Shinkeien: Traditional Japanese Gardens in Yokohama

Photo: People enjoying the calm and quiet scenery as they sit across the pond.

Shinkeien: Traditional Japanese Gardens in Yokohama

Shabrina Alyani

Japanese garden methods put a lot of emphasis on producing miniature natural scenery. How does walking in a Japanese garden differ from other styles of gardening? Isn’t every garden basically the same—a place full of vegetation? If you have not already seen a Japanese garden, it often includes elements such as polished stones, gravel, a koi-filled pond, a shiny wooden bridge, tall lanterns and a working water basin. In Sankeien Garden, you can walk through feeling the magic of a traditional Japanese garden.

It costs ¥500 to enter. You will see different types of vegetation as you walk down the path—all have different shapes and shades of color. I came when most of the leaves were still green, but some plants already have a tint of yellow on the tip of their leaves.

People took their time slowly. An old man sat by the pond, inside a small and dark pavilion. The pavilion was a small nice shelter on that cloudy and windy day. The bridge and pagoda across the pond looked far away from there.

Facing the lake, there were open benches for the visitors to enjoy the extensive view of the garden. The high, dense trees that surrounded the lake made the place seem covered from the real world. My friends and I brought our bento box and ate there. "What a lovely place to have lunch," I thought. Except the wind that blew towards us was cold and strong enough to make me shiver. We finished our lunch as fast as possible so we could go somewhere else.

The shop near the lake offered dango (Japanese sweet dumplings) with various toppings. I ate dango with red-bean topping—ever since I came to Japan, I became very fond of the red bean because there were many snacks that have it inside. There was a small counter selling ice cream in which one of my friends ate cherry blossom flavored.

Sankeien Garden has many small bridges that connect the path. There are also small benches in the middle of the bridge where a group of people like to sit and talk to each other.

Plants were various and dense, and as you walk the path or climb the stairs, you will feel the tranquility of this place, as if all noise is absorbed by nature—leaving only you and nature alone together. In this garden, there is no large, empty space where people gather and to enjoy the scenery. Instead, there are paths connecting one place to another, such as a pond, historic buildings, and tea house. The seventeen historic buildings become the charming point of this place, their locations are scattered in the garden so give your self time to explore the area. To enjoy the garden, you will have to walk following the path, immersing yourself in the beauty of a Japanese garden.

The peak seasons for the most attractive colors for tourists are perhaps autumn and spring, because the colors of Japanese nature are certainly something that they don’t get to see everyday. But the common green garden of Sankeien by itself is also something not to be missed when you’re in Yokohama! Definitely worth a visit for people who want to feel the sensation of traditional Japanese nature.

To get there, stop at Yokohama Station and take bus 8 or 125 to Honmoku Sankeien-mae. Another alternative is to stop at Negishi Station and take bus 54, 58, 99, 101, or 108 to Honmoku. If you enjoy walking and do not mind spending around 45 minutes, you can walk from the station to the garden! I did it with my travel companions and we had a good time experiencing Yokohama City. Now it's your turn.