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Tokyo – Sumida River March 1, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Sumida River” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Cu

The Sumida River is one of the major rivers in Tokyo.  There are three famous rivers, the Kanda, Sumida, and Edogawa.  There are others that are equally as famous, but in terms of rivers that everyone knows and can easily point out on a map, these are the three.  The Sumida River is one of the rivers that I know very well.  I live very close to it and cross it daily as I head into Tokyo to get to work.  I run up and down the river and know almost every inch of the river from Asakusa in the north to Tsukiji in the south.  The entire river front area is a unique area in Tokyo and something that most tourists miss, along with most locals.  If you have a few hours of down time, between running to Asakusa and shopping in Shinjuku, I’d recommend a quick visit to any section of this river and you won’t be disappointed.

Starting in the north, for most people Asakusa is the best starting point.  North of Asakusa, the Sumida River is a very peaceful location.  Along the western bank, there are various parks and schools making this a very pedestrian friendly location.  The views of Tokyo Sky Tree and the Asahi buildings are very famous and a typical photo opportunity for those visiting Tokyo.  The north side is also home to the Tokyo Water Bus which has its main terminal here.  It’s very popular for people to start the day in Asakusa visiting the Sensoji before boarding the water bus and heading to Hamarikyu Gardens or Odaiba.  I’d suggest a quick walk around the park as well as it’s a great way to relax.  On a nice sunny weekend you can expect to see lots of families in the area with their children.  Of particular interest, if you walk along the eastern side, you will come close to the elevated highway which provides an experience that only Tokyo can provide.  Being mere metres from the looming highway above can invoke strange feelings that can’t be explained.  I wouldn’t suggest it for everyone as the idea of hearing cars overhead also brings screams of environmental chants calling for a curb on carbon emissions, but that’s beside the point.

Heading south will take you towards Ryogoku.  This is a great opportunity to see some of the more interesting bridges in the area as well as visit Ryogoku.  Ryogoku is home of the most important sumo stadium in Japan where they hold 3 tournaments a year.  For most of the trip, you will be pleasantly surprised by the detailed art located within the railings of the river walk as well as the details of the bridges.  From the famous red bridge in Asakusa to the equally vibrant yellow of Kuramaebashi, you will see some of Tokyo’s most brightly painted bridges.  While this is the case, most of the time, not every bridge will be as beautiful, and to be honest, not everyone likes a bridge.  Towards the Ryogoku area, you will may be surprised to see large canvas drawings.  These pictures vary from school kids helping to define the area to traditional Japanese paintings to describe the area’s past.  It is a great way to learn about the area and how things have changed and all of this is free.  Be sure to avoid leaving the riverside as the areas on the other side of the dike are not as interesting, but you can find a few gems along the way.

Once past Ryogoku, you will come upon the Hamacho and Hatchobori area.  For this area, it’s best to keep to the west as there is less of a need to exit the riverside area to cross a small river.  This area, along with most areas along the river, is popular for runners.  It is common to see runners at all times of the day running both up and down the river.  For the casual tourist, there are a number of paintings on the walls as well as various gardens and art displays.  I would recommend this area for its relaxing views and the ability to just sit down and enjoy the views.  While it isn’t a natural as the Edogawa, in fact there is almost no nature in the area at all, it is still fairly peaceful.  The architecture of the area is also noticeably different.  You will notice that the buildings are a little higher and a little newer in this area compared to the Ryogoku and Asakusa areas.  Both Asakusa and Ryogoku both have tall buildings but they tend to be focused whereas this area tends to be evenly distributed.  If you travel along the east side, walking around in the streets can be very interesting as you will be walking in an area that is filled with locals.  It’s a popular residential area that tends to be on the high end of the social ladder.  For this reason, the area tends to be more peaceful and distinct.

Just south of Hatchobori is the last section of the Sumida River.  Tsukiji, Tsukishima, and the Hamarikyu gardens mark the area with their own distinct flavours.  The Tsukiji area is relatively calm and a wonderful area to walk as you get beautiful views of Tsukushima and Kachidoki.  It’s also a great way to end a walk by heading in and getting some sushi.  If you head to the other side and visit Tsukishima, you can easily get good monja yaki.  While both areas don’t have much to offer, I do recommend you to visit as both areas provide another unique look at Japan.  In contrast to the area just to the north, this area does its best to combine modern high rises with nature.  It’s very common to see small plazas everywhere.  You can easily take a break and just enjoy the view.  If you head along the east side, you will have to travel past Monzennakacho.  There is a very small island located between Monzennakacho and Tsukishima.  While this island is not very significant and almost never on any tourists “to do” list, I’d recommend a visit if you just happen to be in the area.  It’s a peaceful place with hardly anyone there.  Of course there are a few homeless but the views up and down the river are spectacular and show off the urban beauty of a city built around a river.

