TOUR REPORT ON MARCH 29TH(WEEKDAY TOUR) EAST GARDEN OF IMPERIAL PALACE

Thank you for joining our weekday tour of East Garden of Imperial Palace on March 29th. We were so happy to have met all 18 guests from U.S.A., Philippines, Australia, France, Canada, Sweden and UK.

It was the perfect day to watch cherry blossoms in full bloom. Many people came to East Garden of Imperial Palace. It was a bit hot like early summer. Not only the cherry blossoms but also the azalea came out earlier than we expected.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

As you know, now we can enjoy “Hanami” at many places in Tokyo. Ueno, Chidorigafuchi, Nakameguro, so on. But if you want to enjoy “Hanami” in a relaxed atmosphere with your family or friends, try to go out from the center of Tokyo.

I live in Ota-Ku, south district of Tokyo. Ota-Ku has Senzoku pond park. Senzoku pond park is at the 6th station from Gotanda Station on Tokyu Ikegami Line. Ikegami line is very short line. Senzoku pond park is suitable for strolling. It takes 15 minutes to walk around the pond. There are a lot of cherry trees along the pond. So people can see the beautiful pink cherry blossoms which look like pink crowds floating above the pond. It is perfect place for “Hanami” both day and night. I strongly recommend you to go to Senzoku pond park. The Cherry blossoms begin to fall from trees. Hurry up!

Posted by Y.Hino

Tour report on March 24th (afternoon tour) Imperial Palace East Gardens

We appreciate you joined the tour of Imperial Palace East Gardens on March 24th (afternoon tour). Guides were really happy more than 65 people joined our tour, what a day ! I’ve never been so happy in my life.

 

A lot of visitors enjoyed taking photos with full-bloomed cherry blossoms and kimonos. We prepare simple kimono costumes to enjoy taking photo at the end of our tour.

Weeping cherry called “Shidarezakura” and Yoshino cherry called “Someiyoshino” were fully bloomed on the day. Yoshino cherry is the most famous cherry blossom in Japan. It is said that the life span of the tree is about 50 to 60 years and so many trees in Japan will reach the end in a few years. Hence there is a risk to fall witches’ broom if we leave the dying tree as it is…Therefore so many trees might be hewed down after the full bloom season.

Through short conversations with visitors, I received the similar questions that “what is the difference of role between Japanese emperor and prime minister?” To put it simplify, Japanese emperor has been designated as “Symbol of Japan”. Emperor Akihito is not in charge of politics actually. On the other hand, the separation of the three powers rule Japan: executive (political), legislative, and judicial. Japanese prime minister is the leader of politics. The system is totally different from the presidential system such as United States of America.

Anyway, we also support foreign visitors to enjoy “Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival 2018” until April 8th. Surprisingly, around 1,200 Cherry blossom trees are planted at Ueno park. There are beautiful lake, zoo that is famous for cute pandas and delicious food stands for the festival too. We fully support you enjoy the festival!

“Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival 2018”

http://japan-attractions.jp/festivals/upper-cherry-blossom-festival/

(Posted by Yas)

Tour Report on 24 March 2018, Morning tour to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace

 

We thank many guests joining the tour. On that day cherry blossoms were in full bloom, which was 9 days earlier than normal year. The weather was very fine and warm. We welcomed 19 guests from USA, UK, Mexico, Philippines, Nederland, Italy, Chile, Spain, Malaysia, New Zealand and Ireland. We divided into 3 groups.

 

Inside the East Garden we spared time to enjoy cherry blossoms viewing. For almost next 2 weeks, you can enjoy pink-white petal trees everywhere in the city.

We are completely in spring season, so the winter ended already. During winter period we met tourists who came to Japan for snow sports now it turns out to be those who come to see the cherry blossoms. White snow to pink white flowers.

But you can still enjoy snow in some highlands. You can take a day trip from Tokyo as described in other report. It is Spring skiing period. Snow still remains but the temperature rose and the weather is mild. Skiers and snowboarders can be naked on the snow. A lot of foreigners are skiing there just like cherry blossom viewering in the East Garden.

hakuba-naked

In some ski resorts like Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture, a resort condominium for foreigners was sold out. Looks like foreigners like skiing in Japan more than Japanese.

P1110240

Many foreigners ask us why skiing is no longer very popular sport for Japanese. Current ski population is less than half of peak period.

