Tour Report on January 28, 2018 in Asakusa

Thank you for joining our tour in Asakusa on January 28. We had seven guests from Singapore,Chile,America and China. It was cloudy and cold, but nevertheless I hope all of you enjoyed the atmosphere of old Tokyo.

February 3 is Setsubun,literally splitting the season when Mamemaki or bean-throwing festival is held at Sensoji Temple. It is the day before the first day of spring. Actually it is New Year’s Eve according to the Old calendar system. On this day people throw beans to ward off demons and welcome good fortune.

(Photoes:The Asakusa Tourism Federation 365 ASAKUSA)
This tradition dates back over 1,000 years. In Japan it is believed from ancient times that demons come out in the changing of the seasons. Hence, there were year-end ceremonies to cleanse away all the evils and diseses of the previous year prior to the new year at the Imperial Court in Kyoto during the Heian period. Then this event developed into bean-throwing ritual since beans were believed to have the power to dispel evil spirits.
Bean-throwing festival is not a national holiday but a major event in February throughout the country. It is held at home but many people gather at temples and shrines. People shout ‘Demons out ! Fortune in!’ but here at Sensoji Temple just ‘Fortune in!’because there is no demon around its Buddhist deity. A number of the invited celebrities such as kabuki actors and comedians join the ceremony and throw roasted beans to the crowd. People get crazy to catch the beans with bags. In order to get ‘Fortune in’, they have to catch sufficient beans so that they can eat as many as their age.

(Photoes:The Asakusa Tourism Federation 365 ASAKUSA)
The reason for roasting beans is to prevent any of the thrown beans from sprouting which is considered bad luck. In some areas peanuts are thrown in stead of beans, because they are cleaner and easier to be picked up. Also some people eat a long sushi role,ehomaki while facing the lucky direction of the year.
Sensoji is the first temple to hold this event in a large scale in Edo, the former name of Tokyo and approximately 100,000 people appear at the annual festival. If you happen to be in Tokyo or Asakusa on February 3 in the afternoon, it will be an interesting experience for you to watch the exciting event at Sensoji Temple.

(posted by Yoshi)

TOUR REPORT ON 27-JANUARY, 2018, THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

We explored the East Garden of the Imperial Palace with 17 guests from Australia, Philippine, Portugal, Brazil, Russia, UK, Spain, Belgium, China, Chile, and the USA. The start point is the Tokyo Station. The traditional western style red brick building is so impressive.

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We walk through the Marunouchi district. It is the core of the Japanese business center. Then we approach to the Imperial Palace East Garden.

The palace is the former Edo Castle, which was the headquarters of the Samurai’s military government in the 17-19 century. The castle was also the residence of the Shogun, the top commander general of the government. You can enjoy not only beautiful sceneries but also learn about Japanese history and tradition.

Our guests asked many questions to us.
What is the difference between a Samurai and a Ninja?
How many wives did the Shogun have?
Was the Ohoku in the Shogun’s palace like a harem?
Why there were many fire disasters in the old Tokyo?
When was the year the Samurai government was finished?
Is there a noble class other than the royal family and the commoners?
Very interesting questions!

Last week, we had snowfall in Tokyo. The snow depth was 23cm. Snowscape would be observed only once or twice a year in Tokyo. We were lucky to see the imperial palace garden and snow. The silent snow covered Ninomaru garden and forest gives us the peaceful mind.
Japan has clear four seasons. Each has a unique charm. The beauty of winter attracts many tourists. We recommend visiting Hokkaido, Kanazawa or Takayama to enjoy the beautiful snow covered world. One more idea is to go to the snow resort such as Niseko and Hakuba.

At the end of the tour, we offered Kimono photo taking service. Everybody looks so nice. Thank you for coming to our tour. Have a nice trip!

Posted by Masa Ito

TOUR REPORT ON 20-JANUARY, 2018, THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

 

We thank all our guests who joined our East Garden of Imperial Palace tour on Jan.20th.

We welcomed 17 guests from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Taiwan and USA, including an 11-months baby boy. We hope you enjoyed experiencing the Edo period adventure with us.

It was a little bit cold but it was a good day to walk around the garden (former Edo castle). Even in the middle of the winter, we enjoyed watching the nature around the Edo castle. The moat is a good place for various kinds of birds, such as spot‐billed ducks, swans and so on, to inhabit. If you will have the opportunity to join our tour, make sure to look for these adorable creatures!

Like in the previous tour report, the flowers of the plum in the Imperial garden are in bloom one by one. Actually, during the earlier times, plum blossom viewing was more popular than cherry blossom viewing. Japanese people had different culture in the Nara period (8th Century). They used Japanese words “花 (flower)” in waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables) to mean Japanese plum flower. There are 118 pieces of waka talking about plum, compare to 42 pieces of cherry.

One of the famous high-ranking government officer, Michizane Sugawara was very fond of ume ( Japanese plum ) trees and composed a waka for the tree in his garden : ” Kochi fukaba nioi okoseyo ume-no-hana aruji nashi tote haruna wasureso ” ( Whenever the east wind blows , my dear plum blossoms remember spring , even if your master won ‘t be here ) .

