Machida Yakushiike Park Shikisai no Mori: An Oasis of Greenery, History, and Farm-to-Table Food in Tokyo
Most people think Tokyo is this grand futuristic city, and while that is certainly true, it also has delightful pockets of nature to explore. For this edition of our "Area of Japan" series, we follow one of our Vietnamese editors as she introduces one of her most recommended hidden corners of Tokyo: Machida, and its beloved Machida Yakushiike Park Shikisai no Mori. With lush greenery, fascinating historical buildings, and plenty of wholesome local food, this lesser-known nature reserve has more than enough allure to draw one out into the suburbs for a breath of fresh air and more!
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What Is Machida Yakushiike Park Shikisai no Mori?
Machida Yakushiike Park Shikisai no Mori is a public park managed by Machida City opened in April 2020. With an area of 141,654 m², it’s three times the size of Tokyo Dome, and is divided into nine diverse areas: the Western Garden (Welcome Gate), Yakushiike Park, Machida City Photo Salon, Machida Peony Garden, Machida Ebine-en, Machida Squirrel Garden (where you can interact with over 200 adorable squirrels!), Machida Dahlia Gardens, Nanakuniyama Farmers’ Center, and the Furusato Agricultural Tools Museum. Roughly 700,000 people visit Shikisai no Mori from all over Japan each year to enjoy the stunning nature and seasonal splendor. With so many different facilities, you can easily fritter away an entire day here!
While we’d love to show you around the entire park, we’ll instead hone in on two of its main highlights: the Western Garden and Yakushiike Park.
Machida Yakushiike Park Shikisai no Mori is located in the city of Machida, a place of bountiful nature in the southernmost part of Tokyo on the border with Kanagawa Prefecture. It’s hard to believe that such pleasant neighborhoods can coexist with one of the busiest metropolises on the planet, which is why Machida attracts relaxation-seekers who don’t have the time to venture deep into the countryside.
The central Machida Station can be reached by train with ease in about 30 minutes from Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station, or Yokohama Station. While Machida Station itself is busy with shopping centers, eateries, and arcades, those who wander just a bit further away will quickly find skyscrapers and crowds replaced by hilly landscapes, lush parks, and vegetable fields. Machida is a prime example of a large city that has managed to find a balance between urban convenience and the bliss of nature.
Getting to Machida Yakushiike Park Shikisai no Mori
Take the rapid express on the Odakyu Odawara Line from Shinjuku Station to Machida Station (approx. 30 minutes). Exit through the North Gate of Machida Station, head over to the bus terminal outside the POP Bldg. and get on the bus departing No.21 towards Tsurukawa via Honmachida, or to Nozuta Shako via Honmachida. Get off at either the Yakushiike or the Yakushigaoka bus stop.
The trip on the Kanagawa Chuo Kotsu bus from Machida Station to Yakushiike takes about 30 minutes, but take note that actual times often differ depending on traffic conditions. Those visiting the Western Garden (Welcome Gate) or the Dahlia Gardens should instead get off at the Imaiyato bus stop.
Click here for more details (Japanese only).
The Best Time to Visit Machida Yakushiike Park Shikisai no Mori
Since there are so many different areas in the park, we recommend checking the latest information on the official website before visiting (Japanese only). Some areas like the Machida Peony Garden or Machida Ebine-en are only open while their flowers are in bloom.
The Western Garden: A Mountain Village Built on a Hillside
Opened in April 2020, the Western Garden is the park’s main entrance and reception area. It’s also where you can get information about seasonal flowers, park events, facility guidance, and more. The staff here speak basic English, so don’t worry if you can’t understand Japanese.
The expansive Western Garden is built upon hilly terrain surrounded by trees, and boasts a library lounge, laboratory/workshop, café and restaurant, farm and shop with local produce, along with orchards, forests, lawns, and lookouts. Each facility sits at different elevations and are connected via stairs and ramps, blending into the topography. This design helps create an open, natural environment that visitors can stroll freely. All the facilities sport black cedar-plank exteriors that form an aesthetically-pleasing contrast to the lush greenery. For this and more, the Western Garden received a Good Design Award in 2020.