The peak period was late 1980’s to early 1990’s, which coincided with economic booming period called “Bubble Economy.” Because many people including youngsters were rich, they could afford expensive trips and ski wear and equipment cost and many people thought skiing was a gorgeous leisure so anybody wanted to join. After the bubble economy collapsed, skiing has become less popular and some of ski resorts were closed. Now ski resorts are inviting skiers from abroad. Thanks to foreign skiers, the resorts can manage their local economy. It is good for Japanese ski lovers as well because that can stop closing of good ski resorts.

Last winter season railway company, JR East launched sales campaign using memory of ski booming period. It was titled “Take me to SKI by Bullet Train.”

The title and image were copied and modified from a popular ski film “Take me to SKI” in that period. The film sparked the ski boom. This campaign aims to remind middle age people of their young days when they were eager to go to ski resorts. The film not only depicted youngsters love for skiing but rich life of those days. Not very realistic for youngsters of today. I, myself a middle aged skier remember those days and like the film so I traveled to a ski resort to meet with a professional ski demonstrator, WATANABE Saburo, who was No.1 pro skier in those days and acted as a double for the ski scenes of the protagonist in the film, which was supposedly played by a famous actor.

Nowadays, ski resorts offer youngsters free lift tickets to make them interested in snow sports. Those aged 19 to early 20’s can get free weekday lift tickets. Having good memories in young days can keep you skiing even in older age. That is true for me.

What do you think want to do if you are rich? Coming to Japan to ski and view cherry blossoms? Skiing and cherry blossoms are seasonal matters. All year around, what you can enjoy with big money is playing with Geisha. In Tokyo and Kyoto there are great Geisha entertainment districts. In Kyoto, Geisha girls are so popular that the party house entrance was surrounded by tourists waiting to see a Geisha getting on a taxi. In the town, because of such popularity, warning sign is posted not to cause troubles with Geisha.

Inviting Geisha girls to the party room, they dance and sing and play with guests. That costs a lot, but should be worth it. High ranking party house for Geisha entertainment only accepts guests with referrals. First time alone is not allowed. You should accompany someone who has already become a regular guest there. Such guests are usually executives of the big corporations. In the past a famous auto maker provided bonus to their employees by giving them free access to party houses in a Geisha district.

geiko

I imagine being a guest entertained by a Geisha at a party room after skiing and hot spring bathing or in a garden with full-bloom cherry trees. Sorry, I am not that rich. How about you?

By Masa

 

Tour Report on 19 March 2018, Asakusa

Many thanks to the guests joining the tour. On that day at Sensoji Temple we welcomed 12 guests from Mexico, Phillipines, Argentina, Malaysia, and Norway. We divided into 4 groups. The weather was cloudy but spring has already come. Some of cherry blossoms started to bloom.

During the tour, you see statues halfway to the main temple hall, on back side of the entrance gate, Kaminari-mon there placed a couple statues.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

They are humanized dragon couple. One is male and the other is female. As a proof, both have tales in the back. Their original figure is flying snake with a scary head. They are the guardians of the Buddha in Sensoji temple. In the main hall, dragon figure is painted on the ceiling.

B1

Dragons were originally living in the Sumida River near the temple and appeared as guardians. We call them “Ryu.” There are many legends about dragons. The statues hold balls which can make any wish come true like Japan’s famous animation drama “Dragon Ball.”

For ordinary citizens, dragons are good luck and hazard prevention charm because they can cause rainfall, which is good for farming in the sense they can prevent drought and are good for the wooden building to protect from fire.

In some region of Japan, Dragons themselves are worshiped as gods at Shinto shrine. In Henoko town, Nago City, in Okinawa, southernmost island of Japan, there enshrined a sea dragon on the seacoast. Locals believe there lives a dragon god, which is divine and invincible.

Dragons living by water may be similar to a popular song, “Puff, the magic dragon.”

However, dragons are imaginary animals. At the souvenir shops in the temple premise, you find statues of cats and dogs. Cats with one hand moving back and forth is “Maneki-neko (Inviting Cat). This gesture means “Come in” in Japanese custom.

IMG_20180319_094008

They are getting pedestrians into the shop in which the cat is placed. So if you buy one, it can be a charm for growth of business. A dog statue is a symbol of this year in the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac, which we call ETO, is 12  animal year cycle starting from mouse, and then cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, bird, dog and then end with boar. Then it restarts from mouse. Every 12 year cycle, one meets his/her own year, in which one should rethink his/her life.

