Tour Report on 25 March 2017, Saturday

We thank many guests from all over the world. On that day we welcomed 50 people from U.K., USA, Deutschland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Israel, Canada, Chiles, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, France and Mexico. We divide into 7 groups.

 

The weather was fine but cold despite the season. According to the calender, winter has already finished and it is turning to spring.

This tour was actually last tour in Japan’s fiscal year of 2016, which began in April of 2016. March is closing month of fiscal year. Businesses change terms and human resources in this month. In schools graduation ceremonies are held.

Young women in kimono with long skirt, called Hakama walked on streets in the city. They attended graduation ceremony of their colleges. One of occasions modern Japanese wear kimono.

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In the East Garden, cherry-blossoms are yet to bloom. In truly spring time, we can view beautiful full-bloom of cherry blossom trees from the turf in the garden.

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But in the feudal time, the turf area was occupied by wooden-house compound, called Honmaru. It was the castle building for Tokugawa Shogunate (governance by the master of all Samurai lords in Japan, actual ruler appointed and entrusted by Emperor). Now no remains of the castle stand but stone bases, a stone celler and guard houses.

It is important to imagine what kind of castle stood on the turf area. In suburb of Tokyo named Kawagoe, there was one remaining feudal lord castle. The area is nicknamed “Ko-Edo (Little Edo).” Edo is former name of Tokyo city. It takes 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to Kawagoe Station from Tokyo Station, transportation fee is around 700 yen. A facility named “Honmaru-goden” is smaller scale of what the castle in the East Garden was. Admission fee is only 100 yen.

It tells appearance, layout, and interiors of typical feudal lord castle houses as residence and office. Only one story building. A multi-layered tower was only for observatory and show-off purpose and placed on stone base, not on the ground.

Interesting thing to find is only thing that shielded occupants from coldness during winter was paper screen. The temperature was no different from outside.

Kawagoe not only has the castle remain but the old marchant town which succeeded feudal era style, called “Kura-no Machi (Warehouse Town).” Magnificient street view can be seen, which can be expressed as Japanese Gothic.

It is highly recommended to visit Kawagoe before or after joining the tour. Anyone can time slip to the middle age Japan.

Next tour will be held in new fiscal year 2017. Meet us in the brand new period!

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Tour report on Mar.20,2017

Thank you for joining our tour.

Although it is irregular and suddenly arranged, we could have 16 guests

from Europe,America,Asia and the southern hemisphere. 

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In this season, some flowers begin to bloom in our Imperial palace site.

Let me show you my favorite one.

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It is called Mitsumata in Japanese, just blooming now.

To our interest, it is raw material of Japanese paper bill.

And more, Mitsumata means three branched in our language.

You can see it is really branched into three from the photo below !

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We always try to introduce you our seasonal natures and topics in the TFWT tour.

Why don’t you come and join us, don’t miss it !!

Asakusa tour report on Mar. 19,2017

Today we welcomed 9 guests from many countries.

Today Tokyo district was warm and very comfortable to walk.  2 weeks later cherry blossoms will  be in full bloom.

On that day,too,  Asakusa was very crowded. So our guests could feel vigorous downtown atmosphere while walking.

I’m sorry the 5 story pagoda is under repairing. So guests could ‘t see the real one. We showed them its picture.

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We also explained rules and manners of Buddhism and Shintoism before praying.

They seemed to be interested in Japanese religions.

We finished our tour at am 10:40.

Thank you for joining our tour today.

Please join our tour .  We always  wait for you.

(posted by Masahiko-Sato)

 

Tour Report: March 18, 2017

Thank you all for joining our tour! We had a pleasant Saturday afternoon tour with close to 50 guests. With the cherry blossom season not far, it will soon be the busiest time for our walking tour.

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Around the Ninomaru Gardens I mentioned how the “koi” or the carp is liked in Japan, to the extent that there is a professional baseball team named after them.

Baseball, as you may know, is one of the most popular professional sports here in Japan. Currently there are two major baseball events going on.

IMG_3754One is the World Baseball Classic, once-in-four-year tournament competed among national teams from 16 countries. Japan has prevailed in the first two tournaments but not in the last, so people are very anxious to see the team to become champions again.

Then there is the national high school tournament. It is held twice each year, and the spring tournament has just started this week. One reason it is so popular may be that the games are played by high schools representing each prefecture – some people seem to associate themselves with the teams from their hometowns and talk about them a lot.

So these events will keep the headlines busy for another week or two.

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Of course baseball is not the only sport in Japan – there are football, tennis, rugby just to name a few. What is your favorite sport? Join the tour and share your stories with us!

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(Yohei)

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Tour Report on Mar.11,2017

Today we welcomed 34 guests from US, Taiwan, Australia, France, Germany, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa, Korea and Canada.
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It was a nice and chilly day for a stroll in the park.
Considering the time of the year, not many colors are in the garden but we were able to witness the last plum blossom in the winter sun, meaning that spring and cherry season is just around the corner. 

