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Yokohama: Revitalised Through Art Part 1

Led by local historian and Yokohama resident, Glenn Scoggins, this tour really gets beneath the surface of Yokohama and its central role in the building of modern Japan. It covers an amazing chapter of Japanese history and the city’s early embrace of art as a means of development and connectivity with the west. It also allows for taking in the area’s most iconic attractions and appreciating them on a deeper, more impactful level. 

For Responsible Travellers

For travellers interested in bringing good karma with them along their Japan journey, this tour offers them the chance to:

  • Celebrate Yokohama and Japan’s cultural heritage 

  • Reduce burden on over-subscribed options in major golden route cities

  • Support local community members and lesser-known civic cultural attractions

A boat on the water

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Left to right: Japan’s original cultural melting pot, Isezakicho’s Theatre Street (early 1900s); Yokohama Archives of History; Sankeien Gardens (© Sankeien)

Yokohama Origins Tour

The Yokohama port origins story is absolutely fascinating and one that western travellers can connect with, since we are a central part in its formation, for better and worse. From the late 19th century, all the action was here, as one of the first places in Japan to open to the world. The landmarks, old buildings, carefully laid out sections of the bay, tell this story. Join your guide Glenn to see the the following highlights: 

  • Yokohama Archives of History – A delightful little museum that provides an excellent (and brief) introduction to the most compelling period of Yokohama early history, perfectly setting the scene for the rest of the day. 

  • Yamashita Park & Chinatown – Take a leisurely stroll along Yamashita Park overlooking Yokohama Bay. Enjoy the beautiful flowers and delightful “parklife” as well as learn the amazing story behind the building of the park. Time permitting, take a quick look at the bustling and highly photogenic Chinatown. 

  • Sankeien Gardens – A completely unique garden showcasing the essence of Japanese culture: from its gardening aesthetic to traditional architecture. Here guests will also learn the incredible story of the visionary altruist and entrepreneur, Sankei Hara, who established Yokohama as a cultural hub and interface between the best of Japanese and international art. 

Image credit: Sankeien Garden
Image credit: Sankeien Garden

Characters of the tour 

Glenn Scoggins - your specialist historian guide

 

Mr. Glenn Scoggins is a retired history teacher from Yokohama’s Saint Maur International School and a Yokohama resident of 47 years. Glenn now devotes some of his time to sharing his knowledge and passion for his beloved “hometown” of Yokohama in various community initiatives, writing for a local magazine, organising talks for local universities and the Yokohama History Society and volunteering at his former school. He also works as a local guide for Yokohama, specialising in sharing his deep insights into Yokohama's fascinating history.

Insights from Glenn:

About Yokohama:
“On almost every street corner, there is a reference to Yokohama’s history (often well-signposted in English as well as Japanese), which attracted me. Its history is short (only 165 years) and therefore easier to grasp on a short visit than in Kyōto or other older cities. Everywhere you walk in the central area, you see reminders of the earliest and continuing contacts between Japan and the West, especially Britain, France, Germany, and the U.S.”

About the Archives of History Museum:
“The Yokohama Archives of History provides an excellent brief introduction to the most dramatic period in Yokohama’s history, from 1853 to 1923, placing it within the context of world events.”

About Sankeien Gardens: 
“Sankeien Garden is the jewel of Yokohama. The flowers and trees were carefully chosen so that some would be in bloom at any point during the year—there’s never a wrong time to visit! There are beautiful views in every direction. In addition, the buildings that were transported from all over Japan provide a tour of Japanese art and architecture from different time periods and regions. Compared to gardens in Tōkyō (much larger) and Kyōto (much older) which focus on only one time period, Sankeien provides “one-stop shopping” as an introduction to Japanese gardens and architecture.”

Sankei Hara: The visionary creator of Sankeien Garden
Sankei Hara

Sankeien is a stunning Japanese garden built at the turn of the 20th century by the benevolent and eruditus silk entrepreneur Tomitarō “Sankei” Hara. In a real rags to (silk) riches story, Sankei Hara, a poor orphaned boy from a small rural town, was ultimately awarded peerage by the Emperor for his service to Japanese culture. He was also a key figure in the rebuilding of Yokohama in the aftermath of the catastrophic Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which left the young city in ruins. 

As Glenn explains: “Hara-san spent his fortune on beauty, painstakingly assembling an ideal landscape in his private park—which he then donated to the city of Yokohama, its citizens and visitors.”

In the face of growing international influence in Japan and Yokohama in particular, Hara-san's vision for the park was to preserve and celebrate Japanese culture. The Gardens curator Yoshikawa-san, 

“Sankeien is filled with the essence of Japanese culture, including architecture, art, tea ceremony, folklore and Japanese flowers.” 

Sankei Hara was also a key figure in establishing Yokohama as an arts and cultural exchange hub. He supported budding local artists as well as hosting key international figures from culture, literature and arts including Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and Charles Lang Freer, founder of the Freer Gallery (now part of the Smithsonian Institution).

Sankeien also has a remarkable range of dining options, serving a variety of classic Japanese and local dishes including an irresistible Matcha and Dango set, soul-warming oden and ramen, and the onsite original, Sankei Soba. While the food is delicious, it is also essential to drop in to meet the delightful restaurant staff, who pretty much embody all the reasons travellers fall in love with Japan. 


Left to right: Dangos and Matcha at Sankeien Saryo; The delightful staff at Taishunken; Sankei Soba at Taishunken

Image credits: Japan-san (for restaurant staff); Sankeien Gardens for Dango, Soba and Sankei Hara 

For more information on the tour please contact Mitate, Ltd.  info@mitate.kyoto .

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