Sankeien, a traditional Japanese garden, is spread over a large area near Tokyo Bay in Yokohama’s Honmoku district.
The entire 175,000-sq.-meter garden, which contains 12 precious old structures moved from Kyoto and Kamakura, used to be owned by silk industry tycoon Tomitaro Hara (1868-1939).
Hara, who was one of the country’s richest men, made his fortune as a producer, yarn maker and exporter of silk, one of Japan’s primary exports during the prewar period.
Although Sankeien remained Hara’s private park, it was opened to the public in 1906.
Hara moved a total of 12 historically important buildings to his garden, including a three-story pagoda from a Kyoto temple dating from 1457 and a 1591 structure, also from Kyoto, that samurai lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi built for the longevity of his mother. Most of the buildings are now designated national cultural heritage.
Hara’s own residence, Kakushokaku, was built in the park in 1902. The wooden, one-story house, which was designed by Hara, boasts a floor area of 950 sq. meters, including a living room, hall, music room, study, guest room and a storehouse.
Despite Hara’s great fortune, the design of the house is surprisingly simple and austere.
The Kakushokaku residence served as a salon for important artists, who all played a key role in the modernization of Japanese art.
Hara was a great patron of traditional Japanese art, supporting a number of young painters who went on to achieve fame. Among them were Taikan Yokoyama (1868-1958), Kanzan Shimomura (1873-1930), Seison Maeda (1885-1977) and Kokei Kobayashi (1883-1957).
Part of Hara’s great art collection, which once decorated Kakushokaku, is now displayed at a museum in the park.
Although his properties survived the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that devastated Yokohama, Tokyo and the surrounding area, he stopped collecting art after the quake.
U.S. air raids during the war damaged Sankeien, which was donated to the city of Yokohama in 1953.
Now beautifully restored, the structures in the park are used for various events, including wedding ceremonies, concerts and art exhibitions.
Sankeien is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is ¥500 for adults and ¥200 for elementary school pupils. To visit the garden, take a bus departing from JR Negishi Station, get off at Honmoku and walk five minutes to the park.