Category Archives: PLACE

Sakura of the day: Weeping cherry and Someiyoshino in Kichijo-ji, Hon-komagome

Yesterday, while walking around Komagome in Tokyo, I was thinking of visiting Rikugi-en, a famous garden for its huge weeping cherry. I used to live around there and felt a kind of nostalgic. But it was so crowded, so I changed my mind. Instead, I visited the temple nearby called “Kichijo-ji” which was really calm. It’s fun to find some quiet places like this where only locals visit.

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By the way, Komagome is worth visiting for those who love sakura. Someiyoshino, the most representative sakura tree,  originallly comes from this place – In the past, the place around Komagome was called “Somei village” where many gardeners lived.

There is such a cute mailbox in front of North Exit, JR Komagome Station.

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Sakura of the day: Weeping Cherry in Gyokuzo-in, Urawa

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to pass by “Gyokuzo-in” a temple of Shingon Buddhism in Urawa, which is famous for a 100 year-old weeping cherry (shidare-zakura).

It was quite a surprize to find this in the middle of the city.

Gyokuzo-in
2-13-22, Nakacho, Urawaku, Saitama-City
Access: About 5 minute walk from West Exit of JR Urawa Station

Map (link to Google map)

 

Sakura Started Blooming in Tokyo! – My Favorite Sakura Viewing Spots

So finally, sakura started blooming in Tokyo yesterday, following the announcement of Fukuoka on March 19. According to the weather forcast, it seems to last till the end of this month.

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Here are my favorite sakura viewing spots in Tokyo:

Enjoy ohanami 🙂

 

 

More Sakura… what kinds are blooming in Tokyo now?

I wrote in the yesterday’s post about forecasted sakura blooming days that some kinds of sakura bloom later than that popular someiyoshino, but there are some kinds blooming before someiyoshino as well.

I took these picutures yesterday (March 3) at Shinjuku Gyoen after an appointment. It’s one of the most recommended places to enjoy a variety of sakura in Tokyo – there are about 65 kinds of sakura. Here are some kinds of sakura you can see right now!

Kanzakura

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Shuzenji-kanzakura

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Bulbul on a shuzenji-kanzakura tree

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Kawazu-zakura

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And now, ume blossoms are in full bloom so don’t miss it!

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Mitsubishi Ichigokan, Tokyo

Mitsubishi Ichigokan, located 5 minute walking distance from Tokyo Station, is a replication of the first Western office building in Japan, which was designed by Josiah Conder and constructed in 1894. Now inside the building, there are an art museum, a cafe restautrant and a shop.

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Though it’s not an original building, it creates an unique and dignified atmosphere. After this building first appeared, this district was filled with brick buildings and called “Iccho London (London Block)”.

Last Saturday, we visited Cafe 1984 in this building. Lots of people were waiting, and we were told to wait for 40 minutes. There was a waiting space but we took a look around the building, got into a small exhibition space in this building explaining its history and came back.

They have nice desserts – we had a hot apple pie and a chocolate cake plate. At night, they serve Western style dishes. The price is a bit expensive, but it’s a nice place if you want to relax in the middle of Tokyo, feeling the Meji atmosphere 🙂

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Observation decks of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (after giving up chocolates…)

The day before yesterday, I went to Shinjuku. I tried to take a look at “Salon du Chocolat” in Tokyo (Japanese version of le Salon du Chocolat in Paris) held at Shinjuku NK Building in vain. There was a long line at the entrance and I was told to wait for 3 hours to enter…! So I changed my mind and went to the observation decks of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building just next to it, where I often take my friends from abroad. It’s located in the center of Tokyo, open from morning till night and free of charge!

And it was the right decision. The sky was clear. Less people. I enjoyed a beautiful panoramic view (And I didn’t have to spend money on chocolates 😛 )

This is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. There are two observation decks (south and north).

You can see Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance.

Shinjuku Gyoen Garden in the middle.

The big green area is Meiji Shrine Forest.  

Even Mt. Fuji is visible!

Visit to Yoshiwara: what the goddesses tell us?

If you’re interested in Japanese history and traditional culture, you might have heard of “Yoshiwara” where there was an authorised red light district until the Anti Prostitution Law was enacted in 1958. Yujo (courtesans), expecially oiran (high-class courtesans) were said to be fashion leaders and stars in the Edo period and depicted in many traditional arts such as ukiyoe, kabuki acts and rakugo stories. Even now, many movies and dramas about Yoshiwara are produced. These women were bought and brought from the remote areas (most of them are said to be from the Tohoku region). To become oiran or high class yujo, in addition to beauty, they had to aquire lots of skills including poetry, songs, musical instruments, dancing and etc..

As I’m learning shamisen (there are many songs about Yoshiwara), I wanted to visit this area but hesitated to do so alone, because Yoshiwara is now crowded with the buildings offering sexual services. Indeed, although it’s quite close to Asakusa, there are a few people who visit there for sightseeing.

Some weeks ago, I visited there with my husband for the first time. First we visited the Ichiyo Memorial Museum. Ichiyo, one of the most famous female novelists in modern Japan, is a lady depicted on the front side of the five-thousand-yen note. She was living just closed to the Yoshiwara district for some period and got inspiration for her novels.

After that, we walked around the area, tyring to find the traces of the glory of Yoshiwara. Well, the inside of the Yoshiwara district was totally disapponting for women… (never expect traditional buildings like Shimabara in Kyoto…) but with a map, we could easily find where exactly the Yoshiwara district was. Around the area, there are many historical shrines and temples including the famous Otori shrine. But what struck me the most was the story I heard at Yoshiwara Benzaiten Shrine. This place was built to commemorate the courtesans who passed away from the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The quake caused a big fire and the women tried to run away, but the grand gate was intentionally locked. At that time the district was surrounded by a moat to prevent them from escaping. So they jumped into the pond (now reclaimed) located on the opposite side of the grand gate in order to escape from the heat wave. As a result, only a few women survived and approx. 500 women lost their lives, included small girls…

This shrine is small but beautiful, having a bright and warm atmosphere. Many locals and volunteers seem to come here to pray and clean.

  

Just close to Yoshiwara Benzaiten, there is Yoshiwara shrine. This shrine is getting attention as a spiritual place that would give luck to women.

It’s hard to express how I felt exactly, but visiting Yoshiwara was certainly a sobering experience.