For most tourists, I would only recommend visiting the Asakusa to Ryogoku section of this river.  The main reason is that the entire river is long and that’s the only section which would be interesting to a casual tourist.  Even for residents, I wouldn’t recommend visiting this area unless they lived in the nearby area.  If you are a runner and looking for a nice place to run, and you happen to be staying in Asakusa or somewhere near the river, I highly recommend that you go for a run if you have the time.  It’s a wonderful experience and being able to run part of the area is worth it.  It’s better than trying to fight your way through traffic and trying to avoid getting hit by cars on the regular streets.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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Tokyo – Ryogoku February 22, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo – Ryogoku” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Cr

Ryogoku is part of the Shitamachi area of Tokyo.  The Shitamachi area can simply be thought of as the eastern area of Tokyo if you draw a line, north south, from the centre of the Imperial Palace.  It has often been referred to as the old area of town and where you can meet many new characters.  In the past it has been populated by the lower class of merchants and to this very day the entire area has a friendlier and more forward style of life compared to the west which tends to be more high-brow.  Ryogoku can now be considered part of the Shitamachi sould for many reasons.  While the old centre was in Ueno, the heart appears to be in Asakusa, the body in the surrounding suburbs, and its soul lies in Ryogoku.  Ryogoku has one major claim to fame and it has to be the Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The Ryogoku Kokugikan is located on the north side of Ryogoku Station.  It is the main arena for all sumo tournaments in Tokyo.  There are 3 tournaments a year in Tokyo, January, May, and September.  Visiting Ryogoku during any of these months is a wonderful experience whereas visiting on other months will be special, but not as interesting.  During the tournament month the entire front fence of the stadium is adorned with tall colourful banners for each of the Sumo stables.  Each stable has its own banner and they proudly display it during the tournaments.  During the tournaments, it’s not uncommon to see hundreds of people, if not thousands, lining up outside and around the stadium.  The people who are lining up are generally trying to get tickets, enter the stadium, or just get pictures of the sumo wrestlers as they enter or leave for the tournament.  Within a year of living in the area I have seen many sumo wrestlers at the stadium.  If you happen to be in the area in the afternoon, you have an even greater chance of seeing them at the train station, but don’t expect to see the top Ozeki and Yokozuna.  They tend to get their own cars or have others who drive them.  Sumo is a very old and respected sport in Japan, and part of that tradition dictates that they must live in the old traditional styles of Japan.  This includes their clothing as well as their ability to drive.  Most sumo are not allowed to drive as this goes against the tradition.  There are instances where they do not wear their traditional clothing, but this is not very often and they have specific reasons for this.

While Ryogoku is defined best by the Ryogoku Kokugikan, it isn’t the only important thing in the area.  Next door is the Edo-Tokyo Museum.  Edo is the old name for Tokyo and the museum itself is a look into the past of Tokyo.  It is located in a very unique building.  It was designed to look similar to an old style store house but the best way to describe it is to imagine a roof structure on 4 pillars.  The museum is located inside the roof structure and there is a large open area around the pillars.  It’s best to be seen with pictures in order to understand it.  The museum itself can be centred on one floor located in the “roof”.  While there are special exhibits on the main floor, most tourists will want to visit the Edo museum upstairs.  This is a very interesting museum.  There is a full scale replica of the original Nihonbashi bridge, albeit cut off due to space restrictions.  They detailed it perfectly.  The entire area is primarily lined with miniature models.  Everywhere you go you can see miniature models of what Tokyo looked like during the Edo era.  While most of the descriptions are in Japanese, the intricate detail of each model is amazing.  Unfortunately, photos are very difficult to take inside due to the lighting.  They utilize a very dark mood which makes most photos without a tripod nearly impossible.  The main floor adds a bunch of life sized replicas of the way of life in Tokyo.  They include the pre-war and post-war eras.  It’s amazing to see some of the artifacts in the museum from old bicycles to bombs and even a replica of a house built after the war.  The admission is worth it for those who want a little culture, but if you aren’t interested in culture, you might want to skip this museum.