But the strange thing is there is no cat in the 12 Eto animals although cats are more popular pets than dogs in Japan. There is a legend about that. In the ancient time, a god invited all the animals on earth to Eto award ceremony which would be held on January 1st, first 12 animals who could reach the ceremony site could have been given Eto titles. Every animal was excited about that. But CAT forgot the date of ceremony so she asked MOUSE when it was. He took advantage of that and told her it was January 2nd. Then CAT missed the title. MOUSE was greedy and used COW as carriage to get to the ceremony and jumped off COW’s back once they reached the site so that he could become 1st  animal in the 12 year cycle. Later CAT learnt she was cheated by MOUSE. That is why cats are hunting mice.

DSCN0007

There are many legends or fairy tales related to statues, deities, gods, and even Buddha. Guides will tell you these so that you can enjoy the tour more. Why not join the tour to learn interesting stories?

By Masa

TOUR REPORT ON MARCH 18, 2018 AT MEIJI SHRINE AND HARAJUKU

Thank you for joining our tour at Meiji Shrine and Harajuku on March 18. We had 22 guests  from America, Canada, Italy, Sweden, India and Malaysia. I hope all of you enjoyed our walking tour  in lovely Spring weather.

Grou D111Group A1Group B1Team C11

Meiji Shrine is known for the most popular shrine with over three million visitors during the new year days. The shrine is dedicated to the souls of Emperior Meiji and Empress Shoken.

The Shrine has unique omikuji. Omikuji is ramdomly drawn fortune-telling papers. However, Meiji shrine’s omikuji is different and particular. While other places provide with predictions ranging from the best luck to the worst luck, people here draw a poem composed by Emperior Meiji and Empress Shoken. Omikuji does not say anything good or bad and has waka in stead. Waka is the traditional Japanese poems of 31 syllables in the pattern 5-7-5-7-7. The Emperior and Empress are the experts of waka and left many poems to later generations. There are about 100,000 made by the Emperior and about 30,000 by the Empress.
Although omikuji has over a millenium of history, Meiji Shrine had no omikuji until WWⅡ partly because it was a state owned entity but after the war the Shrine became independent and made an particular and impressive type. Considering the enshrined deities of the Emperior and Empress as well as their favorite waka, the Shrine decided to form their waka poems as omikuji.
Many of these Imperial poems express the ethical lessons teaching you not to do something as a warning or how to live a moral life. Actually the omikuji has a good reputation because the warning is accurate.

The English version is available. Visitors can draw a poem from the 20 selected poems(translation and explanation) at the shrine office. Omikuji paper is made of the traditional Japanese paper ‘washi’ with the Imperial chrysanthemum pattern having pleasant appearances. As there is no tree or stand to tie omikuji as seen elsewhere, it is recommendable for visitors to bring one home. 100 yen for apiece.
Omikuji at Meiji Shrine may have the power to change your life.

(posted by Yoshi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour report on March 17th (afternoon tour) Imperial Palace East Gardens

Thank you very much for joining our tour to the Imperial Palace East Gardens on March 17th (afternoon tour).
The tour welcomed 13 guests, including a cute little baby.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The weather was nice for walking with a cool breeze. The excitement of early spring spread over the air.
On the same day (March 17th), the Japan Meteorological Agency had just made an “official announcement” of cherry flowering in Tokyo.

2018.03.17_C008

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Spring is the good season to do activities outside. Being a horse lover, I acknowledge spring as the best season to enjoy riding in warm and fresh air!

The interesting point of riding is how humans communicate with horses. Without exchanging any words, horses can follow humans’ intention and, in turn, riders can know how horses feel. This mutual trust and understanding has been the most difficult task throughout my 14-year-old riding experiences, but this is definitely what makes me delighted.

Misaki-uma

https://ja.wikipedia.org

Horse riding is rather minor activity in Japan, since horses need vast land to be kept. Even so, I personally want more people to spend a wonderful time with horses.

If you could meet me in this tour, please tell me how you can get along with horses in your countries.

(Yoko)

TOUR REPORT ON MARCH 17 A.M. 2018, THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

We thank guests from all over the world who joined the tour on Saturday morning.
We welcomed 12 people from Malaysia, U.K., Philippines, China. We divided into 3 groups.

A集合写真IMG_0184IMG_2846

I hope all of you enjoyed walking in lovely Spring weather.

you are always welcomed to drop in this tour anywhere along the tour course. Find our flag and join us!
The tour to the Imperial Palace East Gardens starts from TOKYO STATION MARUNOUCHI CENTRAL GATE.
We are looking forward to seeing you!!

