Friday, April 2, 2010

Sankeien Garden

Last Saturday, Jeff and I actually had a date. First one since I arrived 8 months ago. Clearly we need to do a better job of getting out more – without family in tow. Months and months ago I had said I wanted to go to Sankeien Garden in Yokohama. But it was hot then and Jeff suggested we wait until the fall. Fall came and went … and he had to periodically listen to me whine about still not having gone to the garden. Once I find out about a garden I’m like a dog and a bone – I simply will not let it go until I’ve had my chance to see it. We had a window on Saturday, no call, kids were busy with various activities, weather was good and the cherry blossoms were starting to bloom. He was stuck – with no real good excuse as to why we couldn’t go visit the garden. Time was also ticking – the cherry blossoms don’t hang around for long.

A train ride to Yokohama station and a 40 minute bus ride to the garden and we finally arrived. Immediately we ran into a problem – you can NEVER bring enough Yen with you when you travel in Japan – this time it wasn’t that we hadn’t brought enough but that our Yen was too much. The machines wouldn’t take a bill of that high of denomination. Thankfully, helpful Japanese were right there to break the bill into a smaller amount and help Jeff purchase the tickets from the machine (see photo of Jeff receiving assistance).

Sankeien Garden is a traditional Japanese-style garden located in Yokohama. Designed and built by Tomitaro Hara, a silk trader, the garden opened in 1906. Almost all of the buildings are historically significant structures and were bought by Hara and relocated to the grounds of Sankeien. The garden was badly damaged during World War II’s Great Yokohama Bombing, requiring 5 years of restoration.

The gardens are lovely, strolling paths, historical structures – it was easy to forget that we were in the middle of the second largest city in Japan. We were lucky to view the cherry blossoms, although they weren’t in full bloom yet – but I jumped right in with the rest of the Japanese, pointing my camera at Sakura (cherry blossoms) and clicking away. Still, there was so much to see, more visits are in my future. Two of my favorite structures were the Three-storied Pagoda and the Old Yanohara House.

Three-storied Pagoda of Old Tomyoji
Originally constructed in Kyoto in 1457 and relocated to the garden in 1914 it is the oldest pagoda in the Kanto region. Surveys indicate that this pagoda was built during the Muromachi period (1333-1573) because of its style. This structure also seemed to really impress Jeff, when he read about how old it was he was relatively speechless (being a PG blog I can't repeat what he said) - but he pointed out that while our country had native Americans living in teepees (not all together true but I get his point) and Columbus hadn't even crossed the Atlantic yet, the Japanese were creating structures like this.

Gassyo Zukuri Old Yanohara House
This house was built around 1750 as the residence of a village headman. The miscanthus-thatched roof is named Gassho (handjoining) style because its construction is made by stacking large logs in a way that resembles clasped hands. It was moved to the garden in 1960 from Gifu Prefecture.

Till next time, sayonara.

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