Located in Yokohama City, Japan, Sankeien Garden is approximately a one-hour drive from central Tokyo. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the gates close at 4:30 p.m.), with the exception of special, seasonal events, such as the annual harvest moon or cherry blossom gatherings, which can take place after nightfall.
Entrance fees are about $5 for adults, $3 for seniors (65 years old and above) and $2 for children ages 6 to 11 years old. Children under the age of 6 are free, and there is a 20 percent discount for groups of 20 or more.
At a mere $4, the tea ceremony is a must-do, on-site activity, but tell your clients to plan ahead since the ceremony is only available until 4 p.m.
With enough advance notice, agents can arrange free guided tours of Yokohama and, certain attractions, such as Sankeien Garden, are available by special request. Known as Goodwill Guides, these volunteers are typically students or retirees interested in refining their English and communication skills in a practical setting. Clients are only expected to pay for the guide’s admission fees and travel expenses, as well as meals, should they dine together.
Japan National Tourism Organization
Click here to read more about Sankeien Garden's tea experience and other culinary delights in Japan's Kyoto region.
I had already been in Tokyo for two days when the jet lag finally set in. More specifically, the grogginess engulfed me while en route to Sankeien Garden in Yokohama City. I was, at that moment, in no condition to explore a 43-acre park on foot — or so I thought.
Sankeien Garden explodes with color in the late fall.// © 2009 Japan National Tourism Organization
Almost immediately after walking through the gates of the Japanese-style garden, I felt a bit lighter, suddenly invigorated by its manicured grounds and striking architecture.
“It is different from other Japanese gardens because there are 17 historical buildings on site from places like Kamakura and Shirakawago, meaning guests can really feel the atmosphere of traditional Japan,” said Toshikazu Yoshikawa, the garden’s spokesperson.
The three-story Pagoda of Old Tomyoji — a 552-year-old building painstakingly relocated from the grounds of Kyoto’s Tomyoji Temple — and its reflection in the Main Pond is nothing short of captivating. The pagoda serves as both the focal point of the park and as an important relic of the Muromachi period.
Sankeien’s proprietor, Sankei Hara, designed and landscaped the park more than 100 years ago with preservation in mind, and much of the property remains aesthetically in tact. It is still divided into two main parts: the Inner Garden, which was the private residence of the Hara family, until they opened it to the public in 1958, and the Outer Garden, the larger portion of the park with an impressive array of native trees and flowers (water lilies, azaleas, wild chrysanthemums and more).
Of course, one of the most popular times to visit is in spring, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Likewise, a stroll through the garden in late fall will provide an equally dramatic experience as the foliage explodes with crimson, amber and gold coloring. During these popular seasons, the park organizes viewing celebrations that often include shishimai (traditional lion dance) performances and music.
But no visit to Sankeien would be complete without participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. With this highly stylized experience, guests can gain insight into Japanese culture, in addition to enjoying a steaming cup of matcha green tea and two Japanese confections that are almost too pretty to eat.
Take it from me, jet lag or not, there’s nothing quite like a soothing cup of tea and an afternoon spent wandering in the outdoors to elevate your mood and whet your appetite for whatever adventure is next to come.