Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Asakusa's Secret Garden

For only five weeks each year Asakusa's Senso-ji Temple shares its secret garden, Denbou-in, with the public. Built in the early 17th century, the garden design is attributed to architect, garden designer and tea master Kobori Enshu. The temple garden is a circuit style garden surrounding a small pond called Shinji-ike in the form of the Chinese character heart.

In times past this garden was open only to nobles – ordinary citizens were not allowed to enter the garden – but for five weeks each Spring the garden is open to the public. There is an entrance fee of 300 Yen which includes the museum and a cup of tea in the tea garden but the views with the blossoming cherry trees are what you should come for.

To get there from Yokosuka take the Keikyu from Yokosuka Chuo to the Asakusa (Tobu/Subway) station and exit A5. You will walk through Thunder Gate with it's massive red paper lantern and past the souvenir stalls that line Nakamise-dori. Once through past the stalls make your way toward the left, past the heritage craftsman stalls and you will see a building on your right. This is the entrance to Denbou-in. The entrance fee to the garden is 300 Yen.

Don't wait too long because like the cherry blossoms contained with the garden walls the opportunity to see this treasure won't last - the garden is open until May 7th from 10 to 4. This year a portion of the entrance fee will go to support the recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

If you want to make a day of it I would recommend getting to the garden when it opens at 10, once you've had a chance to feast your eyes on the beauty of the garden head to Aoi-Marushin for some outstanding Tempura. Located in Asakusa when you stand with the Thunder Gate behind you, you will turn right and walk about two city blocks. Aoi-Marushin is located on the same side of the street at Senso-ji. Hours are from 11a.m. to 8 p.m. they have an English menu and take major credit cards. Go to for the map (the restaurant on the map is the blue circle symbol to the left of the Thunder Gate entrance on Kaminarimon-Dori).

Want to make the most of your day in Tokyo? Once refreshed with excellent tempura fare head back to the subway line and transfer to the Ginza line and go one stop to Tawaramachi and hit the famous Tokyo Kitchen District, Kappabashi. Be sure to bring plenty of Yen, while some stores do take credit cards, many do not.

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