Honestly, I prefer plum blossom than cherry, because of its dignified strength. It blooms in cold winter. Its flowers are small and modest, but it has good fragrance. I wish I could be like a plum flower.——-What about you?

By Setsuko.I

Tour Report on January 21,2018 at Meiji Shrine and Harajuku

Many thanks for joining our tour to Meiji Shrine and Harajuku area on January 21. The weather was unusually mild and comfortable in the middle of winter. We welcomed eight guests from America,Australia,Israel,Canada and Thailand. I hope you enjoyed walking with us.

On our tour route there is lovely Ota Memorial Museum of Art in Harajuku. It is located at the quiet place between Takeshita Street and Omotesanso street. This museum is one of the most outstanding museums specializing in Ukiyo-e woodblock printing in Japan. The museum opened in 1980 and has 12,000 pieces which late Seizo Ohta, former president of a large insurance company collected through his life. They change the exhibition every month.

 

Ohta3-3.jpgThe current performance displays the new forms of Ukiyo-e art in the turbulent transitional period between the end of the Edo and the beginning of the Meiji Period when Japan was becoming modern and industrialized. 150 pieces are shown in the light of the 150th year from the Meiji Restoration which continues until February 25.

Ukiyo-e is a style of woodblock printing created and developed in Japan about 300 years ago during the Edo period. ‘uki’ means floating, ‘yo’ means world and ‘e’ means picture. Ukiyo-e thus literally represents pictures of the floating world. It depicts the everyday life of commonors and the Japanese landscape. It was originally black and white but then progressed into multi-color printing. The major artists are Utamaro Kitagawa,Hiroshige Utagawa and Hokusai Katsushika.
The low price of the new artwork attracted customers. When Ukiyo-e printing was used as wrapping paper for the ceramics and lacquer ware Japan exported to Europe, people in Europe were amazed at the freshness of printing, bright multi-color and bold composition. Ukiyo-e impacted the painters such as van Gogh and the French Impressionists. An interesting fact is that soon after the movement in Europe was reported to Japan, Ukiyo-e was admitted as an aesthetic quality in Japan.
Today Ukiyo-e is popular and loved by many people not only in Japan but also the rest of the world. The museum is open from 10:30 to 17:30 except Monday. Admission is 700 yen. Why not visit the museum after our tour?

(posted by Yoshi)

 

Tour Report: January 18, 2018 (The East Garden of the Imperial Palace)

We thank all guests joining our East garden of Imperial Palace tour on Jan.18.

We welcomed 11 guests from U.K., Germany, Australia, and Argentina.

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It was nice and comfortable day like spring. Some plum flowers started to come out!
In Japan we can enjoy the plum blossoms in  February. The most famous plum blossoms is at Kairakuen in Mito-City which is a Japanese Traditional Circuit Style Garden where a lot of plum trees. Kairakuen was established in 1842 by Tokugawa Nariaki. It takes one and half hour long from Ueno Station to Kairakuen by express train and Bus. Please go there if you have a chance. Especially in February!

 

By the way,  we saw the Coach Parade at the Tokyo Station on that day. We were so happy to see it.

The Coach Parade is offered when the newly appointed foreign Ambassador visits the Emperor to present a credential letter. The newly appointed foreign Ambassador can choose the way to travel to the Imperial Palace by carriage or by car.
It is said that almost all of newly appointed Ambassador choose carriage because it is memorable and wonderful experience for them. Only a few countries offer it, for example U.K. Spain and Japan, so on. We saw the parade of the Ambassador from Gabon and the Ambassador from Burkina Faso. In 2018, The Coach Parade is scheduled for several times. So you can see it during staying Japan.

 

Posted by Y.Hino

 

 

 

TOUR REPORT: JANUARY 14, 2018 IN ASAKUSA

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Thank you for joining our first Asakusa tour this 2018.
On the day of the tour, 14th of January, with cold temperature and clear sunny skies, we welcomed ten guests from South Korea, Hong Kong, U.S.A., Canada, and Argentina.

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Group D,

Not surprisingly, the cold winter weather did not chase the visitors of Asakusa away. We were able to greet enthusiastic visitors not only from every corner of the district, but from other countries as well, despite the weather conditions in Japan.
As usual, after greeting everyone and introducing ourselves, we made our regular tour in Asakusa for 90 minutes.
Starting at the red painted gate, called Thunder Gate, we proceeded to the last spot,  Asakusa Shinto Shrine.
Despite the cold weather, the Sensoji Buddhist Temple compound where we started our tour was full of people. Looking around the huge temple grounds, we can see that it was jam-packed with visitors who were happily shopping for souvenirs and eating delicious food from stalls in the compound.

Known for its’ religious areas like Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines; big historical events; short cruises along the Sumida River; and delicious food available from street stalls; Asakusa is one of Japan’s most iconic and must-see locations.