Heading east of the station, along the train tracks, will take you to a large wall.  This is actually a dike built by Tokyo to keep the flood waters of the Sumida River out of the city.  It’s fairly easy to climb this wall and get to the riverside.  The riverside called the “Sumida River Terrace”.  This is a long promenade that stretches for kilometres in each direction.  The section around Ryogoku stretches from a point several hundred metres to the south and about a kilometre to the north.  I will detail as much as possible in a future post, but the area immediately around Ryogoku is worth mentioning here.  If you start at the train tracks themselves, you will be greeted by two things, the Sumida River Art Gallery, and the water bus terminal.  There is a small port used on weekends and holidays for river tours, but due to the relative lack of tourists in Ryogoku, I rarely see the ferries stop in Ryogoku on days other than weekends.  The Art Gallery is a public art gallery that showcases various pieces of art done by people of all ages.  It’s interesting to see some of the pictures the school kids in the area have drawn as well as some of the old pictures of the region.  The information on the pictures are difficult to understand as it can be a little sparse or completely in Japanese.   Most of the art is located on the dike wall but that is not the only place to look for art.  On the floor itself you can see pictures of sumo wrestlers and on the railing before you fall into the river are various metal depictions of sumo moves.  These are all very interesting and extremely informative.  Spending a lot of time to enjoy these depictions and to learn the typical moves in sumo is enlightening.  It is something that you cannot experience at the Ryogoku Kokugikan as the Kokugikan is used for show rather than education.  There may be information on this inside the Kokugikan, but I haven’t been inside so I can’t comment on this.

There are still many other things to see and do in Ryogoku.  You can take a small tour of the area and see small shrines and parks.  Unfortunately, they aren’t as significant as many of the other parks and temples in other areas so they tend to be skipped.  The good point is that when you enter, there won’t be many people so you can enjoy the park as if you were the only one there.  I highly recommend spending a few hours just touring the area, especially to the north.  You can also try some chanko nabe.  It’s a type of hot pot where they boil a bunch of food together.  It’s a traditional sumo dish and being Ryogoku, many past sumo wrestlers have started their own shops.  It’s very easy to find a shop everywhere.  The charm of Ryogoku comes from being part of Shitamachi and the prestige of the sumo.  It can make any visit extremely memorable.

Ryogoku Information:

Sumo:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumo

Sumo (Official Website) [English]:  http://www.sumo.or.jp/eng/

Sumo (Official Website) [Japanese]: http://www.sumo.or.jp/

Sumo Tournament Schedule [English]:  http://www.sumo.or.jp/eng/ticket/nittei_hyo/index.html

Edo-Tokyo Museum (Official Site) [English]:  http://www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp/english/

Edo-Tokyo Museum (Official Site) [Japanese]: http://www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp/

Edo-Tokyo Museum (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo-Tokyo_Museum

Shitamachi (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamanote_and_Shitamachi

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo Fireworks August 17, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo Fireworks” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-tE

Summertime in Tokyo is a time when you can go to many different festivals.  The usual summer festivals with various food stalls selling okonomiyaki and yakisoba exist, and there is a lot of dancing that happens at these festivals.  The most popular annual festival has to be the fireworks festivals.  These are held weekly starting in the last weekend of July.  There are several famous fireworks festivals in Tokyo.  These include the Sumida River Fireworks (last weekend in July); the Edogawa Fireworks (first weekend in August); Tokyo Bay Fireworks (second weekend in August); and the Meiji Jingu Fireworks (end of August).  Of course, there are several more in and around Tokyo, but these are the biggest festivals.  If you are in Tokyo at that time, and have a day to spare, it’s a good idea if you can make it to one of these fireworks festivals.  If you can’t, I wouldn’t worry too much as you can see video of this at various places on the internet, especially on YouTube.

