Archive for the ‘Sankei-en Garden’ Tag

sankei-en garden & the shanghai-yokohama friendship garden {walking tour 22}   8 comments

Thursday, May 4:  On the second day of my Golden Week holiday, I have a bit of a leisurely morning and then head to Sankei-en Garden, south of Yokohama.  I plan to follow Walking Tour 22 from Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City.  After taking the train to Yokohama, I have to take a bus.  This is the first bus I’ve taken in Japan, so I’m a bit worried I won’t be able to figure it out.  However, as I’ve already found during my numerous day trips, Tokyo’s public transportation system is fabulous and easily negotiable.  I do believe it might be the best public transport system in the world.  I can only speak to my travels in 25 countries, but so far, it’s the tops.

When I get off the bus, two Japanese ladies, a mother and daughter, who overheard me ask the bus driver about Sankei-en, point me in the right direction.  They have both visited the U.S. and can speak decent English.  They tell me this is their first time at Sankei-en too, and I should follow them.  We walk about 10 minutes down a long straight road.  They tell me about their travels to the U.S. and ask where I’m from and what I’m doing in Japan.

At this point, it’s lunchtime and I’m hungry.  As we walk along, I stop to look at menus posted in front of several restaurants we pass, but I don’t find anything appealing.  As we get just outside the gates of Sankei-en, the women point out a cute souvenir shop/restaurant and tell me I might want to try it.

What a cute little restaurant!  I order tempura on soba noodles, which hits the spot.  A small porch at the back overlooks a pretty garden; sadly the two tables in the porch are occupied, but I do snap a photo over someone’s table.  At the table next to me are three young Americans; it always surprises me that when Westerners run into each other while traveling abroad, they rarely speak to each other.  It’s as if all of us want to experience the new culture and not be reminded where we come from.  I know I often feel that way.  I don’t want to waste time getting embroiled in a long conversation about where we’re from and what we’re doing in Japan, so I don’t say anything to them, nor them to me.  I prefer it that way.  I enjoy just sitting silently, enjoying my meal, and watching the people around me.

After my enjoyable lunch, I buy my admittance ticket and enter the garden.  The Sankei-en (Three Glens Garden) was created by local entrepreneur Hara Tomitaro (1868-1939), an artistic Yokohama businessman who grew wealthy in the silk trade; he was also a poet, a calligrapher, and a classical Japanese scholar.  He was known by the pseudonym Sankei Hara.

The primary residence for the Hara family (Sankei) was built around the 30th year of the Meiji era, or 1898.  The compound includes a parlor room, living quarters, study, guest room, a Buddhist prayer room, and other facilities.  The house is an example of modern Japanese architecture from the Yokohama area. In its time, the compound hosted many artists of the Meiji era art world, including Taikan Yokoyama. Thus the building is highly regarded as a major contributor to the art of Japanese painting.

To the natural beauty in the garden, Hara Tomitaro also added 16 historic buildings brought from central Japan.  He built his Haku-un-Tei (White Cloud Residence), a traditional shoin-style retreat, in 1920.  A shoin is a drawing-room or study, a tatami-room dedicated to receiving guests.

Haku-un-tei (White Cloud Residence)

pagoda at Sankei-en

trees at Haku-un-tei

Immediately, beside the Main Pond, I come across this adorable Japanese couple having photographs made.  I figure they’re in a public garden, so I should be able to enjoy their poses and take some photos as well.

bride & groom at Sankei-en

Aha, but the young man sees me and catches me in the act.  His face looks glum here, but he and his entourage laugh about it shortly after I snap this photo.

caught in the act 🙂

From across the pond, I can see Nakano-shima Island and its little bridge.

Main pond and Nakano-shimo Island

The couple seems to be following me!  Of course, I don’t hesitate to snap a few more shots.

the bride and groom again

Soon I come to Rinshun-kaku Villa, brought here in 1917 from the Kil Peninsula beyond Osaka. It was built in 1649 by Tokugawa Yorinobu, one of the ruling Tokugawa clan (1603-1868), as his second home.

Rinshun-kaku Villa

I love the tatami-matted rooms with the sliding doors and the painted walls.

inside Rinshun-kaku Villa

inside Rinshun-kaku Villa

Rinshun-kaku Villa

Tenzui-ji Juto Oido

bridge over a small pond

back of Rinshun-kaku Villa

more inside views of Rinshun-kaku Villa

inside views of Rinshun-kaku Villa

The Gekka-den Guest House was built in 1603 by Ieyasu Tokugawa in the compound of the Fushimi Castle in Kyoto.  It was used as a guest house where feudal lords stayed when they came to pay their respects to the Shogun.

stairs to Gekka-den Guest House

Gekka-den Guest House

Kinmo-kutsu Tea Arbor was built in 1918 by Sankei Hara and has a one-and-three-quarter-mat tea ceremony room.

I am intrigued by the references to the number of tatami mats in the tea arbors.  I find at The Japanese Tea Ceremony that “in Japan, the size of a room, and that of a house is typically measured by the number of Tatami mats or Jō. The traditional dimensions of the mats were fixed at 90 cm by 180 cm by 5 cm (1.62 square meters)(35.5 inch by 71 inch by 2 inch). Half mats, 90 cm by 90 cm (35.5 inch by 35.5 inch) are also made. Tea rooms and tea houses are frequently 4½ mats (7.29m²) which is called a Koma style room.”

