Hotel Chinzansou “Sea of Clouds”, Bunkyo City Part 2 [New Video]

I made another stay at the Chinzanso hotel and was able to enjoy their sea of clouds for a second time. They still do the big sea of clouds at the start and end of the day, but not the blue lights from last year. Hopefully, they will keep on doing this for a while, although it does mean that the garden remains closed to non-guests.

Watch the sea of clouds at Chinzanso Hotel in Tokyo

Hotel Chinzansou “Sea of Clouds”, Bunkyo City

Last month I spent one night at Hotel Chinzansou in the heart of Tokyo. In normal times, its beautiful Japanese-style garden is open to day-time visitors. However, because of the pandemic, it’s now restricted to hotel guests only. So I wasn’t aware that they had been spraying water mist several times an hour to create a sea of clouds.

The blue “sea of clouds” is only once a day

Morning mist at the edge of Yusui-chi pond

The mist dissipates in a matter of minutes, but during that time the lower section on the garden is enveloped in a mysterious atmosphère. It’s even more impressive at night, when the lanterns are turned on. Since there are few guests, it is fun to wander around and get lost in the mist. The path leading to the entrance on the Kanda river is probably the best section.

Statues, mist and a pagoda

The mist only spreads through the lower section of the garden

At certain times, they do scented mists, and once in the evening, they do a blue mist. The very last mist of the day is a big “sea of clouds”, when they release mist for a longer time. This isn’t mentioned on the pamphlet; it was one of the staff who whispered it to me. Another secret is the small shrine behind the pagoda at the top of the garden; it has its own separate mist system.

Path leading to the gate on the Kanda river

The main garden pond turns blue once a day

In Japanese, a sea of clouds is called “unkai” and is something that is typically observed in the mountains in the mornings. Perhaps it’s because people were asked not to travel to other prefectures during the state of emergency, that someone decided to create this special mountain phenomenon inside Tokyo. Whatever the reason, it’s a brilliant idea, since it’s simple to execute and visually spectacular.

Path leading up to the pagoda

“Sea of mists” in the daytime

From November 11th, they are starting “Aurora“, a variant of the “sea of clouds”. From the photos it looks the same, except there is also some mist in the sky. By the way, the sea of clouds started about a year ago, in October 2020. I wonder if they will continue it once the garden is open to day-time visitors again as it might become crowded. In any case, it’s probably best to try and see it before then by staying one night at the hotel if possible.

See the spooky atmosphere of the sea of clouds at Hotel Chinzansou

The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, Chiyoda City

The first place I tried to visit on my initial trip to Tokyo was the East Garden of the Imperial Palace in the geographical center of Tokyo. It was a Friday morning in September, and after a long hot slog, we found out that it was closed on Fridays (this was before the smartphone). I eventually managed to go inside after moving to Japan a couple of years later. At the time I thought it was quite nice. I paid another visit a few years after that to see the plum blossoms in February, but I didn’t visit the other areas.

The Ote-Mon gate leading to Otemachi

The Doshin Bansho Guard House with Marunouchi in the background

I never dropped by again although I work nearby, simply because there are so many other things to see in Tokyo. Recently, I was walking by in the late afternoon and noticed that the park was still open. Since the entrance was free, I decided to continue my stroll inside. I was glad I did, because I had totally forgotten how beautiful it was. I thought I would be in and out in half an hour, but I ended up being “gently” pushed out before closing time by the many police officers patrolling the gardens. The highlight for me was the Ninomaru garden with its central pond. When standing next to the small waterfall, I couldn’t see any buildings above the trees, and I could forget for a moment I was in Tokyo. A little further, I arrived at an interesting botanical sight: symbolic trees form each prefecture in Japan, including a palm tree from Miyagi. Each tree had a small sign with its name, and I wished I had more time to examine them in detail.

From one side of the pond, a high-rise building visible above the trees

Standing on the other side, just nature and the blue sky

At the top of a slope, I arrived at Tenshu-dai, described in the pamphlet I received from the kind lady at the entrance, as the base of the main tower. The original tower was lost in a fire but according to the signpost it had been the tallest ever built in Japan. I climbed the short but steep slope to the top to check out the view. I couldn’t see much because of the trees, but I was able to get a good look at the beautiful Concert Hall; it looked like it belonged to the Meiji era. One of the police officers on duty there, kindly offered to take my photo.

What is that old-fashioned structure among the high-rise buildings?

The “Tokagakudo” Concert Hall

Next, I walked the entire length of the surprisingly wide lawn to Fujimi-Yagura, meaning “Mt Fuji view turret”. I was hoping to get a glimpse of Japan’s most famous mountain, but I hadn’t realised that the the tower was closed to the public. Also, according to the signboard, it was no longer possible to see Mt Fuji because of all the high-rise buildings. Here, a police man caught up with me, and asked me to make my way to the entrance since the park was closing soon. A black car arrived a few minutes later and followed me till I was nearly out.

The Fujimi Watchtower, hidden in one corner of the gardens

The usual view from the gardens, surrounded by business districts

Walking back to the Otemon gate I admired the various grey stone walls, reminders of the old Edo castle that used to stand on these grounds. Policemen were positioned at every junction and politely showed me the way to the exit. I noticed many benches throughout the park, so I hope to return one day, perhaps in a different season, and spend more time soaking up the peaceful atmosphere of this garden in the heart of Tokyo.

Outside Ote-Mon Gate

William Adams (Miura Anjin) Memorial, Nihonbashi

I had read “Shogun” by James Clavell shortly after arriving in Japan, and had enjoyed every page of it. It recounts the story of the Englishman William Adams, Japanese name Miura Anjin, who was shipwrecked on the coast of Japan in 1600, and lived out the rest of his life here. He established a close relationship with Ieyasu Tokugawa, who unified the country around the same time.

The novel gave me a good sense of what Japan was like 400 years ago. What impressed me while reading this novel was how commoners could lose their lives over the smallest of slights. Often, close family members would be executed at the same time. I feel sometimes that the extreme politeness of the Japanese must have come from this past trauma, although James Clavell may have been exaggerating this practice.


Close up of the text of the memorial (notice the last line)

Anjin-san, as he is often called throughout the book, was a real person, and it was amazing that he was able to navigate, survive and thrive in such a harsh environment. He might have been the first true “gaijin”. His grave is located on the Miura Peninsula in Tsukayama Park, which I have also visited (but that will be for another post). His Tokyo home was much closer, since it’s located a stone’s throw from Nihonbashi Bridge, the historical center of Edo Tokyo.

The stone memorial marking the spot is squeezed between two modern buildings. There is an English description of his life, crammed into one long sentence. I had to laugh aloud when I saw the final line: “Rebuilt by some Japanese”. That’s quite a nice way of saying “by Anonymous”. It’s definitely worth a quick visit if one is familiar with the story and strolling through out the area.