Coming from Vancouver, I have a very different idea of what a fireworks festival should be.  I am very biased in how things look after growing up enjoying the Symphony of Fire, now the Celebration of Light, in Vancouver.  The Vancouver festival lasts four nights over the course of two weeks and it is actually a competition among various companies from around the world.  They are scored on five basic criteria:

  • General Concept – presentation, structure and scale of display
  • Colour – choice and variety of colours
  • Originality – design and architecture
  • Quality of Production – rhythm of fireworks, volume of effects and quality of construction
  • Correlation of Music – choice of music, synchronization of effects, adaptation of moods

This festival has been going on since 1995 and I have grown to become extremely critical of the types of fireworks used, how it’s used, and the use of music within a fireworks display.  Needless to say, fireworks festivals are no longer as “enjoyable” as used to be.

In Japan, fireworks festivals are not about a competition.  It’s about impressing people with various fireworks, including the use of a large amount of fireworks to impress the crowds.  I have seen a couple of fireworks displays around Tokyo since I first came here.  The first time I saw the fireworks was in Atami several years ago.  Atami is a beach resort that is famous for its onsen. Recently, I have had the pleasure to go to the Edogawa Fireworks festival.  The atmosphere in Japan is extremely different compared to Vancouver.  The first thing you have to realize is that the festival is very calm and relaxed.  If you go to a festival in the city, such as the Sumida River Fireworks, you should expect to see people all over the place.  Since there is limited park space near the fireworks, it’s customary to see people set up their “camp” on local streets and just wait there for several hours.  My friend John, owner and star of Weblish was kind enough to spend a lot of time reserving a huge area in a park next to the fireworks.  We had what was one of the best seats in the city.  If you do go to a fireworks festival, and you do find a way into a nearby park, expect to see a sea of blue tarps on the ground.  It’s customary for Japanese people to rush into a site when it’s opened up and set up these tarps to reserve their area.  You can usually set up shop up to a day or so in advance, but it depends on which festival you are attending, and the rules for the year.  The second thing to note is that by the mid afternoon, people start to flood into the area.  This is a festival, and like any festival, people like to make it a big event.

When you get a spot to watch the fireworks, the next thing to do is relax.  It’s a great time to be with friends and enjoy the conversations.  To be prepared, bring lots of food and lots of drinks.  The great thing about Japan is that you can drink in public.  It’s necessary to bring enough alcohol to keep yourself happy up to and including the fireworks.  Bring enough snacks so that you won’t be starving after the fireworks.  The only question is where to use the washroom.  Like any public event, expect lines to use the washroom.  I had the unfortunate event of needing the washroom about halfway through the fireworks, and had to wait a bit to use it after the fireworks.  It wasn’t bad, but it’s not something that I’d feel comfortable doing again, if I could help it.

As I mentioned, fireworks in Japan are all about amazing the crowd.  They usually start with a countdown, if you are near a speaker, followed by a large display of fireworks.  They tend to go in a 10 minute loop.  There are a few minutes of spectacular fireworks that light up the sky followed by several minutes of smaller fireworks.  They tend to go one after another rather than several at the same time.  I believe this is done to allow the smoke to dissipate for the next round of large fireworks.  This entire process is repeated for just over an hour. If you are worried about catching a train to escape the area, you should think about leaving 10 minutes, or earlier, from the area.  If you wait till the end, you could be waiting for over an hour to just get to the station platform before you can wait for a train.  Needless to say, the trains are packed as badly as the morning rush.  If you don’t want to wait in line, chill out at your spot for at least 30 minutes, and then try to find a place nearby that you can just hang out and spend money for a couple hours.  If you are lucky, you’ll have a friend who lives nearby and you can just hang out there until the trains aren’t too busy.  The fireworks ended at around 8:30pm, and I left my friend’s house around 11pm.  The train was still packed as if it was the morning rush hour, but at least the station platform wasn’t that busy.

Comparing fireworks in Japan to fireworks in Vancouver is not an easy thing to do.  Vancouver is a beautiful display that is timed to music which makes it more art that spectacular.  In Japan, it’s the opposite. It’s all about impressing the crowds with images such as famous Japanese characters, and also to have the largest size of fireworks possible.  I’m not sure which is best, but both have their merits.  In Vancouver, everything feels different.  In Japan, with alcohol, things just feel like a party.  I can’t truly explain the difference.  You must go and enjoy the show to understand the difference, but it’s something that must be done if you have the chance to experience it.

