A vibrant and picturesque city known for its historic downtown port district, futuristic architecture and unique museums, Yokohama is arguably one of Japan’s most attractive sightseeing areas. Just a short car or train ride away for Tokyoites, it’s a place that’s worth visiting at any time of year, though we recommend taking a trip there sometime in the next couple of months to enjoy the Garden Necklace flower event that’s taking place until June 4.
The organizers have added more than a touch of color to the city with over one million flowers on display at various destinations. It’s all part of the National Urban Greenery Fair – now in its 33rd year – which helps cities promote their efforts and contributions to a greener society. Here’s a quick look at the different gardens and activities you can enjoy…
Minato Gardens refers to a cluster of parks alongside Yokohama’s waterfront including Yamashita Park and Harbor View Park. These are popular tourist spots and were a natural choice for the centerpiece of the Garden Necklace event. It’s a charming but somewhat understated area boasting an abundance of greenery all year round.
A delightful area for a gentle stroll, it’s especially alluring right now because of the sea of flowers on show. Highlights include a variety of cherry trees, thousands of tulips (30,000 in total in all of Yokohama) and three resplendent rose gardens. There’s also a chance to see a large statue of the Green Necklace mascot, Garden Bear, who sports a mega perm of blooming flowers.
Nakaniwa Flower Garden
Just a short Sea Bass taxi ferry ride away from Yamashita Park is the Red Brick Warehouse. In front of this iconic building is the Nakaniwa Flower Garden that has been decorated to resemble a satoyama area (woodlands usually located near urban cities) with statues of a windmill and a horse amongst the many flowers. This will be in place until April 23.
Nearby is the Jacqueline Garden that was designed and supervised by renowned Dutch horticulturist Jacqueline van der Kloet. It features a wide range of bulb combinations with an emphasis on the color red.
Other places of interest in the area include the 160,000 or so tulips that can be seen at Yokohama Park and Nihon-Odori Street, which have been completely transformed by a stunning floral display.
Moving further away from the center of the city into the suburbs, the Satoyama Gardens are located next to Yokohama Zoo “Zoorasia” (which has around 780 unique animals from roughly 110 species!). Here, you can enjoy 10,000 square meters of flowers: the largest display in the city. With cherry trees in the background and a colorful mix of pansies, rape blossoms and tulips it makes for quite a sight. From late April to early May onwards, the garden will have a different look with petunias, salvias and irises in full bloom.
Yato Japanese Iris Garden
It is then just a short walk across Forest Lane to the Yato Japanese Iris Garden where you can enjoy the splendid contrast between the purple irises and kerria japonica surrounded by luscious green trees.
Yato Rape Flower Field
A little further along the outer garden path is the Yato Rape Flower Field with rape blossoms blooming beautifully and Hana no Satoyama with its assortment of colors. While in the vicinity there is a chance to do some glamping (short for glamorous camping) and take on the challenge of the forest adventure course.
If you are not already flowered out by the Minato and Satoyama gardens then we highly recommend a visit to Sankei-en. Probably Yokohama’s most idyllic garden, it’s a delightful place to wander around throughout the four seasons, however it is particularly enchanting in spring. As well as the cherry trees, you can see wisterias, water lilies and azaleas to name but a few.
The area was designed and landscaped by silk trader Sankei Hara (real name Tomitaro Hara) in the early part of the 20th century. To make Sankei-en extra special he decided to buy, dismantle and then reconstruct a number of historically significant structures from around the country to exhibit at the 175,000 square-meter garden. Ten of them have been declared Important Cultural Properties, including the three-story pagoda relocated from Tomyoji Temple in Kyoto, and the old Yanohara House, the former private residence of the Yanohara family.
You can learn more about Tomitaro Hara at the Sankei Memorial Hall, where there is also an opportunity to try some delicious matcha tea with some Japanese confectionary.
And Now for Something Completely Different … Orbi Theater
How to end off your day of garden viewing? Head to Orbi Theatre. Located in Minato Mirai’s Mark IS building, this is an interactive and immersive museum experience that is both fun and educational.
On the main floor you can enjoy a number of exhibits, including a cinematic journey with a herd of African elephants. There’s a chance to be part of a crew heading out to film endangered mountain gorillas in 3D, learn about the mysteries of the ocean, and experience the extreme temperature changes that occur on top of Mt. Kenya (hint: it’s very, very cold). There are also opportunities to strike a pose with some on-screen animals and you can turn into one yourself at the selfie booths.
A personal favorite exhibition at Orbi was THEATRE23.4 which shows BBC Earth’s ground-breaking content. At 40 meters wide and eight meters high, it is one of the country’s largest screens. From a visual and audio perspective, it is spectacular. After that, go see some real animals at the museum’s newest zone which features owls, rabbits, and numerous other species.
For those feeling peckish and looking for a photo opportunity, there are a limited number of burgers per day with blue buns showing a map of the world that can be reserved on site. Before leaving, it is also worth having a look around the museum shop which has more than 1,400 souvenirs.
Crystal Fireworks, Steak and Beer
Just outside the Mark IS building in the Bijutsu-no-Hiroba is a crystal fireworks display put on by digital wizards Team Lab. The psychedelic presentation is accompanied by the song “Kimi Matsu” by GReeeN, which is the theme song for the Garden Necklace event.
The show takes place every day at 6:30pm, 7:45pm and 8:55pm until June 4. By using a special QR code, you can use your smartphone to set off three-dimensional fireworks composed of hundreds of LED lights.
Take a short walk along the “resonating trees” nearby, which change color when people move towards them. Head in the direction of newly opened Santa Monica steak house for some meat, vegetables and beer. Great food and drink in a restaurant with a friendly atmosphere, it’s a fantastic way to close the evening.
Download the English brochure for the Garden Necklace Yokohama 2017 event here.