Asakusa Tour Report on Sept.27, 2017

Many thanks for joining our tour in Asakusa on Set. 27. We welcomed three people from Argentina and Italy. Weather was fine and pretty comfortable. Asakusa Streets were crowded with people despite a weekday.

Sensoji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple which attracts 30 million domestic and overseas visitors every year. The principal building is the main hall. It has been worshipped by many people for 1400 years and developed in spite of the repeated fires and destruction during WW2. The current building was reconstructed in 1958 after the war. Inside the hall the Buddhist statue, goddess of mercy is housed. Asakusa flourished thanks to this image. This is the treasure of the temple as well as Asakusa.

The gold statue was discovered by the two fishermen in the nearby Sumida River and protected by the village chief about 1,400 years ago. It is officially unknown where it came from but we can say that Buddhism quickly penetrated into the country just about 70 years after it was introduced into Japan from India via China.
Then a priest, founder of Sensoji Temple, Shokai Shonin built a Kannon-do Hall to enshrine the statue which later bacame Sensoji Temple. He decided as a devine message that the statue should be absolutely withheld from public view. Since then his rule remains in place until today and no one has ever been allowed to see it.
After that Ennin, the outstanding priest of Tendai School of Buddhism in the Heian period carved the substitute of the original statue and dislayed it to allow people to worship. This lead to the development of Sensoji Temple.

In Japan most of the hidden Buddhist statues are unveiled to the public on specific days but some including Sensoji Temple are strictly hidden from people due to the religious reasons. In stead the substitute is revealed to the public once a year or every several years. Sensoji Temple displays its replica to the public once a year on December 13. Zenkoji Temple in Nagano known for its historic Buddhist image exhibits its reproduction once every seven years.
Why don’t you come to Asakusa, go together to Sensoji Temple and pray.  Joining your hands at the main hall will make you feel refreshed and restore a peaceful and comfortable state of feeling.

(posted by Yoshi)

Asakusa Tour Report on Sept 24, 2017

Thank you for joining our tour in Asakusa on September 24. It was lovely weather at the beginning of autumn. We welcomed seven friendly people from Britain, Mexico, Uruguay and Philippines. Nakamise shopping street was congested with people as usual.

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‘Kappabashi Tool Street’ is known as Japan’s largest kitchen tool street. Annual festival will be held from Oct.6 until Oct.12. Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather,particularly during the holiday weekend with the events and parades. There are about 170 specialized shops and most of them will have a sale. Kitchen utensils will be available at reasonable prices. You may be able to find a bargain.

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The categories of products are everything needed by restaurants  without fresh food. You will find specialized stores such as dishes, pans and plastic food samples. Plastic food samples of sushi and tempura look interesting, real and delicious. They are an ideal souvenir for tourists to buy. When you are tired, a fashionable cafe is available.

                                                               (  Maiduru pro)
The origin of the street is that several people started the second-hand tool shops in 1912. ‘Kappabashi’ is named after a merchant Kihachi ‘Kappa’ya(raincoat seller) who was engaged in   the waterway project 200 years ago. However, the street people took the different ‘Kappa'(the same pronunciation), water-dwelling creature of the Japanese folklore and its statue was erected as an official mascot, because Kappa is considered to bring business prosperity. Interestingly a cucumber is said to be Kappa’s favorite food(vegetarian?)

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Kappabashi is located near Asakusa about 10 minutes walk from Sensoji Temple toward Ueno. If you are around, Kappabashi Tool Festival is really unique and recommendable to visit.

(posted by Yoshi)

Tour Report on 23 September 2017

We thank many guests joining this tour On that day we welcomed 28 guest from USA, UK, Israel, Italy, Indonesia, Philippine, Australia, Nederland, and Romania. It was a little hot but not so humid.

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We then divided into 4 groups. One of the group has 4 cute child guests so the guides of the group entertained them by using stamp rally so that the children would not be bored. That is our way of hospitality.

That day was National Holiday called Shuubunno-hi, Autumn Equinox Day. In a period around that day, the length of day and night becomes almost the same. That is the start of Autumn season in calender. But this is not cheerful holiday rather it is time to visit family graves and worship ancestors and comfort their spirits. In March we have the  other Equinox Day, that is called Shunbunno-hi, Spring Equinox Day. That is the beginning of Spring time. Both Equinox periods are called Higan in Japan. It is said that heat and coldness do not last over Higan periods. After the both Higan, climate becomes milder and more comfortable to go out. It is the best season for sightseeing. We expect more people joining the tour in coming months.

Japan has four seasons except Southernmost prefecture, Okinawa, whose climate zone is subtropical. Every time season changes the colors of the landscapes changes and new flowers blossom. But that is not always fun because every time that happens we have to adjust our bodies to changing temperature and humidity.