==========
Tokyo Free Walking Tour holds regular tours every Saturday & Sunday, and irregular tours in weekdays.
If you are in Tokyo, why not come and join us?
Visit our website for the latest schedule!

East Gardens of the Imperial Palace ( Mar. 11th morning)

IMG_5921
Plums at International Christian University last month

The plum blooms are almost over, and now we are counting down the days for the cherry blossoms.

March 11th was a fine day and I went with a family of four from Singapore. There were two schoolboys, always a challenge for me because its now very difficult to remember what I was interested in back when I was their age. My sincere hopes that they found not only our tour but also their stay in Japan as something pleasant to remember!

It was also a special tour in that our team was joined by members of Explore Japan – an organization run by high school students to  train volunteers and tour guides. They are quite impressive and they have custom tours, so I suggest you take a look at their website for your next visit to Japan.

20180311_Ball2

GroupA_photo


Visitors to Japan has steadily been growing over the past year with 28.7M in 2017, and the government has a goal of increasing the figure to  40M in 2020. As such, we are continuously trying to improve our tour.

Sunday morning tour is such a trial, we are trying to figure out what day/time best suit travelers from abroad.

Do you prefer Saturday mornings when places are less crowded? Or would you rather sleep late because you hop bars on Friday nights?

Drop us your comments on our Facebook and TripAdvisor page, and help us make a better tour for our guests!

(Yohei)

 

TOUR REPORT ON MARCH 11, 2018 IN ASAKUSA

Thank you for joining our tour in Asakusa on March 11. We had the seven friendly guests from UK, Australia, America, Brazil and Columbia. I hope all of you enjoyed walking with us in comfortable Spring weather.

B GroupC 集合A

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are plenty of great events and festivals in Asakusa throughout the year. March 18 is Honzon Jigen-e to celebrate the appearance of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy housed at Sensoji Temple. Three mikoshi (portable shrines) are carried out of Asakusa Shrine and various dances are performed at the temple precincts.
On that day in the year of 628 two fishermen brothers were catching fish in the nearby Sumida River and caught a small wooden statue. Then they brought back to the village and the village chief recognized the significance of the find as the Goddess of Mercy and converted his house into a temple. This is the beginning of Sensoji Temple which is celebrated by the Honzon Jigen-e ritual.

(Origin)                                     (Sensoji Temple)                   (Asakusa Shrine)
Later adjoining Asakusa Shrine was built to honor the three men who were involved in the discovery of the statue. That’s why three mikoshi are housed in the storage. Although the famous Sanja Festival respecting the three men is now held in mid-May, it used to be performed on March 18 until the govenment separated Shintoism from Buddhism about 150 years ago.
In the evening of March 17 three mikoshi are carried into the main hall of Sensoji Temple after the divine spirit is transferred. Each mikoshi weighs 1000 kilograms. At the main hall the three souls have a reunion with the Goddess of Mercy and stay overnight there.

(Photos:The Asakusa Tourism Federation 365 ASAKUSA)
On the following day on March 18 three mikoshi move out of the main hall and parade through the town of Asakusa and return to the Shrine. During the daytime there are various perfomances and dances. Golden dragon dance should be most elegant and spectacular. On that day when the statue appeared, the guardian dragon king is said to have swooped down from the sky to the earth. The dragon dance is performed in the temple precincts three times at 11:30, 14:00 and 15:30 on March 18.

(Photos:The Asakusa Tourism Federation 365 ASAKUSA)
If you are around Asakusa on March 18, it is worthwhile to see the mikoshi ritual and dance performances. Last but not least it would be nice for you to join our next tour in Asakusa on March 19 regardess of the above-mentioned event.

(posted by Yoshi)

 

 

 

 

TOUR REPORT ON MARCH 10, 1 P.M. 2018, THE EAST GARDENS OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

Thank you all our guests who joined “March 10, 13:00 tour.

We had 14 guests from Germany, USA, Mexico, India, UK, Canada, Israel and Argentina .

We had nice time walking around in the garden.

IMG_0354

IMG_0356

group pictureC   please upload to HP

please-upload-to-HP-2

 

Weatherforecast says that “Someiyoshino Sakura” major kind of cherry blossom may open next week in Tokyo .

Oh I will be busy  to make many appointments of “Sakura” viewing parties with many friends.

Let’s enjoy Japanese spring!

( reported by Keiko N)