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This tour day was Mar.11,  an unforgettable day for most of us in north and eastern Japan.
6 years ago at exactly 2:46 PM on a Friday afternoon, a massive earthquake of Magnitude 9 hit northeast Japan, triggering  the great tsunami and nuclear leak at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that left around 20,000 people killed or missing.
Homes, offices and rice fields along the coastline were wiped out by sea water.
 
On the same day I was at my office in metropolitan Tokyo. Everyone felt 2 continuous strong quakes that struck as if it was the end of the world. Power and all public transportation stopped this day, forcing most of office workers and people a good 4 to 12 hour walk back to their homes.
It has been a long time since then, and it seems like the memories of the disaster are eventually fading away among most of us.However at the same time every small quake we experience now gives us a sense of fear that our mediocre lives could change into a living hell only within a minute.
Prayers go to all who have lost their lives and the close ones in this horrific event.
Thank you for all of our guests today. We hope you enjoyed the tour and wish everyone a safe and pleasant stay in Japan.
Looking for something cultural to do in Tokyo?
Be the next to explore the ruins of Edo Castle with our friendly guides on the Tokyo Free Walking Tour.

(Report by Asako)

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Tokyo Free Walking Tour has regular tours every Saturday and has irregular tours in weekdays and Sundays.
If you are in Tokyo, why not come and join us?
Visit our website, Facebook and tripadvisor for the latest schedule!

Tour Report on 4th of March 2017, Saturday

We thank many guests joining the tour. On that day we welcomed 32 guests from Germany, USA, U.K., Canada, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and India. We divided into 5 groups.

It was a mild spring day. The temperature is getting higher these days.

During the tour, in the East Garden, formerly a castle of Tokugawa Shogun, guests view mainly outerior of the exhibited buildings. We go outside all the way. So warmer climate is good for us.

However, there is one facility that guests can enter inside.  It is called Fujimitamon. It is located on periphery of the East Garden, and functioned as a defense house. It is high above the surrouding moat. Guards in those days monitored surrounding areas from the windows of the house.

When one is getting in, taking off shoes is requested. That was lifestyle of the Samurai feudal era. Even in public place like guard house, taking off shoes and sitting down on floor was required. In modern time taking off shoes in private residencial space is required. Inside one can find more of customs of that era. No window glasses but stone grids and wooden shutters. From there the roof of imperial palace can be seen. That side behind the moat is exclusive area of the Imperial Palace. In feudal area, before the Emperor was relocated from Kyoto, it was residence for the Shogun’s relatives.

Another notable thing is short door height and celing. Some taller people should feel very oppressive but that was the standard of that era. People of that era was 10 cm (4 inches) or more shorter than modern Japanese and they sat down on the floor, not on chairs. Not only this house but other old houses in Japan were like that. One old country house in Gunma Prefecture of the below picture is a good example.

From outside it looks a big house but inside are very low doors and ceiling. Even a Japanese man of national average height, 170 cm might bump his head.

Sometimes it is not suitable for the tour spot because taking off shoes is troublesome for some guests. But if you do not mind doing it, please get in and feel the old time way of life. It is like time slipping to the middle age.

Tour Report on 25-February, 2017, Saturday

What a perfect saturday it was to go out for a walk!!

Blue blue sky, cool air with warm sun, early cherry blossoms and good smell of the plum tree, ducks swimming in the moat…spring should be very close now.

We were delighted to welcome 35 guests from Brazil, Australia, Israel, U.S.A., Spain, Germany, Canada, Singapore, U.K.,China to stroll around the east garden. We made 4 groups for this day.

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Group-A of Feb.25
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Group-B of Feb.25
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Group-C of Feb.25
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Group-D of Feb.25

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During our tour, one group of our guests brought us the following questions; ” Why does the stone wall has a pitch”?(Like the photo)

Now, I’d like to appreciate our smart guests to bring this issue !! This issue is extra hot for me too now. I went to Matsuyama-castle(in Ehime-prefecture) and Himeji-castle(in Hyogo-prefecture) last weekend and the “curving” stone walls drew me extra attention, so as our guests!!

Going up higher,  The pitch of the stone wall becomes steeper and curves. It’s shape is similar to an ougi(=sensu, a folding fan)when opened. So this curve is called “ougi-no-kobai”or”Fan curve of the stone wall”.  The higher the wall becomes, the pressure inside the stone wall increases. This may make the stone wall easy to collapse down. To ensure that a wall could withstand, the pitch at the lower part of the wall is rather loose than the higher part so it could release the pressure of the whole wall. And also the steep curve near the top is almost vertical.  It helps keeping  enemies away from climbing.

Corners of the wall are made of rectangular stones that are stacked alternately, as the long side, short side, long side, short side… I found a small mock-up at Himeji-jyo as the picture. This  method of construction is known as sangi-zumi(trimmed style stone walls).Sangi-zumi construction was perfected from the late 16th to early 17 centuries, when it became possible to construct high stone walls.

 

If you have any or another chance to visit the East Garden of the Imperial Palace, please have a close look on the stone wall of the basement of  main tower. The corner of the wall here is the “Sangi-zumi” and the stone edge is lifted higher. This increases the intensity of the basement.

Please come to see the excellent works of Edo era back to the 19th century, we look forward sharing any excitements with you!

(posted by Noriko)