Sankeien is a garden located in Yokohama wich opened to the public about 100 years ago. While the vegetation and the landscape of Sankeien are of great beauty, what makes Sankeien truly special is the many historical buildings that were brought from all over Japan by the then rich owner of the garden. In fact, many of these structures were part of old temples and shrines located in Kyoto, the old capital city. It is, without any doubt, one of the great gardens of the greater Tokyo area.
Unlike most other trees, the Ginkgo or Ichou in Japanese, has individuals of the two sexes, males and females. Only the female produces fruits which are renown for their unpleasant smell. This peculiar tree is commonly seen in Japan. In fact, the leaf of the Ginkgo tree is the emblem of the University of Tokyo, the most recognized university in Japan. It is thus not surprising to find a street lined with large Ginkgo trees near the Jingu Gaien garden in Tokyo. In fall, this street hosts the Ginkgo festival when thousands of visitors come to enjoy the sight of the Ginkgo leaves turning to a bright yellow color.
The Kiyosumi Teien garden is designated as a site of scenic beauty. Troughout its long history, the garden was the home of important political figures and wealthy merchants. For example, it once belonged to Mitsubishi’s founder and was used for the enjoyment of his employees and guests. The garden is now open to the public. Kiyosumi garden is built around a pond and features many stepping stones that allow visitors to get closer to the water. Beware of the Suppon, the Japanese soft shelled turtle that won’t hesitate to bite your fingers. They are actually strict carnivores!
Rikugi-en is a famed Japanese garden located in the Northwestern sector of Tokyo. Like many Japanese gardens, the park features a pond surrounded by small hills and beautiful vegetation. We visited the park after a rare snowstorm that affected the area of Tokyo so we witnessed the garden in a very unusual and beautiful snow-covered state. As a relief to the cold, we got to enjoy a warm tea while basking in the sun at the lakeside teahouse.
The Hamarikyu Garden is located near the Tokyo port area, in the luxurious financial district of Shiodome. Initially the villa of the Shogun Tokugaga, famous for duck hunting, it was remodelled as a park in the 40s. The Hamarikyu Garden contrasts heavily to the modern skyscrapers seen behind. Walking from the Shiodome station, one transitions from a futuristic display of luxury to a peaceful and unpretentious garden.
Yamashita park stretches along the waterfront of the port of Yokohama. Nearby attactions include the Yokohama Marine tower and the Hikawa Maru, an ocean liner now preserved as a museum. While taking a stroll in the park, make sure to pass by the beautiful rose garden.
The Oze National park, which is located not too far from Tokyo, stretches across four prefectures: Gunma, Fukushima, Niigata and Tochigi. The park is famous for its large marshland surrounded by mountains. To protect its fragile vegetation from human traffic, the park features an extensive network of boardwalks which makes for a easy hike and allows one to access areas of the wetland when you would otherwise be knee-deep in the water. Many mountain huts are scatered arounf the park for a pleasant overnight stay. Sleeping quarters consist of private tatami rooms with futons. All huts serve a warm dinner and most of them have public warm baths.
Todoroki Valley is an oasis of nature in the middle of Tokyo. The valley, which is about 10-20 meters deep, was dug over time by a small river. In the summertime temperatures remain surprisingly colder in the valley thanks to the cold water and the shade provided by the large trees. A path follows the river and eventually leads to the Todoroki temple and a small teahouse. Next time you can’t bear the intense summer heat, head to Todoroki valley for a refreshing encounter with nature!
The Yokohama harbor view park is located on a hill overlooking the port of Yokohama. The parc features a pretty rose garden and an observation deck with a great view of the industrial port of Yokohama where ships are loaded with commercial goods. The Yokohama bay bridge is also seen in the distance.
Yohohama’s foreign general cemetery has an history that dates back to 1853 when Commodore Perry first arrived in Japan. The death of a crewman aboard Perrys’ ship prompted the Japanese government to create a foreign cemetery at Perrys’ request. The cemetery was originally part of the Zotokuin temple. As the presence of foreigners in Japan grew, the demand for burial grounds increased as well so that the Japanese tombs and the temple itself were relocated somewhere else in Yokohama. Nowadays, the cemetery can be visited for a small donation amount. It may not be to everyone’s taste but I enjoyed learning about the very first Gaijins of Japan who must have had to overcome far greater challenges than today’s Gaijins to adapt to the culture of their new country.