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Are you looking for a reasonable-priced and reliable transportation while in Asakusa?
The Megurin bus service would be of great help to you as you tour the historical areas in and around Asakusa.
The Megurin is run and managed by the local government of the Taito Ward, which includes Asakusa and other neighboring towns. It is available at a fixed charge of 100 yen or 1$ per person.
These buses run on three different routes, the “North Megurin”, “South Megurin” and the Ëast-West Megurin” routes.
These buses are not only used by citizens of the town, but also by enthusiastic travelers. It is proven that this shuttle transportation service can fulfill their responsibility in meeting the needs of their passengers.

For instance, these circulating buses pass by communal facilities like nursing homes, city offices, museums, railroad stations, and other places that many people go to.
In addition to that, the road networks that the Megurin pass through makes it convenient enough for sight-seeing. Visitors can opt to ride one of the buses instead of walking while sight-seeing.
This is because the shuttle buses routes cover Asakusa and neighboring areas like Ueno and Yanaka, which are a few of the preferred sites that tourists visit in the area.
Moreover, the Megurin bus service also offers an “All-Day Pass” which offers an unlimited ride to all Megurin buses at 300 yen or 3$ valid for 1 day.
Aside from that, this community buses also feature a retro-designed body that will welcome and delight passengers.
Let us enjoy Asakusa and its neighboring areas by riding a Megurin bus.

(By Arac)

Tour Report on 13-January, 2018, the East Garden of the Imperial Palace

We thank many guests joining this tour on that day. We welcomed 20 guests from USA, Philippines, Hong Kong, Canada, Spain, Hungary, Argentina, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand.

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The sky was blue, but it was very cold day.

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We could enjoy Japanese apricot (Ume) blossom.
Ume blooms earlier than any trees in the winter and has a variety of flowers of white, red or pink, single or double-flowered. It has been considered as symbol of “energy of life” and “good omen”.
In addition, the fruit will be used for Ume-boshi(pickled plums) and Ume-shu(plums liquor).Both of them are very popular as healthy food or drink, because it contains a lot of organic acid including citric acid.

Most of Japanese wear western clothes everyday, and it is not easy even for Japanese to put a Kimono on by oneself.
However, Japanese still wear Kimono on special occasions and seasonal events, such as wedding, funeral of family member, as well as Coming of Age Day, Shichi-go-san (a festival day for children of three, five and seven years of age), and New Year’s Day.
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Formal Kimono made of pure silk is very expensive, but can be worn from generation to generation. It is often the case for young lady to wear Kimono that her mother wore when she was young.

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By Maki

Tour Report: January 7, 2018 (Meiji Shrine and Harajuku)

Thank you for joining our first Meiji Shrine and Harajuku tour of the year!

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walking down Takeshita-dori street

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, or the transition of political power from the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Constitutional Monarchy. The Shoguns had virtually closed down the country for over 250 years, until in the year 1868 when the Emperor took over and eventually opened the county to learn modern technology and culture from western powers. I, among many other people, find this transition very interesting, and it is something I like to share with guests who join our tour. Meiji Shrine built to commemorate the Meiji Emperor is an ideal location for such conversation.

It being the final days of the New Year season, there were still many people at the Meiji Shrine for “Hatsu Moude” or the first visit of the year to shrines to wish for good luck. There were also various food stalls out that we don’t normally see, and our guests were quick to try some bites.
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trying “Amazake”, or Japanese hot rice wine

On the second leg of the tour we strolled around Takeshita-dori street and Omote Sando street. This area has long been where the latest pop culture are born. There is always something new to find even in the narrowest alleys of Harajuku, and it is definitely worth walking around.

Thank you again to all our guests, I sincerely hope you will enjoy your stay in Japan to start a wonderful new year!

(Yohei)

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Tour Report : January 6, 2018 (The East Garden of the Imperial Palace)

Thank you very much for joining our first tour of the year 2018!  We 16 guides welcomed 24 guests from Australia, US, Netherlands, Canada and Germany, and divided into 5 groups.  Fortunately it was clear and not so cold, and the best day for walking outside.  We hope all our guests enjoyed all the spots of the tour.

 

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Anyways, I heard that many foreign tourists spent this new year holiday in Japan.  Did you try to visit to the shrines or temples at the midnight of January 1 for “Hatsu-moude” or  first visiting to there for good luck of the new year? Or did you try to eat the special meals for the new year called “Osechi” ?  Osechi are special dishes for the New Year holidays.  A variety of ingredients such as fish, black beans, rolled kelp, and vegetables are prepared and arranged artfully lacquer boxes.  And we also drink New Year’s spiced sake called “Otoso” in the hope of being healthy.

 

And there is another traditional custom of eating rice porridge with seven kinds of spring herbs, or “Nanakusa-gayu”, on January 7.  This is very healthy as these herbs are abundant in fiber and minerals, which improves blood circulation. This custom was introduced from China and became established by 8-9th century (Heian Period).  As you may easy to know, this porridge is also good for our digestion after eating and drinking too much during New Year parties. (Of course this walking tour was also good exercises for all the guides, ha ha ha… )

Thanks again to all the guests, and I sincerely hope you make many wonderful memories during your stay in Japan!

(Hisako)

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