Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Tag

tokyo: harmonica yokocho & koishikawa korakuen gardens   2 comments

Saturday, July 22:  Today, I have quite an ambitious schedule.  This is my last weekend before classes end, although my contract with Westgate goes through the Tuesday after next, to August 1. Next weekend, before I move out of my apartment on that Tuesday, I’ll go north of Tokyo to stay two nights in Nikko.  Thus, today and tomorrow are the last days to see everything I want to see in the Tokyo area.

My goal for today is to visit the shopping arcade Harmonica Yokocho, then go to Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens.  From there, I’ll go to the Mori Art Museum and then I’m supposed to meet Graham for drinks at the Aldgate British Pub near Shibuya. None of these places are next to each other, so I’ll be on the metro and walking quite a bit.

Harmonica Yokocho in Kichijōji is one of the few shopping arcades left in the face of rampant development. Built as a flea market in the early postwar years, so many stores were crammed into the arcade that it was nicknamed “harmonica” because these stores were like harmonica reeds.  Today, as many as 98 stores are open for business. Many are restaurants where a person can enjoy lunch or dinner, and souvenir, or omiyage, shops (Tokyoing: Harmonica Yokocho).

In addition, the alleys are lined with grocery and clothing stores, along with specialty shops for goodies like yokan (sweet bean jelly), pork cutlet and taiyaki (fish-shaped pancakes filled with anko bean paste) ( Harmonica Alley).

Harmonica Yokocho

The arcade is very colorful — with flower shops, red lanterns, plastic food displays, vibrant signs, vending machines, bars, street art and quirky statues.

Of course, as I’ve arrived at 11:40 a.m., I immediately begin to check out all the restaurants in Harmonica Yokocho for a lunchtime spot.

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

food displays at Harmonica Yokocho

restaurant at Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

I enjoy all the odd and even risqué sights as I stroll around Harmonica Yokocho. 🙂

At about 12:15, I come across a Thai restaurant in a basement, Krung Siam, where I stop to enjoy the air-conditioning and a shrimp pad thai.

After lunch, I leave Harmonica Yokocho and head for the train station. From Kichijōji Station, I have to travel about 25 minutes on two different lines to reach Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens.  I take the Chuo-Sobu line to Nakano Station, switch to the Tozai Line and go to Iidabashi Station.  Then I have to walk some distance to the garden, crossing over an elevated walkway over a huge intersection.  I finally get to the garden at 1:45, an hour after leaving Krung Siam.

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden was originally built by Yorifusa, the founder of the Mito branch of the Tokugawa clan, as a second residence. In 1629, it became his main residence.  Later, it was completed as a garden during the reign of the second clan ruler, Mitsukuni.  Its style is kaiyu-style (circuit style) with ponds and man-made hills around the pond.

When Mitsukuni set about constructing the garden, he incorporated some concepts of the Chinese Confucian scholar Shushunsui of the Ming dynasty, including a garden reproduction of Seiko Lake in China, a “Full Moon Bridge” and other features with cultural origins in China (Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association: Koishikawa Korakuen Garden).

The name “Korakuen” was derived from a Chinese text “Gakuyo-ki,” meaning “Worry before all worries in the world, and enjoy after all enjoyments of the world.” Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens is designated as the Special Place of Scenic Beauty and Special Historic Site of the country by the Cultural Assets Preservation Act.  This double designation is quite rare in Japan (from the garden’s English pamphlet).

The central pond in the park is called Dai-Sensui.

Dai-Sensui at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

bridge near the lotus pond

Lotus pond at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Lotus pond at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Oigawa is a river named after a river that ran through Kyoto, Arashiyama region.


Seiko-no-tsutsumi bank was made to resemble the bank of Lake Seiko (Xi Hu) in Hangzhou (present-day Zhejiang province) in China.



This rock was called Byobu-iwa, or picture screen rock, because it rose vertically like a picture screen. It is said the 3rd shogun, Iemitsu, often visited this place and sat on the stone by the river.


This vermillion bridge is one of the special features of the garden.




As I hop across the stepping-stones in the river to get pictures of the bridge, a swarm of mosquitoes alights on my ankles in full attack mode.  I hop off the rocks and am scratching furiously for the rest of my time in the garden.  Between my profuse sweating in the sticky heat, and the mosquito bites, this is quite a miserable visit.

