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 > summer special 2000
For the year 2000

The Best Government Reformer
How Asia Is Governed
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The Best Airport
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In Tune with Nature
The Best Forest Preserve
The Best City Park
The Best Transport
The Best Green Test
The Best Marine Preserve
The Best Marine Park

The Hottest Video Game
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Intro | Forest Preserve |  City Park | Transport | Marine Preserve |  Marine Park
The Best City Park

In the late 19th-century industrial revolution that bears his name, Emperor Meiji initiated perhaps Japan's greatest phase of modernization to date. Yet when he died in 1912, his grieving subjects honoured him with the simple wonders of nature. The shrine to the emporor is set within a lush 720,000-square-meter forest, former imperial gardens made even thicker by trees sent from people around the country. The 360-odd species of maple, oak, pine and other Japanese favorites make surprisingly effective insulation from the frenetic metropolis that is Tokyo.

Located in the trendy Harajuku district, the Meiji-jingu-gyoen Park is just steps away from where the city's most outrageously dressed teenagers compete for shock value. Yet inside its wooded grounds, it is hard to believe that the complex is surrounded by bustling traffic and neon-lit towers. Visitors enter the park via a broad, pebbled avenue lined with twin rows of gingko trees, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful sights in the capital, especially in the autumn when golden leaves cover the path and in spring when the trees turn a fresh green. Following the path leads to arguably the most splendid Shinto shrine in Tokyo, a traditional building constructed from Japanese cypress.

From the main avenue, a path leads to an ancient tea house that the emperor frequented over a century ago. This wooden structure sits conveniently on a slightly elevated area of the garden, giving a superior vantage point of the water lily and carp-filled pond it overlooks. Though the tea house is closed, visitors can enjoy the Iris Garden, rumored to have been designed by the emperor himself. In spring, the corner blossoms in all the colors of the rainbow. This landscaped garden, which is said to have been ordered by his imperial majesty as a gift to the Empress Shoken, contains more than 100 varieties of the elegant iris.

The tranquil oasis is fitting legacy for a modernizer, who was also known for his respect for nature and preference for the simple life.

— By Suvendrini Kakuchi

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