This gem of a Japanese-style garden in Yokohama offers an escape from the bustle of the port city with its natural beauty and important cultural heritage.
A peaceful refuge
When people ask about my favorite place in Japan, I first think of the temples of Kyoto or the famous castle in Himeji. But then, I always settle on my neighborhood’s own treasure, the Sankeien Garden.
Sankeien is a large Japanese-style garden in southern Yokohama known for its picturesque vistas, beautiful flora, historic buildings, and cultural events tied to the appreciation of the seasons. In the age of coronavirus, its spacious paths and generally sparse levels of visitors make it a good destination for a socially-distanced outing.
From family sanctuary to important public cultural property
The garden is a large oasis in the city, covering 175,000 square meters adjoining the former coastline. As a resident or visitor to the area, it’s startling to catch a glimpse of the old sea cliffs from the garden, knowing that they used to fall directly into the sea, but now overlook industrial land that was reclaimed in the 1970s.
The garden was originally the property of Hara Sankei, an early 20th-century silk industry entrepreneur. He designed the grounds to be his family’s residence as well as a hub for the practice of Japanese traditional arts. The garden was opened to the public in 1906. In 2007, it was officially designated as a “Place of Scenic Beauty” by the Japanese government.
Don’t forget to feed the koi (鯉, carp) and ducks in the main pond! You can purchase yakifu(焼き麩, dried wheat protein) at a shop outside the main gates or from the restaurant next to the pond.
It is possible to use strollers in most areas of the garden, but a few sections of the Inner Garden are not accessible. As the paths are made of gravel, heavier-weight strollers do better.
There are three restaurants [Japanese-only page] in the garden selling soba, udon, oden, ice cream, dango, and more. Locals also like to frequent Kofuku, a small shop selling inari-zushi (rice in deep-fried tofu pouches) located next to the nearest city bus stop. Parking is available, but it can fill up quickly during peak times / special events.
Other facilities include:
- Coin lockers at the main entrance
- Restrooms with child seats and changing tables
- Free wheelchair rental
- Guide book and audio tours in English
Sankeien Garden is quite large, so other than the ticket window and some popular areas at peak times, it’s possible to practice social distancing throughout most of the garden. You can enjoy the garden without going indoors at all. At the time of writing, mitigation measures include:
- Temperature checks before entry
- Soap in restrooms and hand sanitizer stations
- Cancellation of guided tours and tea service
- Visitors are requested to wear masks
Getting there:From Negishi Station (JR Keihin-Tohoku / Negishi Line):
From bus platform #1, take Yokohama city bus 58, 99, or 101 to the bus stop “Honmoku” (about 10 minutes). Walk about 10 minutes to the garden’s entrance.
From Yokohama Station:From the East Exit bus platform #2, take Yokohama city bus 8 or 148 to the bus stop “Sankeien-Iriguchi” (about 40 minutes). Walk about 5 minutes to the garden’s entrance. City buses 58 and 105 also go to the bus stop “Honmoku,” a 10-minute walk to the entrance. You can board the same buses at Sakuragicho Station.
On weekends and holidays, the sightseeing bus Burari-Sankeien Bus runs from bus platform #2 of Yokohama Station East Exit to the Sankeien entrance.
More details are on the Sankeien Garden map.
Admission:¥700 for adults (including high school students), ¥200 for children (elementary school and junior high students). See the website for more information about discounts.
Regular hours:9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4:30 p.m.). Open every day except Dec. 29, 30, and 31. Extended opening hours for some special events.