ALL TOURS ARE SUSPENDED until further notice. Stay safe everyone!

Tokyo Now#14: Thank you for your long time service! Lovely Harajuku St.

  • 2020.09.20

Have you ever been to Tokyo?  If “yes”,  I guess you visited “Harajuku” as it is  one of the most popular area not only for tourist but residence in Japan.  Two most popular tourist site in Harajuku, or even in Tokyo, are Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine and Harajuku town itself.  Uniqueness of Harajuku is that serene spiritual greenery spot and cool fashionable district locate both side of the lovely JR Harajuku station building. Famous for its triangular roof and a weathercock placed on the roof, the oldest wooden train station building in Tokyo was constructed in a Western style in 1924 mainly for use by visitors to nearby Meiji Jingu, which was built in 1920. The station building watched over development of Harajuku, surviving Word War II. Buy finally, the loved old Harajuku Station building ended its service in March this year, and is set to be demolished as it does not meet fireproof standards. Good news is that some parts, such as stained glass, remain intact in the station building since its completion, according to JR East. After the building is demolished, a replica of its exterior is planned to be constructed near the new Harajuku Station building, partially […]

Tokyo Now #13 : Shibuya, still less scrambled

  • 2020.09.16

Do you know the scrambled intersection in Shibuya? It is amazing to see many people walking in different directions without hitting each other. The number of people is decreasing due to the influence of the new corona, but they are training every day. Speaking of Shibuya, Hachi-ko, the faithful dog. This dog was the model for the movie “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” starring Richard Gere. Worth a look. He is also looking forward to welcoming you with the message, “Take care of love. You are not alone.” Shibuya is next to Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku. by TFWT PA&C

Tokyo Now# 12: Significance of Obon, meeting ancestors, ceremony

  • 2020.08.20

We are in the middle of very hot summer season. This season is called “Obon.” This season is for most workers, summer holiday period. Many people go back home to meet their family members and visit graves of their ancestors. However, since the novel coronavirus pandemic occurred, the form of the customs changed. People are advised not to travel around. At the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, one of our regular tour course, on 15 August, ceremony of burning lanterns called “Toro” was held in the backyard of the temple premise. Toro is a lantern that represents a soul of the dead coming down to the earth only in this season so we can greet the dead ancestors. Every year lanterns are floated on nearby Sumida river and later collected and burned to the heaven. A lot of people gathered on the riverside to see the lanterns floating on the river. Not to create big crowds, that festival was cancelled. Instead lanterns were burned directly and monks chanted along with the growing flame. (Photos of 2015 Obon lantern floating festival) As you know big events like Tokyo Olympics (postponed to 2021) were cancelled this year. In Asakusa, Sumida river firework festival […]

Tokyo Now#11: A summer flower Japanese loved for centuries

  • 2020.08.04

  We had unusually long rainy season this year. But it finally ended. Now that the hot summer is here in Tokyo area, we see summer flowers blooming everywhere. Speaking of summer flowers to grow at your house, what flower do you come up with first? In Japan, asagao (morning glory) has been the most popular flower to grow since Edo period (1600-1867). The first asagao boom sprang up in the first half of 19th century. In the town of Edo (Tokyo was called Edo then) many asagao growers appeared. As people wanted asagaos of variant shapes and colors, they developed various mutant asagaos. In the second half of 19th century the numbers of mutant asagaos grew up to 1200! Usually local open fairs where growers sell potted asagaos are held in early summer. But most of the fairs were suspended this year due to coronavirus. I was lucky to find historic asagao plants exhibited at the garden of the Japanese History Museum in Chiba prefecture. Many haiku poets took up asagao as subject. Here is the most famous one written by Kaga no Chino. Morning glory! Well bucket entangled Force me ask water (朝顔に つるべ取られて もらい水)   Chino From TFWT PA&C […]

Tokyo Now #10: Tokyo Free Walking Tour Now – 2

  • 2020.07.29

Greeting from Tokyo! Following to the on-site members only tour on Saturday at East Gardens of the Imperial Palace route, Meiji Shrine & Harajuku route tour was held on Sunday. Meiji Shrine & Harajuku tour Route : First half:   Meiji Jingu shrine Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine.  Shinto is an indigenous religion in Japan.    Meiji Jingu attracts largest number of visitors every New Year’s to wish good fortune of the year. Urban oasis full of nature in the middle of such a big city Tokyo.  Appreciated as a place of tranquility and relaxation. Meiji Jingu celebrates a century of foundation this year. Special exhibits are on display on the approach path to main hall. Second half:  Harajuku & Omote Sando We will guide you to Harajuku, which is one of the busiest and most popular shopping areas in Tokyo!  Attraction of this route: Comparison between Meiji Jingu shrne and Harajuku & Omote Sando, i.e. sacred greenery place and exciting fashionable shopping districts   This time, the on-site members only tour evolved to a hi-brid tour, on-site tour with live streaming to members via zoom! Less crowded thus we could feel the original atmosphere of this place. Smell of forest, […]

Tokyo Now #9: Tokyo Free Walking Tour Now (1)