Tokujin-do is the oldest building in the garden. When Mitsukuni, an earnest Confucianist, was 18 years old, he was deeply moved by reading Shiki (Record of Great Historians) “Biographies of Boyi and Shuqi.”  Wooden figures of Boyi and Shuqi used to be enshrined in this small temple.


door of Tokujin-do

Maro-ya created the cozy atmosphere of a tea house; it was rebuilt in 1966 after being burned down in the air raids.


Engetsu-kyo (Full Moon Bridge) was named so because of the reflected shape of the bridge on the water surface that appeared like a full moon.

steps over Engetsu-kyo (Full Moon Bridge)

Engetsu-kyo (Full Moon Bridge)

Walking up a hill past the Full Moon Bridge, I have sweeping views of the Inada, or Paddy Field.  It was created by Mitsukuni with the motive of teaching the hardship of farming to the wife of his heir, Tsunaeda.  Today, primary school children in the local Bunkyo ward participate in rice-planting in May and harvesting in autumn.

view of Inada (Paddy field)

When Mitsukuni, the 2nd lord of the Mito-Tokugawa family, met the third shogun, Iemitsu, he was given a statue of a patron saint of literature. Later, he built a small shrine called Hakke-do to enshrine the statue in. The shrine was burned down in a big fire after the Great Earthquake of 1923.  All that remains are the Hakke-do traces.

Hakke-do traces

The Ume Grove blooms with 30 different types of plum blossoms in early February.

Ume Grove

Wisteria trellises

As is typical with gardens in Tokyo, modern-day buildings surround the garden.  Here, Tokyo Dome reminds one that the garden is in the midst of urban Tokyo.

pond in the garden

Engetsu-kyo (Full Moon Bridge)

wisteria trellises

Kuhachi-ya is a model of a “Sake house” found in the countryside during the Edo period.  The original structure was destroyed by air raid in 1945 and was rebuilt in 1959.


stone lantern

pond in the garden

some glimpses of autumn in July 🙂

By 2:40, I’m heading back over the elevated walkway to the train station, where I’ll go to Azabu-juban Station to visit the Mori Art Museum.

elevated walkway on the way to Iidabashi Station

elevated walkway on the way to Iidabashi Station

elevated walkway on the way to Iidabashi Station

I debate whether I even have time to visit the Mori Art Museum, as I’m supposed to meet Graham at Shibuya Station at 5:00 to go to the Aldgate British Pub for beers and dinner.  I’ll have to rush!


a weekend in hakone: delightful gardens at the hakone museum of art   9 comments

Saturday, May 27:  Before leaving the Hakone Open-Air Museum, I ask a man at the information desk how to get to the Hakone Museum of Art.  He seems unsure, but finally tells me to take the train to Gora Station, and then get on the Sounzan Cable Car to Ko-en Kami Station.  I had already done a Google map search and had seen I could take a bus, but he assures me it is easier to take the train and cable car.  Upon arrival at Chokoku-no-mori station, I ask a Japanese man at the station about a bus, but he impatiently motions that I should WALK to Gora Station.  I should have just hopped on the train as I have the Hakone Free Pass, so it doesn’t cost me anything additional to use any of the transportation in the area.  As it is, I blindly take the man’s advice and end up walking quite a way up a steep hill and then packing myself into the cable car with hordes of other tourists.

Getting around in Hakone is supposedly convenient because of all the modes of transportation, but the timing of such transportation and the confusion about where to catch each mode makes it a challenge.  It ends up being more time-consuming than I anticipated. Finally, I pop out of the cable car at the deserted Ko-en Kami Station, where I wonder if I’ve made a mistake because I’m the only one who gets off!

Just outside the station, I find some lively action, namely a tour group heading in the direction of the Hakone Museum of Art, indicated by a sign.  I walk quickly to get ahead of them, and pay my  700 yen entry fee before the crowd converges.  Then I walk quickly to the moss garden, keeping just ahead of the group.

Okada Mokichi (1882-1955) founded the Hakone Museum of Art in order that “works of art should not be monopolized but made available to be viewed and enjoyed by as many people as possible.”  He hoped that increased exposure to art would help elevate human sentiments and make a big contribution towards cultural development. The Hakone Museum of Art focuses on displaying medieval Japanese ceramics from the Jomon period (10,000 B.C. – 200 B.C.) to the Edo period (1615-1867).

I’m sure the museum has a great collection, but I don’t come here today for that.  I am here to see the moss garden and Sekiraku-en Garden.  I wander through the stone paths under the shade of the maple trees.  Before long the tour group passes by me and I have the garden to myself.  It’s a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of Hakone’s many tourist attractions.

