It is challenging to blog about my parents’ visit. When they were here I couldn’t because it seemed like a waste of time—I’d be stricken with the realization of how limited our time together was. Now that they’re gone it makes me miss them. That statement will make my mom sad (sorry, Mum). But that’s how it is, and I’m thankful I have a family I miss being far from rather than family I can’t stand to be with. Ha ha. Le sigh.
That is ridiculous though, because every time I’ve talked to my folks since they left we’ve had a jolly time recounting our adventures. People keep asking me, “What did your parents like best?” Well to be quite honest, they enjoyed seeing ME most! “ME” is inclusive of Chris, his work, our neighborhood, the cats, our house, what we do, where we shop for groceries, my favorite parks and places around Japan, etc etc. My favorite thing we did was chat chat chat all the time. Have coffee and chat. Walk to the train and chat. Tour the Big Buddha and chat. Make dinner and chat. We have lots to say! Less important than what we had to say was being together to say it and the subsequent high hilarity. Growing up, there were six people in my immediate family, so living alone half the year now is a real adjustment. I don’t realize how much I miss everyone until someone comes to visit!
ANYWAY, besides the obvious, my parents liked Sankeien Garden the best! We picked a theme for each family visit so far. Hannie and Justin’s theme was New Years; Luke and Amber’s theme was WWII. My parents theme was FALL! And where better to appreciate fall in Japan than Yokohama’s gorgeous Sankeien Garden, which I first discovered this time last year?
Every year the park has an autumn open house where the historic antique tea houses are open for viewing. Scarlet Japanese maple leaves frame aged thatched-roofed houses, yellow ginkgo leaves carpet the grounds, and special autumn-only hiking trails open to reveal a spectrum of gorgeous koyo—fall color.
We walked around the inner garden—part of which was designed by my ikebana teacher’s husband—climbed to the observatory to overlook some chemical factories and Yokohama Bay, then tromped around to the oldest pagoda on the Kanto Plain. From there we hiked back down to the main garden circling the pond. It was about time for some lunch: another European-style lunch of bread, cheese and nuts. We found a nice bench in the sun facing some pretty leaves, a trickling stream, some ancient buildings. The only problem was that other people were sitting on the benches. It is a universal truth that when someone sits a socially acceptable distance from someone else on a bench, the first person is 95 percent more likely to leave in less than five minutes. Shamefully, I employed this tactic on a couple by sitting harmlessly on the far end of their bench. They soon vacated, right around the time my parents moseyed over. Not my proudest victory, but a successful scheme none-the-less. We enjoyed a fine lunch.
Then this photographer set up an anime doll on a stand to pose for pictures…??? Someone please explain that one….I like how retirees go to gardens to paint and it’s perfectly acceptable to sit around watching and admiring. If I had any talent beyond rudimentary stick figures I’d give it a try myself sometime. Oh well. My mom verbalized exactly what I was thinking, which was, “I wish we could buy one, but it’d probably be rude to offer money, wouldn’t it?”
The sun was in its final decent when we left around 2:30pm. We’re approaching the shortest days of the year, so sunset is before 4:30pm…depressing. I was switching lanes to enter the on-ramp to the freeway when all three of us were startled out of our seats by a resounding horn blast. In a panic I careened back into the lane I was exiting, certain an 18-wheeler was bearing down about to squish anything in the lane I needed to be in. We missed the ramp by milliseconds. Hearts racing, we looked around for the source of the horn but found none. There were no trucks around, and none entering the freeway! It turns out the entrance ramp is directly over a shipping channel, and that blast on the horn wasn’t coming from right behind us, but right UNDER us. Terrifying! That is the third-most scared I’ve been on the road in Japan, the first being a time one of the cats panicked and got under the brake petal weaving through our neighborhood and the second being a ride on the back of Chris’ motorcycle when he didn’t see a car about to sideswipe us at a stop sign. We looped around close to Minato-Mirai, then successful got onto the freeway for a thankfully uneventful drive home.
Driving to Sankeien is cheaper than two people taking the train+bus, plus it takes half the time (45 minutes instead of two hours). Google has good directions. If you’re coming from Atsugi Base, Google Maps lists the turn off the Yoko Yoko as the Metropolitan Expressway, but the road sign says K3 Bayshore Route. Other than that, Google is accurate! Expect 600 yen for tolls and 500 yen to park. Admission to Sankeien Garden is 500 yen per adult.