Local Machida Vegetables and Food at the Farm Shop
First, we recommend heading to the farm shop, located right by the entrance and next to the information counter.
The shop specializes in Machida vegetables, fruit, foods, alcohol, handicrafts, and other local products. All the vegetables and fruit on sale here have been grown and harvested by Machida farmers, packing the shop with fresh, seasonal produce. Each item comes with a description of its flavor and characteristics, along with how to best prepare it, helping visitors find something that suits their palate. You won’t find anything close to this at local Japanese supermarkets, and certainly not at such reasonable prices.
We recommend getting the “Kogasaka Bake,” a famous Machida baked confection, and “Junmai Onezakura” sake made from local rice.
The shop also stocks an assortment of spices and snacks like oil-marinated cheese, seen in the picture above.
Stroll Through Flower Fields and Tree Groves
We visited the Western Garden in late August, outside the bloom of most flowers and fruit trees, so all we were treated to were a few sunflowers. However, if we’d gotten the timing right, we’d have seen fields of rape blossoms, sunflowers, cosmos, the rarely seen bay laurel and hollyhock, and much more.
Everything is grown on a small field without the use of pesticides, with rare vegetables and more adding color and intrigue. There are also events and hands-on activities such as flower seeding, vegetable harvesting, crop workshops, and plow machine experiences open to visitors. Click here to reserve your spot (Japanese only).
Besides flowers and vegetables, you can also enjoy orchards of blueberries, olives, and citrus fruit, all organically hand-grown in an environment that eliminates pests and diseases naturally.
When you’ve had your fill of gardens and orchards, continue following the path until you’re back at the main gate. Here you can relish the best of the park’s fresh air and serenity while being surrounded by trees, making it a popular spot for those fatigued by city life.
Organic Food at 44 APARTMENT Yakushiike Café and Restaurant
After strolling through the park, visitors can take a break and enjoy lunch at the café and restaurant 44 APARTMENT Yakushiike.
With large glass windows, 44 APARTMENT Yakushiike is an airy, spacious, and bright space flaunting spectacular views of the lawn and greenery, while its high ceilings, sloped roof, and wooden decorations weave together a cozy ambience. Both counter and table seating are available.
Dishes are prepared with locally produced rice, vegetables, milk, eggs, and more. Popular sets include the “Rice Plate” with chicken or beef and salad, and the “Hamburger Set” with vegetable curry or fries and soup. There are also stylish desserts like “Vanilla Custard,” made from vanilla ice cream on toasted Kogasaka Bake bread, along with Melted Cream Tiramisu Affogato and soft-serve ice cream made with milk from Kitajima Farm in Machida, available only at 44 APARTMENT Yakushiike.
There is also a take-out menu of curry, burgers, sandwiches, and other treats you can eat in the park. On days with pleasant weather, many opt for the “Picnic Basket” set of light meals to enjoy on the lawn.
Park Events and Outdoor Activities
For those with children, we recommend letting them loose on the grassy lawn behind the café restaurant. While the children run around and play, adults can get grilling with 44 APARTMENT’s BBQ equipment rental and catering service. This convenient plan allows you to throw a lively BBQ party with family and friends without having to lug around bulky gear and food.
The Western Garden also holds regular events such as the “Local Farmers’ Market,” where Machida farmers, food producers, and craftspeople show off and sell their goods. There are likewise a multitude of other fun and interesting events and seminars held in the area, so check the official website for details!
Yakushiike Park: Where Nature and Historical Buildings Exist in Harmony
The area immediately adjacent to the Western Garden is Yakushiike Park, a Machida landmark recognized as one of the “100 Best Historical Parks in Japan” in 2007.
