Sankei-en Garden

It has FINALLY cooled down here!  In fact, the weather has been ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!  On Monday I woke up and went for a run before heading up to Yokohama to go visit the Sankei-en Garden.  It was built in 1906 by a silk trader named Tomitaro Hara who went by the pseudonym Sankei Hara.  He purchased an extensive collection of historically significant buildings from all over Japan and brought them to his garden, which he largely designed himself.







The above photo was taken inside the Former Yanohara House, a home originally from Gifu prefecture dating back to the Edo Period.  The house was HUGE!  There are a few original areas still intact–the hearth above is one of them.  It was definitely an interesting structure.



The Tomyo-ji three story pagoda was originally constructed in Kyoto in 1457 and relocated in 1916 to the garden.


Wooden carvings of the goddess, Kannon, on the doors of Tenzui-ji’s former Jutō Ōi-dō, built in 1591 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi as the final resting place for his mother.  He’s one of the major historical figures for Japan, playing a large role in the country’s unification.


The Rinshunkaku pictured above originally belonged to the Kii House of Tokugawa (the Tokugawa clan had three “branches,” Kii, Owari, and Mito).



The Chōshūkaku is another structure associated with the Tokugawa clan.

The entire garden is very Nihon-rashii, or “Japanese-like,” and even some of the Japanese tourists walking around commented, “It feels like Kyoto, doesn’t it?”  I recommend checking Sankei-en out if you’re in the area, and it’s especially great for locals who want the “Kyoto feel” but can’t necessarily devote an entire weekend traveling 4+ hours away by Shinkansen.

Hopefully as the leaves turn I’ll be able to get some more shots, maybe a Sankei-en round 2 trip is in store…

Yokohama bar and restaurant reviews + first Goukon!

Have been quite busy as of recent, so I do apologize for the lack of updates.  I am affiliated with Uncle Sam–I’ll put it that way–so sometimes I am bogged down with my job.   This weekend was quite busy, Saturday I went up to Yokohama Chinatown (again), with my friend A., and met up with my friend R. who is here as part of an international college student forum, hosted at the Japanese National Defense Academy.  12 of us had the “party room” at Koukarou Shanghai Cuisine, and although a bit cramped, it was comfortable.  We had a set menu of Chinese dishes, and I would say the food was moderate in quality.  It wasn’t an excessively expensive place, hence perfect for a gaggle of college students.  It’s a very small place, with three stories.  The top floor is the so-called  “party room.”  For one person, the set course is 1980 yen.  We had chili shrimp, dim sum, spring rolls, fried squid, a chicken and cashew nut stir fry, a beef stir fry, and a few other dishes.  I’d give Koukarou 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Our group, minus A., representing Japan, the United States, Tunisia, Great Britain, and South Korea;

While those staying at the National Defense Academy had a curfew and had to be back by 2200, A. bid them goodnight and decided to have a drink or two.  A. recommended a bar, Windjammer.

The exterior has a nautical feel, and the inside is fashioned to look like the inside of an old British ship.  Trip Advisor has a few reviews by others who have visited.  The drink menu is quite large, and the bartenders are more than willing to make something if it is not featured on the menu.  To top it off there are live jazz performances.  I would give Windjammer 5 out of 5 stars, for ambiance, music, drink menu, and excellent service.  Definitely worth checking out if you are in Yokohama.  And if that doesn’t quite fit your bill, across the street is always the British pub located above the Greek bar/restaurant!

I have yet to try either of these fine establishments; that is a post for the future!

Sunday evening I traveled back up to Yokohama to meet up with a Japanese friend of mine.  She had invited me out, and we met up at the station.  We went to Umeko no ie, a designer restaurant notable for its umeshuu, or plum wine.

I followed A. into a room, on which one side of a table sat five young men, and on the other side, four young women (I made the fifth).  The wheels of my brain began to turn and I realized that this looked like something I had heard about, and it truly solidified when we were all asked to give an introduction of ourselves.  I soon realized I had been invited to a “Goukon,” which is a popular form of dating in Japan.  It is like a group blind date.  Usually a few members of the group know one another, and an appropriate number of men and women are invited so that the numbers match.  The men were all current students at the National Defense Academy; two were Navy, two were Army, and one was slated to be an Air Force pilot.  The women consisted of myself, my friend A., a Chinese exchange student R., and two other friends of A’s.  I had been interested in attending a goukon, so was pleasantly surprised to have been able to have had the experience.  Umeko no Ie is pricy, but it also gets 5 out of 5 stars.  The food, drinks, service, and ambiance are of high caliber.  I would recommend this restaurant if in the area (it’s a chain, so I believe they are located in Tokyo as well) and if you have an affinity for plum wine.

All in all busy but pleasant weekend, met quite a few people from all over the world and had the opportunity to try a few new places.  Until next time!

Yokohama Chuukagai (Chinatown)

Today I woke up to bright, clear blue skies and sunlight streaming in through the windows.  Compared to the last few weekends, which have been gray and rainy, it was a very pleasant change to behold.  Weather-wise, it was actually quite warm in the sun, and all in all a good day to be outside walking about.  We made our way up North to Yokohama, and being the Chinese New Year had recently taken place, we thought it fitting to visit Chuukagai (Chinatown).


Instead of shops full of counterfeit designer watches and handbags, Yokohama Chinatown is largely comprised of restaurants (Chinese food with a Japanese twist) and souvenir shops.  Today was quite crowded–as evidenced by the above photograph–so making our way through the streets was a bit challenging.  We did, however, manage to make our way over to the Mazu temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Mazu, who gives protection for safe transit on the high seas.  Image



After visiting and paying respects to Mazu, we continued on to the Kwan Temple, dedicated to Guan Yu, a famous general who played a significant role in the collapse of the Han Dynasty.  He was elevated to the status of deity under the Sui Dynasty, and is worshipped as a saint who blesses those who observe the code of brotherhood and righteousness (with respect mainly to warriors).


Once we had our fill of Chinatown we made our way back to Minatomirai, the Yokohama cosmopolitan zenith.  Our friend had been very adamant earlier in the day that he was on a mission to find the fabled Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop; lo and behold, after much searching it was found, and the day ended successfully, donuts and all.