Sankei-en Gardens has been on my autumn or the spring to-do-list for a long time. Known for its beautiful colourful autumn light up in the night, it is one of the most beautiful garden around the Yokohama area in Kanagawa Prefecture. It belonged to a silk trader, Tomitaro Hara, and is designated as one of the Important Cultural Properties by the Japanese government. Beautiful cherry blossoms (April), brilliant autumn colors (November) and awesome plum blossoms (February) are the best times to visit, but I missed all three in my first visit!!
Opening Hours 09:00-17:00 (Last entry 16:30). Closed: year end holidays. Address : 58-1, Honmoku Sannotani, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0824Mid-may the garden was an all green setup with the just concluded cherry blossom season a month earlier in April. A Japanese couple (newly married) were there in the gardens with beautiful kimono’s with their professional photographers in tow to take some beautiful memories on a brilliant backdrop of the gardens. The beautiful pond, the three storied pagoda in the distance and the green cover, made for a perfect setup to record memories.
The Sankei-en Gardens owner Tomitaro Hara, has a rather colourful history. He was a native of Gifu and loved to study fine arts. He came to Tokyo in 1885 and studied poetry at the Waseda University. He became a teacher at the Atomi Girls School, married one of the students and got adopted into her business family. He himself got very successful in the business and then began collecting old buildings around the location of Sankei-en, his art side again coming to the fore.Although we did miss the cherry blossom or the autumn colours in the garden, the month of May was the time for water lilies and they were in their best time of the season. The white lily pond had at least 300-500 of these flowers and early morning we were lucky to visit with very few people yet in the garden crowding the view. The Sankeien Gardens has many hisotrical houses and buildings. These buildings were brought to the park from locations all over Japan. When you are seriously rich, Sankei-en is an example what is achievable. Buying off important historical buildings across the country and getting them transported toa location of your choice!!! An example is the main attraction, a three storied pagoda located high up on a hill deep inside the garden. Originally constructed in Kyoto and “relocated” to Sankei-en in 1914, the pagoda was built in 1457 and used to be at Tomyoji, the abandoned temple in Kyoto. It is considered as the oldest wooden pagoda in the Kanto region.The gardens has a hill side which leads to the old pagoda and good hiking trail around it. An old broken wooden path with stairs around it, leads to and from the old pagoda.Another example of buying important property amd relocating it is the residence of Tokugawa Family in Kishu Domain (Current Wakayama Prefecture). built in 1649, It has three buildings and was open to general public view on the day of my visit. The Japanese couple was enjoying their photography session and photobombing my work too in a way that I was liking it…Another view with the Kakushōkaku (鶴翔閣) formerly the private residence of the Hara family. Today it can be rented by the public and used for meetings and parties and it was not accessible due to the same reason that I visited. It is one of the three buildings on the premises designated as Tangible Cultural Properties by the City of Yokohama. Only during the summer, the Kakushōkaku is open to the public.The Sankei-en Gardens have been reconstructed in 1954 by the Yokohama Municipal Government after it suffered a lot of damage during the World War. The reconstruction has been done in detailed and reconstructing most of the gardens and the bamboo plantations which are a sight to watch inside the garden. A small tea house, Yokobue-an (横笛庵), hidden behind the bamboo trees.
Moving on I encountered the below sign and decided to check the inner garden side of the Sankei-en.We climbed on the hill behind the tea house and a beautiful walkway or tunnel I should say was created out of the trees, kind of a hiking trail built all around the hill…Of all the houses which are in the garden, this one is the best of them all. A beautiful, old house in the garden,Yanohara House (旧矢箆原家住宅) where the koi-nobori were strung for the Children’s Day celebrated in May. A boy was trying to jump and catch the carp streamer socks hung outside the house which used to be a private home of an Edo period (1603–1868) wealthy Yanohara family. It was brought to the Sankeien Garden from the famous Shirakawago village in the Gifu Prefecture. I went inside the house and found the detail of the reconstruction right to the detail of the fire place too. The house is from Gifu prefecture which receives significant snowfall and this kind of a fireplace must have been the basic necessity in those days.The old three storied pagoda is visible in its entirety (all the three levels) from only this backside of the garden. The Old pagoda, Toumyoji, I really want to come back in autumn and take this shot, or even the cherry blossom season sometime.On my way back, one last view of the pagoda…. beautiful flowers of the spring in front of it in full blossom.
Hara really had a taste, not only did he move the three storied pagoda from Kyoto, he also relocated the main hall in the same premises of the temple of Toumyoji. The Main Hall of Old Toumyoji, the below snap is part of the inner garden. Built way back in 1392, it must have been “costly” to move such a huge property from Kyoto all the way to Yokohama.
Hara, the owner of Sankei-en made good money, used his wealth to bring around important historical architecture to Yokohama. It is about 33 minutes from Yokohama station, and about 25 minutes from Sakuragicho station. Take municipal bus No.8 or 148 and then about 3 minutes walk from the stop to Sankeien. High on my must-visit-location in coming autumn for the light-up….