Yakushi Pond, at the center of the park, was once named “Fukuoji Pond,” and in pre-modern times, was used to dam spring water for agriculture. The pond was buried underneath earth and sand three times due to volcanic eruptions and landslides during the Edo period, but villagers kept digging it up as its surface area gradually evolved to become the pond we see today.
Owing to abundant natural resources like the pond, forest, and local wildlife, a decision was made in 1961 to develop the space around Fukuoji Pond into an urban nature preserve. After 15 years of planning and construction, Yakushiike Park finally opened in April 1976 with a total area of around 102,800 m².
Discover the Beauty of Japan's Seasons Through Colorful Flowers
You can fully appreciate the magnificence of Japan's four seasons through the wealth of flowers at Yakushiike Park. March sees the entire park dyed pink with cherry blossoms, May and June is the season for irises, while mid-June to early July welcomes the rainy season with hydrangeas and pink “oga” lotuses with a light, fresh fragrance. Overall, the best time to visit the park for flowers is in summer, with many peaking around June.
Autumn is also a delight at Yakushiike, with colorful maple and ginkgo trees painting the park in vivid hues through changing foliage. In late winter, you can also admire the camellias and “ume” plum trees.
Stories of the Past Carved Into Historical Buildings
On the west side of Yakushi Pond, visitors will find two houses from the Edo period (1603 – 1868): the Former Nagai Residence (a National Important Tangible Cultural Property) and the Former Ogino Residence (a Tokyo Designated Tangible Cultural Property).
The Former Nagai Residence is a farmhouse built in the late 17th century and later donated to the city of Machida. It was moved to Machida Park in 1975 and restored, exhibited as the perfect example of a typical Tama Hills farmhouse. Nowadays, the Former Nagai Residence hosts a collection of agricultural machines and tools used by farmers hundreds of years ago, giving you a glimpse into ancient farming practices.
The second house is the Former Ogino Residence, which was built in the late Edo period to function as both a hospital and the private residence of the Ogino family. Later, the family donated the building to Machida City, and in 1972, it was moved to and restored in Miwamachi, Machida. Although originally part of a rural farming village, it has the characteristics and charm of a “machiya” style townhouse.
After touring the two residences, be sure to stop by the Yakushi Chaya teahouse. Located near Yakushi Pond, it offers gorgeous nature-filled views for visitors seeking rest along with “dango” dumplings and “anmitsu,” a traditional Japanese dessert made from red bean paste, agar jelly, and fruit.
Yakushi-do Hall and the Great Gingko Tree
The Yakushi-do Hall once belonged to Fukuoji Temple, and is said to have been founded by the priest Gyoki during the Tenpyo era (729 – 749) of the Nara period. Originally built in a different location, it was later taken down and reconstructed at Yakushiike Park in 1883. Its name was eventually changed to "Yakushi-do," because a statue of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of healing and medicine, is enshrined within. The hall is characterized by its wooden zelkova construction and carved lion holding a mari ball adorning the entrance, and is also home to statues of other deities like Unume Reijin and Inari.
In front of Yakushi-do is a large ginkgo tree, the beloved symbol of the hall. Estimated to be 500 years old, it towers 35 meters high with a trunk circumference of nearly 5 meters. In 1976, it was selected as one of the 100 Famous Trees of Machida. Bamboo groves and benches also dot the area, providing yet another tranquil nook to hide from urban stresses.
Machida Yakushiike Park Shikisai no Mori – Tokyo’s Serene and Green Hideaway
Next time you’re in Tokyo, skip all the overcrowded, hectic madness and instead escape to the little-known Machida Yakushiike Park Shikisai no Mori to relish pristine nature and unspoiled silence within the confines of the big city. While the perfect place to relax, the park also boasts a variety of fun activities and fascinating historical relics, making it a worthy sightseeing destination. We hope to see you there!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.