Since Autumn Equinox Day, the temperature is dropping dramatically. Even it is hot in daytime, nighttime can be cold. So please take care of yourself with clothing. Wearing a light jacket all the time is highly recommended.

We are looking forward to seeing you in great season.

Tour Report on Thursday, September 21 (Weekday Tour)

Tokyo Free Walking Tour thanks all 8 wonderful guests, who joined the tour on September 21. It was a sunny day with slightly strong winds.

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Seeking a Simple Life

Last month I personally attended a summer programme on environmental ethics in Finland. Environmental ethics is a field of philosophy emerged in 1970s that studies the moral relationship between human beings and natural environment.

In this course, the teacher mentioned a theory of Deep Ecology by Arne Naess, a philosopher from Norway (1912-2009). The basic characteristic of his theory is human-in-ecosystem image; it considers human beings and all living things as elements that are related with each other, like ‘knots’ in a net. Naess criticises conventional ecology as ‘Shallow Ecology’ in that it is based on the idea that human beings are separated from nature. In his words, we should ‘protect the planet not only for the sake of humans, but also, for the sake of the planet itself, to keep ecosystems healthy for their own sake’.

Surprisingly, Naess refers to Buddhism when he claims the importance of ‘listening with the third ear’. When it comes to Japan, the spirit of Zen Buddhism might have similarity to the Deep Ecology philosophy.

Zen is a sect of Buddhism that originated in China in the 6th century, and was developed in Japan by the 12th century. The principle of Zen is that everyone has potential to awake to the truth, which is covered by worldly thought in daily life. We can reach the truth only when we remove unnecessary thoughts and desires, through serenity of mind.

Zazen, sitting meditation, is a main practice of acquiring peace of mind. Through zazen activity, you can become free from daily concerns and busyness. The senses of hearing, touching and smelling are sharpened so that you can feel details of natural environment. The meditation gives us an opportunity to reconsider whole ecosystem, greatness of nature, and arrogance of humans.

 

Ninomaru Garden in Edo Castle, on our regular tour course, is said to follow Zen style of gardening. It was designed by a garden artist Enshu Kobori (1579-1647), whose accomplishments can be found all around Japan.

When you visit the garden, try to feel Zen spirit; pause, relax and control your breath. You will surely have an opportunity to rethink about natural environment, acquire humble attitude towards nature, and seek a simple life.

(Images from http://www.asoview.com/, http://www.soto-kinki.net/, http://www.irasutoya.com/)

By Hiroshi N.

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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!

Notice:Weekday Tour on Thursday, September 21, 2017

・Date/Time : Thu. Sep. 21, 2017(10:00-1200)

・Meeting Place : Tokyo Station Marunouchi Central Gate (ground floor)

・We leave at 10:00.  Please take care to arrive on time!

・Participation Fee : Free

・Reservation : Not required

・Participants : Foreign tourists and residents, and their accompanying Japanese friends,  families, etc.

For more imformation on our tour, please visit our website, facebook, and TripAdvisor page!

Tour Report on 17 September 2017, The Very First Meiji Jingu and Harajuku Tour

That day was our first tour for the Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku District course.

It was a heavy raining day with forecast of a typhoon coming. But surprisingly, we could meet 10 guests at the entrance Torii gate of Meiji Shrine. We were so glad because we thought no one would come because of the bad weather. They were from Columbia, Australia, USA and Canada.

First of all, what is Meiji Shrine? It is a memorial of late Meiji Emperor, who had been on the throne during Meiji Era (1868 to 1912), 3 generation in advance of current throne, great grand father of current Emperor, Akihito. It was Japan’s Reconstruction era from feudal period to Modern period. In this period, the Emperor’s residence was relocated from Kyoto to Tokyo. Meiji Emperor is known to be contributed to Japan’s modernization. His figure is depicted in Hollywood film “The Last Samurai” in which Tom Cruise played as US military official dispatched to Japan.

The shrine was established in 1920 to commemorate the late Emperor who died in 1912. The forest trees in the Shrine premise were all artificially planted, not wild plants.

After walking for half an hour from the entrance, we could reach the main Shrine facility. There, the guests could learn Japanese traditional manner and methods of praying. The shrine consists of 4 side surrounding walls. 3 of 4 sides have gates to get in and out. One side is shrine’s main building where offering box is placed and various ceremonies are held. Luckily, we could see traditional Japanese wedding ceremony held there.

After the Meiji Shrine, we took to the Harajuku district, a most fashionable and fancy quarter of the city. The sacred shrine with the forest and the amusement district are adjacent to each other. That may be a unique landscape for foreign visitors. We strolled from the Takeshita street in the district and found fancy shops and cafes. The final destination was Oriental Bazar (Souvenir Shop for foreigners) on Omote Sando Street, a big main street with line-up of trees on both sides which might look like Les Champs-Elysees in Paris.