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

I love nothing more than a quiet walk through a deserted and peaceful place.

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

moss-covered steps

The moss garden also has a teahouse where green tea is served for a small fee.  I am decidedly not a tea drinker, which my Japanese students find shocking.   How could anyone not like tea?

tea house in the moss garden

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

moss garden

moss garden

moss garden

moss garden

moss, up close and personal

pathway through the moss garden

tangled roots

Besides the moss garden, the museum grounds feature a Japanese landscape garden, Sekiraku-en Garden, which spreads over the slopes of Gora.  It features large decorative stones, a mountain stream and views over the valley and mountains.

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

tea house at Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

back to the moss garden

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

moss garden

moss garden

After leaving the beautiful moss garden, I decide I should go check in to my hotel. First, I have to find it! By now, it’s almost 4:00 and the other two things I hoped to do today are probably getting ready to close.  My plan was to also visit Choanji Temple and the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, but as I already have a full day planned for tomorrow, I don’t know if I’ll be able to squeeze them in.

When I first arrived in Hakone this morning, a woman at the Tourist Information told me that I should take Bus S to my hotel.  She had given me a map of the area where I’d be staying, which is near both Choanji Temple and the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands. I find the bus stop right outside the Hakone Museum of Art, and take Bus S, watching for the Senkyoro-mae stop.  When I get off, I’m disoriented and have no idea which direction I should go.  I’m near a crossroads and could go in four directions.  I see some Japanese lettering which seems to match that on my hotel reservation; it says 500 meters, so I hike up and down and hilly road for half a kilometer.  At the end of the road, I see a beautiful building on my right and I think, Wow!  My hotel is beautiful!  I should have known better as I got one of the cheapest hotels in Hakone at ~ $107.  Many of the hotels in Hakone are $300-500 per night!! It turns out it was not my hotel at all but the fancy Hakone Venetian Glass Museum.  The woman at the desk directs me right back down the road from where I just walked, and tells me which direction to go.

Back at the bus stop, I see there are two roads going off the main road in a V; I take the left branch.  To my left, I find a quiet and pretty little garden and pond, which I stroll through. It’s delightful.

a secret garden not far from my hotel

whimsical garden

I continue following that road to the top of a hill where there is a hotel with a Japanese name.  I ask the doorman if it’s my hotel.  He directs me back down the hill and indicates I should have taken the branch of the V to the right.  Well, well, well!  That was the direction I had come from on the bus!

Back at the tip of the V, I walk up the hill that I came down on the bus.  It’s a long uphill slog, but finally after another 500 meters, I find a sign that says Nakamura.  At least that’s one word I recognize from my hotel name: Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura.  I walk up to the office to sign in.

Almost to the door, I run into a youngish woman who tells me she’s going into town to get some food at the Family Mart and she wonders if I’d like to come along. She tells me she’s from Amsterdam and is traveling around Japan; that she was here with friends but they have now left, and that I should get some mosquito repellent because the pests are inundating the rooms.  I thank her very much but tell her I just walked down three separate roads to get here, so I’d like to check in and relax a bit before I go anywhere.

Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura

I leave my walking sandals in a cubbyhole by the entrance and am told to put on some plastic slippers.  I’d rather just go barefoot, but I do as I’m told. I’m directed to my room, after the receptionist tries to find my name on the hotel register.  It’s right there in plain sight, my name in English, so even if he doesn’t know how to read English, it seems he’d recognize it  as the only English name in sight.

In my Japanese-style room, I find my bag all wrapped in plastic and nicely delivered from Hakone Baggage Services.  I check out the room and realize there’s nothing to do here, so I might as well head out to find something to eat.  I’d already read that the hotel didn’t serve any food.  The woman at the desk speaks a bit of English and tells me to go into the town; she gestures down the same hill I just climbed to get here!

Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura

Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura

Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura

After 500 meters, I reach the bus stop where I first disembarked and I walk through the pretty little garden in the V once again.  It doesn’t look much different this time than it did the first time I walked through.

a stroll through a whimsical garden

whimsy in green

tangles in green

I walk and walk down the long straight road in Sengokuhara looking for a restaurant, but I don’t see much of anything.  Finally, I find a place that appears to be a restaurant, so I wander in.

restaurant in Sengokuhara

entryway to the restaurant

Surprise, surprise!  Here I find the young lady from Amsterdam who I ran into at my hotel.  She tells me her name is Lee.  I ask her if I can join her and we have a nice dinner together.  She is of Vietnamese origin but grew up in Amsterdam, so she’s a Dutch citizen.  She says she loves to travel and was with friends until today, but she’ll be traveling alone for the next week.  She is so glad her friends (one of whom was a friend of her friend) have left; she was annoyed by the one girl who was just an acquaintance because she was on her phone constantly.  She is on her way to Hiroshima tomorrow by the Shinkansen.  She reports that all Dutch people live to travel and she’s no exception.

I order tempura and soba noodles.  I’m not really all that hungry after my pizza for lunch earlier, so I end up leaving most of the noodles untouched.  I do enjoy a beer though. 🙂

tempura and udon

me in the restaurant

It’s nice to have Lee to walk back to the hotel with, as it starts getting dark early.  The road up to our hotel is a winding road without much of a shoulder so is pretty dangerous.

Back at the hotel, I go to my room, get undressed and put on the robe I find folded neatly in my closet.  The hotel has a small onsen, so I go downstairs, wash off thoroughly, then soak in the very hot bath for about 20 minutes.  I’m tired from all my walking, so I’m sure this relaxing bath will help me sleep tonight. 🙂

Total steps: 17,088 (7.24 miles).

the tarō okamoto museum of art & a rose garden in kawasaki   11 comments

Saturday, May 20:  After leaving the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum, I walk through a leafy park to the Tarō Okamoto Museum of Art, which collects and preserves the works of Tarō Okamoto, and his parents Kanoko and Ippei.

Tarō Okamoto  (February 26, 1911 – January 7, 1996) was a Japanese artist noted for his abstract and avant-garde paintings and sculpture.

Tarō Okamoto Museum of Art

Entry at the Tarō Okamoto Museum of Art

Work began on the museum in November 1996; it was completed in July 1999, and the museum opened in October 1999.

There is only one place inside the museum where photos are allowed.  My photos are featured in the gallery below.  In addition, I bought some postcards and photographed those.

Outside are some interesting sculptures.

sculpture in a pond by Tarō Okamoto

sculpture by Tarō Okamoto

sculpture by Tarō Okamoto

sculpture by Tarō Okamoto

sculpture by Tarō Okamoto

After leaving the museum, I go in search of the rose garden, open only from May 11-May 28, a part of Ikuta Ryokuchi Baraen.  I trek up a steep hill through neighborhoods and a forest, wondering the whole time if I’m going the right way.

houses in a neighborhood on the way to the rose garden

pretty in pink

On a steep hill through the neighborhood, I suddenly see the Japanese woman I ate lunch with at the folk museum.  We greet each other and I show her my phone with the rose garden name.  She points up the hill repeatedly and smiles, saying something cheerfully in Japanese.

going up…

and up…

I finally find a group of rose bushes and my first thought is: This is it?  But then I see there is a larger spread down a hill.


corals and pinks

pink tipped roses

I reach the full garden at about 4:15 pm and I see a sign at the entrance says closing time is 4:30.  Luckily there is no entry fee; I’d hate to pay with only 15 minutes left.

The rose garden is crowded with families and photographers, along with plenty of roses, trellises and sculptures.

rose garden in Kawasaki

rose garden in Kawasaki

sculpture in the rose garden

roses in Kawasaki

coral pretties in the Kawasaki rose garden

Here is a small gallery of roses.  Click on any of the images for a full-sized slide show.

I love the lush layers and shades of roses.

layered petals

mango colors

mango/coral roses

layers and layers

The garden also has some classical sculptures.

a goddess in the garden

archway to roses

the goddess from afar

the rose garden in Kawasaki

pretty petals

a rose is a rose is a rose

Now that it’s a little past 4:30, some official looking people are rounding people up to steer them out of the garden.

another small trellis

evening falls on the rose garden

As there is no daylight savings time in Japan, the sun has been setting around 6:45.  Still, two hours before sunset, the evening shadows are layering themselves over the garden.  I make my way out of the garden and back over the hills and through the neighborhoods and eventually back to Mukogaokayuen Station. By now, I’m warm, tired and ready to go home.

Because I’ve been hot wearing my tennis shoes all day in the heat, I stop in Machida and buy a pair of walking sandals at the Skechers store.  Now I’ll be prepared for outdoor walking in the heat of summer. 🙂

Total steps today: 19,744 (8.37 miles)


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