Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the most beautiful bargains to be found in all of Tokyo.
The garden/park is so expansive and tranquil that it’s hard to believe it’s just a short walk from Shinjuku Station and one of the most bustling environments in the world (plus SoraNews24 headquarters). But despite sitting on prime real estate, Shinjuku Gyoen, which is managed by the Ministry of the Environment, charges only 200 yen (US$1.80) for adult admission.
However, back in January it came to light that some guests hadn’t even been asked to pay that paltry sum, as a 70-something Japanese employee of the garden who worked at the admission gate had been letting some foreign visitors in without paying over a period of roughly two and a half years, saying that since he himself only speaks Japanese, he felt scared trying to communicate with non-Japanese guests.
This week, the auditors who’d been reviewing the man’s actions finished their estimated tally of how much revenue he’d failed to collect, saying his freebies totaled more than 25 million yen (US$223,000).
What’s especially strange is that even though the man wasn’t collecting money from the foreign visitors, he was still issuing tickets. To enter the garden, guests have to scan a QR code, which is printed on their ticket at the gate. Even stranger, the tickets themselves state, in English, that the admission price for adults is 200 yen.
A Shinjuku Gyoen admission ticket
Simply pointing to the amount and holding out a hand for the money before handing over the ticket seems like it would have been enough to overcome the language barrier, especially compared to what the employee had to do to cover his tracks. Though he could issue tickets, he wasn’t authorized to cancel their sales in the garden’s database, and so had to have another employee who handled data processing undo the sales for him to avoid a discrepancy between the recorded and actual revenue.
The free ticket-dispensing employee, who was a former Ministry of the Environment member working at the garden on a temporary contract, has since resigned from his position. It’s a sad ending, but it’s hard to see how he could have been kept on if he didn’t feel comfortable asking for money in exchange for tickets, which is pretty much the whole deal as far as being a ticket salesperson goes. For all the rest of us, this is a good excuse to throw 200 yen Shinjuku Gyoen’s way by putting a visit to the garden into our near-future plans, especially with its foliage looking so beautiful in the fall.
Source: Kyodo via Jin