Sankeiyen, Yokohama, c. 1920.
“Honmoku was a rural seaside village of Yokohama, known for its beaches, fishing and seaweed cultivation, marking the entrance into Yokohama harbor. The cliffs of Honmoku were chiseled by pounding waves, and the pine trees were shaped by salty winds from across the bay. Commodore Matthew Perry’s crew dubbed the site of the temple ‘Mandarin Cliff’, and made it a landmark for passage into the harbor.
“A successful Yokohama silk merchant named Tomitaro Hara built a mansion by the sea in Honmoku. He bought exquisite tea houses and other ancient structures in Kyoto and elsewhere and had them dismantled and rebuilt in his garden. Hara named his garden Sankeien, for it was blessed with three glens, one of which opened out to a small beach and a view of the bay.
“… But Yokohama developed rapidly, as international commerce between Japan and the outside world flourished; more and more houses were built, and the city’s landscape changed almost beyond recognition.”
– “Memories of Old Honmoku”, by Kunio Francis Tanabe, The Japan Times, May 19, 1999
In the 1960s, the Yokohama harbor landfill project began, and the Honmoku of Hara’s era disappeared beneath concrete and steel. Upon completion in 1970 Honmoku Pier became Yokohama Port’s core facility, with 24 berths for cargo and passenger ships, including 14 container berths.
“This wealthy man, Mr. Hara, with whom we are staying, is a superb host. He is full of kindness. The common man can visit his garden at their will and organize picnics here. For them Mr. Hara provides firewood, good stoves and water. In his garden there are places where people can sit down and rest…many teahouses and temples, all are here.”
– Mukul Dey’s Letter from Sankeien, June 1916