Kinmo-kutsu Teahouse

lush foliage

a litlte pagoda

Choshu-kaku Teahouse was built in 1623 by the Third Shogun, Ietmitsu Tokugawa, in the compound of the Nijojo Castle in Kyoto, perhaps as one of the garden buildings. There are only a few buildings with a structure like this still in existence. This two-storied building of a light style, in its front view, was designed on the basis of a balance that avoids symmetry as much as possible. It was moved to the garden in 1922.

inside Choshu-kaku Teahouse

inside Choshu-kaku Teahouse

Choshu-kaku Teahouse

Choshu-kaku Teahouse

Sekikan (stone coffin)

Shunso-ro Tea Arbor has a three-and-three-quarter-mat tea ceremony room, which may have been built by a devotee of the tea ceremony. It was moved to the garden in 1918.

Shunso-ro Teahouse

inside Shunso-ro Teahouse

bamboo grove

The Renge-in Teahouse includes a tea room with an uncovered wooden floor between two mats, a six mat hall, and an unfloored space. It was built in 1917 by Sankei Hara.

Renge-in teahouse in a bamboo grove


Syusse Kannon

Sanju-no-to is a three-story pagoda of the former Tomyo-ji Temple that is a companion to the main hall which I’ll visit down below.   It is 82 feet (25 meters) tall; it was built within the temple grounds in 1457 and is the oldest pagoda in the Kanto region.

Sanju-no-to Pagoda

Sanju-no-to Pagoda

view from Sanju-no-to Pagoda

Sanju-no-to Pagoda

The Nobel prize-winning India poet Tagor, famous Japanese literary Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and many others have visited this arbor. In the autumn of 1915, Akutagawa composed a haiku poem on his impressions when he enjoyed tea in the arbor.  I wish I had a copy of that haiku!


stream and bridge

bridge over stream

a meandering stream

Rindo-an Teahouse consists of a six-mat hall and a four-mat hall. Inside the word “Rindo” was written on a board by Sohen Yamada, the founder of the Sohen school of tea ceremony.  It is the origin of the name of this arbor.

I happen upon a young man posing with an umbrella here for a photographer.  Of course, I must take a surreptitious photo. 🙂

young man with umbrella at Rindo-an Teahouse

The Tomyoji Temple, like the three-storied pagoda, was formerly in Kamo Village in Kyoto. After being damaged by a typhoon in 1947, the main hall was disassembled and put in storage. In 1986, it was transferred to the garden and restored.

Tomyo-ji Main Hall

What draws me to Tomyo-ji is the quilt exhibit by Fumiko Endo. I love the tiny kimono is pretty fabrics on the black background.

kimono quilt

Other quilts have cranes, people in kimono, a single kimono and cascading blossoms.

I continue my walk through the outer garden and enjoy the ponds, streams and bridges.

another little bridge

Nakano-shima Island has a Kankatei Arbor and panoramic views.

views from Nagano-Shima Island

views from Nagano-Shima Island

views from Nagano-Shima Island

Yokobue-an is a country-style tea arbor and it is so named because in this arbor, there was a statue of Yokobue, a tragic heroine of a famous love story.

Yokobue-an Teahouse

The trunk of an Ume (Japanese apricot tree) looks like a crawling dragon.  This tree was the model for “Yoroboshi,” one of the famous masterpieces by artist Kanzan Shimomura, in which the famous “Yoroboshi” sits by a big Ume tree.


I found the image of the painting on Wikipedia Commons: “Yoroboshi, by Shimomura Kanzan, Tokyo National Museum, Japan.”

Yoroboshi, by Shimomura Kanzan, Tokyo National Museum, Japan (Wikipedia Commons)

Kankabashi Bridge

The Old Tokeiji Sanctum of the Zen Sect Style was moved to the garden in 1907 from the compound of the Tokeiji Temple in Kamakura.

Old Tokeiji Sanctum

Little is known about the origin of the old Yanohara Farmhouse with its roof laid with stones. The paper screens are patched with deeds, calendars, and children’s calligraphy exercises. A straw raincoat, sedge hat and hoe stand by the entrance.  Seasonal vegetables and bamboo were planted around the cottage, which also features a bamboo chicken coop and a well. Simple rustic scenes like this were the things Sankei loved best.  He used this cottage as a place to entertain guests and visitors, according to an interpretive sign.

The farmhouse is in the gassho style, noted for its steeply pitched, thatched-roof that resembles hands clasped in prayer. The three-story design was built without nails and its beams are secured by thick straw ropes, according to Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City.

Yonohara Farmhouse

From the south gate of Sankei-an, I cross over a waterway to the Honmoku Civic Park.  Here, I find the Shanghai-Yokohama Friendship Garden, a classical Chinese-style garden with a Chinese Pleasure Barge, a building in traditional Chinese style on an island in the lake.

Shanghai-Yokohama Friendship Garden

Shanghai-Yokohama Friendship Garden

Shanghai-Yokohama Friendship Garden

Shanghai-Yokohama Friendship Garden

Shanghai-Yokohama Friendship Garden

I don’t plan to continue the walk, which would take me to Hasse-den Kyodo Shiryokan, the Hall of the Eight Sages, just outside the Honmoku Civic Park.  From there, I’d have to find a different bus to take me back, or take a taxi.  I haven’t yet had to take a taxi in Japan and I fear they’re expensive.  So, I opt to backtrack though Sankei-en to the bus stop where I disembarked earlier.

wisteria arbor in Sankei-en beside the Main Pond

I loved my outing to Sankei-en today.  The weather was fabulous, the crowds weren’t too thick for a holiday, and it was charmingly scenic.  I highly recommend this enchanting garden. 🙂

Below is my route to Sankei-en this morning.

Steps today: 16,711 (7.08 miles).

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