 

This tour is currently non-regular basis so we haven’t yet decided when to hold the next time. Please check our website.  We are looking forward to meeting great people from the world again over there.

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Tour Report on September 16, 2017

Thank you all the guests for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour. We are honored to have around 25 guests from the different corners of the world like Malaysia, Switzerland, the UK, Germany, Peru, Mexico, and the U.S.

We started from Tokyo station and strolled around the central Tokyo, Marunouchi business area, and the East Garden of the Imperial Palace.tour1

 

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Although typhoon is hitting in Japan, luckily, we had a comfortable time without getting wet with rain. Also, we enjoyed autumn flowers, red spider lilies and pine trees in the garden.tour3

It’s said that autumn is a good season for sports or reading in Japan. Please let us introduce ①Japanese national sports, “SUMO” wrestling and ②a Japanese popular comic book, “HIKARU NO GO.”

① SUMO
Sumo is a match between two sumo wrestlers. A wrestler wins when he drives opponent out of the ring or when a part of the opponent’s body touches the ground. There are 6 annual tournaments held at different cities. An autumn tournament is being held now.

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② HIKARU NO GO
“Go” is a Japanese traditional board game of capturing territory. It was in the news that AI(Artificial Intelligence) defeated human players in “Go” matches as well as chess ones. “HIKARU NO GO” is a comic book which describes main character HIKARU’s growth through “GO” and created a “GO” boom in Japan. English version is also published.

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We hope you enjoy autumn in Japan by trying some Japanese cultural things.
Lastly, we wish you all a safe and wonderful stay in Japan.

 

(Posted by A. Kuno)

Tour Report on 9 September 2017

Thank you for joining our tour on September 9th.

 

 

On the day of tour, it was quite hot, but not so humid compare to Aug and Jul. I guess beautiful Japanese autumn season is around the corner!

We welcomed 27 guests from Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Spain, UK, US and so on. We divided into 5 groups.

Some of the guests on that day were really interested in Ninja. We usually take you to the “Hyakunin Bansho” where it said the Ninja used to work during the Edo period. When we take the guests there, we explain not only for basic Ninja information but also add some details about it.

 Group A,

At the end of the tour, a few guests asked me about fruit in Japan. It seemed they wanted to obtain Japanese apples.

Apple is one of our popular fruit in Japan, so that students often bring them as their lunch or lunch dessert to the school. I think it is the same situation in the other many countries, but in some foreign countries, students bring it without cutting and bite it directly at school. On the other hand, in Japan, apples are cut in less than one quarter, and then, putting in a lunch box, and students bring them to the school. They eat them using toothpick or grab it directly with their hands. I think It’s because Japanese apples are bigger than that of other companies.

In addition, the skins of the apples are often peeled off completely, but sometimes peeling like a rabbit

 

Autumn season in Japan has a lot of fresh and sweet fruit, such as pears, peaches, chestnuts and grapes and so on. Please try them when you visit Japan.

 

We have a regular tour every Saturday and irregularly Asakusa tour. Please check our website, Facebook and TripAdvisor.

(Posted by Chizuru)

Tour Report on 2 September 2017

We thank many guests joining this tour. On that day, we welcomed 35 guests from many countries in the world. It was a good weather. We divided into 5 groups. Although it was still hot but not so humid like August any more. It seems autumn is coming soon. That will be best season for sight seeing.

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So we expect many more people joining the tour. That makes us to strive to improve our guiding skill. Not just English but communication skill. Just being able to speak English is not good enough to be a good guide. We have to be able to communicate well to entertain the guests.

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On the same day after the tour, we held a workshop for us to learn about it inviting a famous English speaking Rakugo entetainer named Mr. Kimochi. Rakugo is traditional Japanese talk entertainment. The format is one-man talk show on the stage. It might look like a stand-up comedy. But in Rakugo, a talker wears kimono and sits down on the stage all the time and he or she talks following a storyline playing various characters like actors. But a story contains a funny joke or humor. The very feature of Rakugo is surprising and funny ending. “Raku” means falling down. “Go” means language. It means the talk has to end with up-side down conclusion. That should induce laugh from audience. It is said that in Japan high income people love to watch the show more frequently than other people because it needs intelligence.

Mr. Kimochi spoke very fluent English but he is not a native speaker of English and spent only 8 days abroad in his lifetime. However, he has already succeeded in entertaining native English speaking audience. He trained English so hard but claimed just translating a script into English accurately is not good enough to make a good English Rakugo script. The entertainer has to understand the cultural background depending on an audience. That is a common issue with us.

Using great techniques he taught us, we will be greater guides than ever. Why not join us and see how we guide and entertain you!

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