Fireworks Information:

Vancouver’s Celebration of Light (Official Site): http://www.celebration-of-light.com/
Vancouver’s Celebration of Light (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celebration_of_Light

Tokyo Fireworks Schedule (Jalan – Note: May not be accurate past 2010 events):http://www.jalan.net/jalan/doc/theme/hanabi/13.html
Sumida River Fireworks (English): http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/index_eg.html
Sumida River Fireworks (Japanese): http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/index.html
Edogawa Fireworks (Japanese): http://www.city.edogawa.tokyo.jp/chi…event/hanabi8/
Tokyo Bay Fireworks (Japanese): http://www.city.chuo.lg.jp/ivent/tou…anabisaimeinn/
Jingu Fireworks (Japanese): http://jinguhanabi.nikkansports.com/

Weblish:  http://weblish.co.jp/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Asakusa – Part II) January 19, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Asakusa – Part II)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-kg

The main attraction has to be Sensoji.  This is a widely used word for an entire complex that stretches from Kaminarimon all the way to several temples and shrines located at the end of the Nakamise Shopping Arcade.  Just before you enter, next to the gate at the end of the shopping arcade, there is the Denpoin temple.  It doesn’t look very interesting, but from some reports, there is a nice garden located within that temple’s grounds.  It is now closed to the public.  The first thing you will notice is the grand roof of Sensoji.  It towers above the building itself, but it’s someone hidden by two rows of smaller buildings; these buildings, just before Sensoji itself, is where you can buy various charms and fortunes.  This temple is one of the few where you can buy fortunes that also come in English and a few other languages.  The temple also has one of the most beautiful purification fountains in Tokyo with a very intricately designed dragon.  When inside the temple, you’ll be able to purchase more charms, make donations, and pray.  Immediately next to Sensoji is the Asakusa Shrine.  This shrine is very popular as they have the sanja festival.  It’s one of the great festivals of Tokyo and well worth a look if you have a chance.

Among the other things to do in Asakusa is to head to the Sumida River.  This river is one of the most famous in Tokyo.  Near the station, you can enjoy a view of Asahi Brewery’s headquarters.  It’s very distinct building is designed to look like a tall glass of beer, while just below it is the Asahi Super Dry Hall.  Atop the black box hall is a golden flame, which in reality looks like a big lump of poo.  From here, you can head down to a small pedestrian path/park along the Sumida River.  It’s popular for runners, as well as homeless people.   Located within the same general area is the Tokyo Cruise terminal.  From here, you can catch a river boat that takes you along the Sumida River out towards Odaiba.  From what I’ve heard, this is a very beautiful cruise and worth the costs.  Do be aware that the boats run every 30 minutes to an hour.  If cruising isn’t your thing, you can also head over to the department store, Matsuya.  If you are looking for a little fun, there is a small amusement park located behind Sensoji.  This also provides good access to Kappabashi Street.  This street is famous for selling restaurant related goods.  You can get everything you need to open your own restaurant, but the main focus is on knives.  Many people come here to buy top quality Japanese knives.  While you can buy them at various department stores, this is the heart where you can get everything.

Overall, Asakusa is an essential place to visit when coming to Tokyo.  You will see one of the most famous temples in Tokyo, be able to get all of your souvenirs in one place, and experience a rickshaw tour.  There are also several ways out of Asakusa, so you can enjoy a nice cruise on the river, or even get out of the city and head to Nikko for a temple getaway.  Asakusa is also very important as a place for budget travellers.  This is where most of the youth hostels and Japanese style inns are located.  While it’s not the most centrally located area of Tokyo, it can be the cheapest.  While the accommodations can be cheap, do be aware that you may end up spending more money on transportation to go places, especially if you are trying to make use of your JR Pass.  Asakusa is only serviced by the subways and private companies, so the JR Pass is almost useless here.  However, it’s still a very fun place.

This is Part II of a II part series.  For more information on Asakusa, please read Part I.

Asakusa Information:

Asakusa (Japan Guide):  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3004.html
Asakusa (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asakusa
Asakusa (Wikitravel):  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Asakusa
Asakusa (English):  http://www.asakusa-e.com/index_e.html
Asakusa (Japanese):  http://www.asakusa-e.com/index.html
Kaminarimon (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaminarimon
Kappabashi (English):  http://www.kappabashi.or.jp/en/index.html
Kappabashi (Japanese):  http://www.kappabashi.or.jp/
Kappabashi (Bento.com):  http://www.bento.com/phgal-kappabashi.html
Tokyo Cruise (Japanese – Note:  There is a little English in the menus): http://www.suijobus.co.jp/index.html
Asakusa Hanashiki Amusement Park (English):  http://www.hanayashiki.net/e/index.html
Asakusa Hanashiki Amusement Park (Japanese):  http://www.hanayashiki.net/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Sakura April 21, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Sakura” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-sakura

Late March into mid-April is the Sakura season in Japan.  Every year, within a two week window, the cherry blossoms start to bloom turning Japan into a sea of pink.  It marks the true start to spring.  If you plan your trip to coincide with this season, you will not be disappointed.  You’ll be able to experience a unique Japan that very few tourists will ever experience.

