Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sakura Illuminations at Sankeien Gardens


Sankeien Garden is a park in Yokohama, about a 30 minute drive (using toll roads, so about 2,000 Yen each direction).  The drive was pretty simple.  The last few minutes were off the highway and onto one of those tiny Japanese streets where you have to dodge people walking on the sides and take turns moving off the side of the road so cars coming from the other direction can go past, because both of you won't fit at the same time.  It's an adventure...right....not a heart attack waiting to happen!

Boy decorated the car for me
Once at the park we took a ticket from the parking meter and then we were directed to a parking spot.    It didn't look like there were tons of spots available, but because the Japanese parking lot attendants can work magic, many many cars were squeeeeezed into the lot.  And, by squeeeeezed, I mean it almost required acrobatic maneuvers for me to get out of our car without banging into the car next to us; which would have been funny if I didn't have two kids that had to go through the same process.  Oy...we all made it out of the car without incident, though.  

The price to get in was 500 yen per adult and 200 yen per child.  Parking is 500 for 2 hours and then 100 yen per half hour after that.

Once we were inside the gate....hello cherry blossoms!!!


For some reason I thought this park was much bigger.  But, it didn't take us long to walk the entire grounds.  Maybe an hour, but I'm pretty sure it was less than that.  <edit:  Looking at the pamphlet they gave us last night (and which we tossed in my bag and ignored) there is a whole other garden to this park!  The Inner Garden is back past the pagoda.  I'm sure this is the part that we saw with a barrier blocking entry.  I'm assuming that since the normal park hours are 9-5, but are extended during sakura season, some of the paths are closed for safety reasons.>   The only reason it took that long was because Garytt and I were taking turns with the camera....him to have fun, me to practice with a few new settings I'm trying to learn.

The morning started nice and sunny.  It ended completely gray with clouds.  I still haven't figured out how to take pictures so the gray doesn't look like a washed out hole in the sky.

The pagoda sits on top of a hill on one side of the park.  There were a few cherry blossoms at the top, but not in full bloom yet.  I chose this park today because I was really after the nighttime illumination and I figured the trees didn't have to be in full bloom for that.  I was mostly right.  

The park has a pond at the center which has a little stream feeding into it towards the back.  There are a few bridges that go back and forth over the pond and it's waterway.   



Towards the back of the park are a few buildings with some historical significance.  A few of the buildings were brought here from other areas in Japan (Kyoto and Kamakura) because they were going to be demolished, but Sankei-san, who was crazy rich from a silk business, didn't want these buildings to be lost to history forever, so he rescued them.  



After looking at the buildings in the back we decided to start making our way over to the other side of the pond where we could find a spot to sit and wait for the lights to come on. 

Taking a break...on separate benches.


Just as we started making our way to the front of the garden we noticed a few lights were starting to highlight the trees and the pagoda.


This is how you hanami!  Pretty blue tarp with pretty blue tables, beer, snacks, and a guy who's willing to hold your spot while you meander through the park.  


There was a little pond off to the side of the larger one.  It didn't look like this area was as popular as the other spots.  I don't even think there were any lights on it when it got dark.  Kris noticed that although the sakura trees were blooming and looked phenomenal, a lot of the trees around them weren't even close to blooming...they were mostly bare.  Maybe they know their place, and so they let the sakura have all the glory for ten days before they start to burst with color.


After finding a little slice of the grass to sit on, I started setting up the camera.  Oh, and talk about cameras...When we arrived an hour and a half before sunset the camera people already had their tripods set up - no cameras on them or even people next to all of them - to hold the most precious spots around the pond.  Sigh... guess I'll have to wait in line, yes I said wait in line, to get the picture of the boat, trees, pond, more trees, and pagoda all in one shot.  Luckily, waiting in line in Japan is easy peasy.  


Waiting for the sun to go down.

I took the opportunity to practice my night shots.  My Christmas present from Dave allowed me to set up my camera on the tripod and then I could control aperture, shutter speed and ISO from my phone. No touchy touchy on the camera, for the most part.  So, I had a  pretty good lesson on how adjusting each function changed the look of the colors and the amount of light on the trees.  I'm glad I have a patient Hubby and kids who found ways to entertain themselves, because it probably wasn't all that exciting waiting for me to take six million pictures.



Here's the shot I had to wait in line to get.  Here is also where it would have been nice if the trees were fully bloomed.  The tops look a little raggedy.




Perfect family evening out! 💖