessions, juggling … all are common sites in Yoyogi Park. Yoyogi is also a great place for joggers, rollerbladers and bikers, with well graded trails that crisscross the park grounds.
Along with the space for personal pursuits, Yoyogi Park often attracts performers who are more than happy to showcase their talents to passersby. Perhaps the most well-known group is the Rockabillies, dancers with a love of both 1950s style music and fashion styles. They often draw enthusiastic onlookers for their Sunday performances, which take place just outside the park’s main entrance.
Yoyogi Park is the frequent host of many food and music festivals. From the summertime Yosakoi dance festival to events promoting vegan and vegetarian food to celebrations of Tokyo’s international communities, rarely a weekend passes without some fun and food-filled festival.
A visit to Yoyogi Park pairs perfectly with nearby Meiji Shrine, one of Tokyo’s most notable religious sites. Pay respects to the Emperor that brought Japan into the modern age and then kick back with the locals on a relaxing Sunday afternoon in the park.
Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line: Yoyogi Koen (Exit 3 or 4) or Meiji-jingumae/Harajuku Station (Exit 2) JR Yamanote line: Meiji-jingumae/Harajuku station (Omotesando Exit)
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