  • 2020.07.23

While our walking tours are still suspended, it does not mean we totally suspend TFWT activities.  In addition to  regular monthly meetings, members are organizing various kinds of online activities, such as study meeting (ex. Recommended small talk topics,  deep dive of Japanese castle, popular animated movies & magazine, etc.), virtual tours for members to be prepared for real tour,  catch-up gathering.   Also, we have just kicked-off on-site walking tours for members, observing the latest advisory from the government and health authorities with the utmost care and attention. Focus of this issue is the on-site members only tour held on the latest Saturday. East Gardens of the Imperial Palace route Route : Tokyo Station -> Maru no uchi district -> East Gardens of the Imperial Palace) Attraction of this route: Comparison of Tokyo between modern & present and old days. Participant members gathered at the meeting place “Tokyo Station Marunouchi Central Gate (ground floor)”.  It’s been almost 4 months since we met on-site, so happy indeed! Sharing information, we walked entire course. Output is the best input indeed.  Members are so eager to share and learn, thus we stayed at the first view point “Tokyo Station”  for 30min! Let us […]

Tokyo Now #8 : Ueno Park, full of culture & art, and more

  • 2020.07.16

Question. If want to feel the atmosphere of Kyoto and Nikko at Tokyo, and to go to a zoo with your children, and to enjoy classical music concerts and masterpieces in your spare time, and to study Japanese history and climate and to see a world heritage building, and to find a cheap and good product in the market for fresh fish and daily necessities, do you think where you should go? The answer is Ueno Park. Ueno Park is the oldest public park in Japan and home to historical and cultural places such as temples and shrines, more than 10 museums, a zoo. Here are some of them. Ueno Toshogu was founded about 400 years ago at about the same time as the world heritage Nikko Toshogu. You can enjoy beautiful buildings and decorations comparable to Nikko Toshogu. Kiyomizu Kanondo is a temple simulated after Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. Tokyo National Museum is one of Japan’s oldest and largest museums. You cannot see everything in one day. The building of National Museum of Western Arts is World Heritage, designed by French architect Le Corbusier. Tokyo Metropolitan Festival Hall is a hall dedicated to classical music, famous for overseas orchestras […]

Tokyo Now #7: Tanabata, the Star Festival, on the seventh day of the seventh month (July 7)

  • 2020.07.11

According to Chinese legend, there once was a weaver princess named Orihime, the daughter of the Sky King, and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi. They fell in love and they began neglecting their work.  Orihime ceased weaving cloth, and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to wander all around the skies. This angered the king, so as punishment he separated the two lovers across the “heaven river” the Milky Way. The king allowed Orihime and Hikoboshi to see each other once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month. But they cannot meet if the weather is rainy, so it’s customary to pray for good weather on this day. This is the origin of the Star Festival,  Tanabata.  People write their wishes on stripes of colored paper, and hang them on the branches of leafy bamboo stems.  Tanabata is one of the most loved traditional annual events in Japan. Tanabata festivals are taken place all over Japan though most of them were canceled or performed on a smaller scale.  by TFWT PA&C

Tokyo Now #6: Nagoshi no Ooharae (mid year Shinto ritual )

  • 2020.07.07

Nagoshi-no-Ooharae (summer grand purification ritual) A shinto ritual ‘’Ooharae (grand purification) are conducted on the last day of June and December, i.e. mid-year and end of year,  to exorcise the sins and the impurity accumulated in the six months. Originally this ritual was held at the imperial court, today it is held at shrines nationwide while most popular in Kyoto.  Harae is the general term for rituals of purification in Shinto. On the day, people visit shrines and scrub themselves with a paper doll so that it absorb their impurities and misfortune.  In addition, “chinowa kuguri (passing through a hoop made of kaya grass [plants of sedge family])” is performed in many shrines.  A very large “Chinowa” made in the shrine appears in the precincts, and by going through it, people pray for good health for the next six months.  People also eat Minazuki sweet. Minazuki This is “minazuki”, a traditional Japanese sweet usually sold in June. Azuki beans are on top of uirou, sweet rice jelly.  “Minazuki (month of water)” is traditional name of June under lunar calendar. June of the lunar calendar corresponds to modern July, i.e. mid-summer. People want to have ice to cool body but it was […]

Tokyo Now #5: Ginza Now!

  • 2020.07.02

Ginza is located south of Tokyo Station, the starting point of our East Garden of Imperial Palace tour, and is one of Japan’s most prominent downtown areas. A lot of brand shops and large department stores are lined up, and it becomes a pedestrian paradise on weekends, and it is also a place where people including foreign guests can relax. This pedestrian paradise in Ginza was suspended on March 28 due to Covid 19, but finally resumed on June 13. The photo is as of June 27. You can see that people are returning little by little. If you walk a little southeast from Ginza along the main street, you will find Kabukiza theater. Kabuki is a traditional Japanese art. Kabukiza is scheduled to resume performances in August. If you walk further, you can see an Indian-style building, Tsukiji Honganji Temple. This Buddhism temple was established about 400 years ago, but the main hall was burned down by the 1923 earthquake and rebuilt in its current form in 1934. It’s a very unique building and worth a visit. Tsukiji Market is just southwest of the temple. Although the market itself has moved to Toyosu, there are many restaurants where you […]

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