In 1859, when the port of Yokohama opened to foreign trade, silk was the country's largest export. In 1909, Japan was the world's premier silk supplier, serving markets such as the United States and Europe.
Sankeien was built by Hara Sankei, a great entrepreneur who produced and traded silk in Yokohama. In the early 1900s, he used some of his wealth to create a Japanese garden over the course of about 20 years.
The Sankeien covers approximately 175,000 square meters and extends over three valleys along the coast. It consists of an outer garden that has been open to the public since 1906 and an inner garden that was originally kept private for Sankei's personal use. Seventeen historic structures that have been relocated from Kyoto, Kamakura and other locations have been brought into harmony with nature over the four seasons to present great landscapes.
Masobyo Temple (媽祖廟), also called Ma Zhu Miao, is located in Yokohama’s Chinatown. The young Taoist temple, which opened relatively recently in 2006, enshrines Mazu, the Chinese Goddess of the Sea. Despite its young age, the temple exudes ancient spirituality older than its years. The structure has a geometrical base and is decorated with blue, green, red, and gold detailing. A massive gate welcomes visitors and worshippers alike and is connected to the main temple with a line of red lanterns. Inside Masobyo, a statue of Mazu is cloaked in vibrant attire and wearing an imperial headdress, symbolizing her godly status. The interior is equally as impressive as the outside with exquisite designs covering every surface. Worshippers commonly go to the temple to pray for safe travels since, historically, sailors and fishermen would pray to the goddess for calm seas during their journeys. History of Mazu: Goddess of the Sea As a human, Mazu was born in the tenth century and named Lin Mo. According to legend, she was gifted with supernatural abilities, such as predicting the weather, calming storms, and experiencing visions. She dedicated her life to the teachings of Tao and ascended to the heavens at age 28 as a goddess. Mazu has two demon bodyguards, Qianliyan and Shunfenger. Both demons vowed to protect Mazu after failing to defeat her in combat for her hand in marriage. Inside Masobyo, statues of the demon guardians stand to the left and right of Mazu. One, colored red, is positioned in a listening pose with his hand to his ear, while the green colored one is diligently watching, with eyes that seem to scan the temple. Today Worshippers visit Masobyo to pray to Mazu for safe travels, as well as general health and safety. The temple is also a popular spot for tourists due to its traditional architecture and cultural significance in Chinatown. Of course, Mazu’s affinity for keeping travellers safe is appealing to tourists as well. Masobyo’s temple staff are extremely helpful and more than willing to teach visitors the appropriate methods of worship. Individuals who want a closer look at Mazu’s statue are required to buy incense sticks, which they place in five burners. After lighting the incense sticks, they should bow in respect. During New Years, the temple becomes crowded with people participating and watching the festive displays.
Yokohama Chinatown, also known as Yokohama Chukagai, is Japan’s largest Chinatown. An enclave of Chinese shops and restaurants has stood in this section of Yokohama since the port city was opened to international trade in 1859. The entrance to Chinatown is marked by four intricate and colorful gates, which represent the four directions in Chinese tradition. Each gate is associated with a different mythological animal an additional five gates stand within the neighborhood’s boundaries. More impressive architecture can be found at the Kanteibyo temple (also known as the Guan Gong Temple), which is dedicated to the Chinese god of successful business and prosperity. Built in 1873 by the neighborhood’s residents, it remains popular among the faithful and also welcomes visitors with its serene evening lantern displays. Nearby Masobyo Temple is newer and smaller, but this Taoist temple still impresses with its decorative touches. Chinatown is noted for its cuisine, from humble street stalls to gourmet feasts. Pork or mustard green steamed buns, egg tarts and goma-dango (sesame seed dumplings) all make for popular pick-me-up streets to grab on the go. In the many eateries that line the neighborhood streets, it’s possible to dine on any number of authentic Chinese dishes – spicy mapo tofu, duck, and dozens of dim sum options are just a few of the popular menu items on offer. Several stores in the area offer a unique shopping experience not often found in other Japanese cities. Pick out the perfect good luck charm or try your luck at a fortune teller. Browse the selection of one-of-a-kind “qipao”, a type of traditional Chinese dress. Or, stock your cabinet with a range of Chinese teas. Yokohama Chukagai sees its greatest influx of visitors every winter during the fifteen-day-long Chinese New Year festivities. The neighborhood is justifiably famous for its lavish celebrations, with lion dances, parades and numerous other activities. The streets are often decked out in lanterns and paper dragons; night visits are extremely atmospheric during this season.
Kanteibyo Temple (関帝廟) is a spiritual landmark in Yokohama’s Chinatown. It shines like a beacon of faith with its vibrant red exterior and intricate detailing. Dragon statues stand above the entrance with poised bodies and open mouths, fiercely guarding the temple. The interior is decorated ornately with gold designs, wordlessly speaking of the temple’s significance. In the center sits a statue of Guan Yu, a famous military general turned deity who is immortalized in the historical Chinese novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Worshippers pray to Guan Yu for business and financial prosperity. History Founded in 1862, Kanteibyo was allegedly created when a Chinese migrant brought a statue of Guan Yu to Japan. The temple started humbly as a small shrine but expanded over the years thanks to donations from devout worshippers. Kanteibyo’s history was a turbulent one, as it stood witness to numerous calamities. In 1923, the temple was destroyed by an earthquake; years later it was damaged in 1945 during World War II air raids; and in 1986, it burned down due to an unsolved fire incident. After each destructive event, the town united to rebuild the temple, reflecting the residents’ deep sense of community and connection with each other and the temple. Today Kanteibyo has become entrenched in Chinatown’s legacy and is a frequented site by residents and tourists alike for prayer and admiration. The temple is dedicated to seven deities, all of which--except the Jade Emperor who is symbolized by the ceiling--are represented by lavishly adorned statues. These deities include the Jade Emperor, Guan Yu, Di Mu Niang Niang, Zhou Cang, Guan Ping, Guan Yin, and Fu De Zheng Shen. Centered in the temple is Guan Yu’s statue, which is red-faced, long bearded, and cloaked in brightly-colored attire. The most common way of praying involves the use of incense sticks. While fire is prohibited in the main shrine, worshippers can light the incense sticks outside and place them in five burners corresponding to the shrine’s deities. After lighting the incense, practicers enter the main building and pray to the deities in a specific order. Temple assistants can also help people tell their fortunes with the use of divination moon blocks. The temple holds celebratory events throughout the year with the most popular ones being on New Year, Lunar New Year, and Guan Yu’s birthday. These spectacles are filled with traditional Chinese performances such as lion and dragon dances.