[The 2020 Cherry Blossom Night Viewing event was cancelled due to coronavirus.]
As the days grow warmer, there is no better time to visit the many parks and gardens in and around Tokyo. But, logically it follows that everyone else has the same idea. Sometimes it can be difficult to relax when there are 43,631 people around you eating bentos and drinking BOSS coffee. So, where do you go if you want to appreciate a Japanese garden near Tokyo – without the crowds? Well, Sankeien Garden in Yokohama, is the perfect place to start.
About The Japanese Garden, Sankeien
Sankei Hara, a silk businessman from Yokohama, created Sankeien Garden in 1902. Sankeien consists of two parts: an inner and an outer garden. Of which, the inner garden was originally for Sankei’s private use, and the outer garden was available for the public from 1906. Over 100 years later, everyone is now able to explore both of the gardens!
I discovered Sankeien Garden almost accidentally when I was living in Gumyoji – a small residential area in Yokohama. Bored one day and perusing Google Maps, I noticed a huge park only a few kilometres from my apartment. It took me several hours to get there (because I went to the wrong place first – hah). But, by the time I had arrived, I was astonished at how I had never even heard of this Japanese garden before, it was incredible!
Getting to Sankeien from Tokyo
The most convenient station to reach the garden from Tokyo is JR Negishi. Then, from Negishi station there are a few options:
>By foot. If you are making a day of it, the walk takes about 30-40 minutes depending upon your power-walking skills. My preference 99% of the time is to walk somewhere if I can (because I am cheap and also love finding food on the way)!
>By bus. You can take bus 58, 99 or 101 towards Honmoku from Bus Stop No.1, which takes about 10 minutes, and then walk the remaining 5-10 minutes.
>By taxi. A one way taxi journey will set you back by about 1000¥.
So, What Makes This Japanese Garden So Lovable?
With more than 175,000 square metres in space, you won’t be able to smell your neighbour’s bento at Sankeien. Actually, picnicking in the inner garden is prohibited altogether!
2. It’s Breathtaking
With 17 unique buildings scattered around, there is something to explore from every angle. Similarly, the dynamic of the garden is said to change with the different seasons so it’s worth visiting all-year round. Personally, I can’t wait to see the koyo (紅葉 / autumn colours)!
3. It’s Quiet
The main reason Sankeien Garden is sitting so pretty in Yokohama is because it’s located away from the masses. Evidently, this means that it takes a little longer to reach. But, it is 100% worth it! You can easily spend several hours in the park, visiting the various out-houses and strolling through the rolling ribbons of trees.
4. The Three-tiered Pagoda
This pagoda is the oldest wooden pagoda in the Kanto-region! Originally built in 1457, this pagoda has spent most of its life at an abandoned temple in Kizugawa City (part of the Kyoto prefecture). Luckily for us though, the pagoda was moved to Yokohama in 1914.
5. The Large Pond
When you arrive at the park, the main pond will greet you. And probably as you’d expect, it’s beautifully decorated with flowers, wisteria trellises, and even a row boat. And yes, that turtle below is posing for the photo.
6. The Not-so-coy Koi (Carp)
As you wander over the bridges and around the lake, rest-assured that if the carp (koi fish) can see you, they will follow you in hope of a meal… I witnessed feeding time at the main pond and was amazed at how many carp seem to fit within such a small space!
7. The Views of the Japanese Garden and Beyond…
After a ‘few’ steps, you will be able to revel in the rooftop views of the garden and the city of Yokohama. There is also a vending machine at one of the lookout points, so you can indulge in a green tea with greenery.
8. The Cute Turtles
Besides the koi fish, you may even see a few turtles swanning through the lakes or catching some rays on the grass.
9. The Traditional Tea Ceremony
Perhaps more noteworthy than the turtles, is the tearoom, Bototei. Bototei sits inside the Sankei Memorial Building. For 500¥ you can drink matcha tea in a traditional tea ceremony!
10. How Many Other Japanese Gardens Have Cats?!
Finally, and although strictly speaking cats are not garden features, I am always pleased when there are cats around. These ginger toms were hanging out at Kakushokaku, Sankei’s former house.[cft format=0]