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.
Sugamo is a neighborhood renowned for its main shopping street, named Jizo Dori, which some refer to as the Harajuku of elderly people. The most famous store of Sugamo specializes in red clothes. It is actually a Japanese tradition to offer a piece of red clothing to someone who turns 60 years old. The district is also home to the Koganji where pouring water over a special statue of Buddha can cure your ailments.
Lord Masamune chose Mount Aoba for the location of his castle when he built it in 1600. Masumune is often depicted with his famous helmet featuring a moon crescent. Unfortunately the castle was destroyed by bombing during the war but the main wall was reconstructed and the site offers a great view of the city of Sendai. The Gokoku Shrine, which is affiliated to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, is also located on site.
Kawagoe is known as little Edo since its old historical buildings are reminiscent of old Tokyo at the time it was named Edo. It was once a strategic location for trade with Tokyo. Kawagoe makes a perfect day trip from Tokyo and will please those who like to walk in a charming neighbourhood and sample local delicacies sold at the many food stalls and gift shops.
The Honmaru Residence is the only remaining structure of what was once the Kawagoe Castle. It used to serve as the lords residence and office. The building is now a museum that features a garden and several historical artefacts.
The god enshrined at the Fukurokujujin temple is known to bring happiness and prosperity. The temple features a “hidden” garden that is particularly beautiful in autumn.
The god of success, good fortune, business and mariage is enshrined at the Kumano shrine in Kawagoe. Visitors to Kumano can purify themselves by washing their coins in a special fountain. The most peculiar feature is perhaps the small passage leading to the shrine whose sides are covered by round stones. Those who venture on this path barefoot are in for a good massage!
The AER building, located nearby Sendai’s central train station, features an observatory on its 31st floor. The observatory has two separate sides, one facing south and the other north. The latter offers a nice view of the city center. Access to the observation deck is free. Opening hours are from 10:00 to 20:00.
Sendai, the capital of Miyagi prefecture, is known for being a green city with lots of vegetation. For example, the city center has a long covered shopping arcade that is lined with small trees. The staple dish in Sendai is the gyutan (beef tongue). The grilled thin slices of gyutan are typically flavored with salt or sauce and the dish is well accompanied with a glass of cold Japanese beer.