Many people wonder what is so special about the cherry blossoms.  It isn’t, necessarily, only the fact that they are beautiful, but also some of the history of the cherry blossoms with Japan.  It has been part of their culture for centuries, if not millenia.  There is a fairy tale saying that there is a body buried underneath each cherry tree.  Cherry trees are the only trees in Japan that have flowers that bloom before leaves are grown.  While I cannot verify this claim, it does help promote the tale.  This also brings a feeling that cherry trees are somewhat magical and it can bring about powers to many people.  It is very common to see cherry trees planted within temple grounds, parks, along rivers, and almost everywhere else a tree can be planted.

The most popular thing to do in Japan during the sakura season is to go to a hanami.  In fact, many Japanese people don’t say “sakura season” but rather “hanami season”.  Literally translated, this means flower watching season, or more specifically watching the cherry blossoms.  On weekends, it’s common to see families enjoying a nice stroll in the park or along the river enjoying the beautiful cherry trees.  You can see many friends playing Frisbee or just having a nice time talking to one another.  It’s a great time to have a picnic.  These usually involve bentos (Japanese style packed lunches) and onigiri (rice balls with some type of filling and seaweed wrapped around it).  When the sun goes down, things can change dramatically.  Often, there are many floodlights that are turned on to make the pink blossoms stand out even more.  It can create very surreal experience.  It is also when all of the office workers come out to party.

Hanami parties are very common for offices and friends.  For the two weeks that the cherry blossoms are blooming, almost every office in Japan will have their own hanami party.  While this is probably declining in recent years, it’s still a popular tradition among the older companies.  Being the end of the fiscal year for most companies, and the start for most new recruits, it’s the final menial task for new recruits who are about to enter their second year with a company.  They have one, and only one mission.  Find a nice spot in a park, a park that has been decided by the office, and start camping out there from the mid-afternoon.  The spaces under the cherry trees, themselves, are often taken by noon, and some workers must camp out there all day.  It’s a long and boring task that essentially involves unfurling a large blue tarp, making sure it’s secure, and then sleeping all day.  They can also play games on their phone or whatever electronics they have.  Once their co-workers finish for the day, they can start to party.  Generally, it’s a loud, crowded, and jovial event.  If you are weary of such crowds, it’s best to avoid the parks at night, but there are a few places you can visit that are still nice, and not too bad.

In Tokyo, there are several great places to visit.  Ueno Park is one of the most famous places in the north.  The entire park is lined with cherry blossoms, but unfortunately, the entire park is paved, so there is very few, if any, grassy areas to sit, eat, and enjoy the cherry blossoms.  It’s also one of the most crowded areas in this season.  Another area is Kudanshita.  It is an area north of the Imperial Palace.  There are many areas here that can be enjoyed, along with almost any other place around the Imperial Palace.  Yasukuni Shrine is another famous, if not controversial, place to visit.  There are many cherry trees within the shrine and along the streets surrounding this shrine.  It’s a beautiful place.  Shinjuku Gyoen is also highly recommended, as is Shiba Park at the foot of Tokyo Tower.  The Sumida River and Meguro River is also famous and worth a visit if you have the time; and you aren’t tired of looking at cherry blossoms.

If you need to get out of Tokyo, Kyoto is always highly recommended.  The cherry blossoms are always nice, but I have not had the chance to see them.  I would also recommend visiting Himeji.  It becomes more beautiful with all the pink blossoms providing a new look to the castle.  It’s somewhat rare to see the white castle framed with cherry blossoms.  The park in front of the castle is also very nice and extremely popular for locals to enjoy the weekend.  If you get a chance, I’d also highly recommend visiting Himeji during this season as well.

The cherry blossom season is a beautiful time to visit.  Just remember that you have to be very lucky to get your timing right.  Pick a few weeks to visit and cross your fingers.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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