TOUR REPORT ON APRIL 26, 2018 IN ASAKUSA

 

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Thank you for joining to “Tokyo Free Walking Tour – Asakusa Route” on April 26.  We welcomed 12 guests from Argentina, Austria, Canada, India, Portugal and USA. It was a lovely sunny day though was rather hot.  But there was a light breeze which was very pleasant.

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Asakusa is one of the most popular districts in Tokyo for both local and overseas visitors. The area is always crowded with people thus we usually divide guests into small groups so that guests could enjoy our guiding and interactive communication with us.

On the 3rd weekend of May, one of the biggest events for Asakusa is scheduled, i.e. Sanja Matsuri.  Sanja Matsuri or Sanja Festival is one of the three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo held annually for 3 days on the third weekend of May in Asakusa Shrine. The festival is held in honor of the three men who founded Senso-ji Temple. Sanja Matsuri is considered as one of the wildest and largest festivals in Tokyo, which welcomes over 2 million visitors in 3 days.  The chances are that you will learn more details from the report of next Asakusa tour scheduled on May 21.

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For this issue, let me introduce you a lovely annual event held on April 28, Saturday.  It is Naki-Sumo Contest, or Crying Baby Contest.  This is a contest competing with baby’s crying voices on the temporary sumo-ring at the space behind the Senso-ji main building. In Japan, it is said that a crying baby grows healthy and strong. Naki-sumo is a traditional ceremony-like event praying baby’s a happiness and good health. Babies who were born in previous year are qualified for entitlement, but just one time for life.  Usually babies are asked not to cry.  But, on this occasion, babies are asked to cry bitterly by all adults, such as parents, sumo referee and so on.  In indifference, many babies are just sleeping or laughing.  Really peaceful and heart-warming scene.

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(Reported by Akemi)

 

TOUR REPORT ON 28-April, 2018, THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

We explored the East Garden of the Imperial Palace with 48 guests from all over the world.  It’s a comfortable sunny day.

Our tour started from the Tokyo station, red brick beautiful building.

We walked to the Imperial Palace through the Marunouchi, which is the center of Japanese business.

The Imperial Palace is the former Edo Castle of the Samurai government of the Shogunate in the 17-19 century. We visited the old castle gate and castle towers.

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It was the first day of the Golden Week in Japan.
What’s the Golden Week?
We have many national holidays at the end of April and the beginning of May.

April 28
Showa Day
The birthday of the Emperor Showa, who was reigning 1926-1989.

May 3
Constitution Memorial Day

May 4
Greenery Day

May 5
Children’s Day

So that, many people enjoy travel, leisure, activity and so on.
We are very happy!

Now, it’s the middle of the spring in Tokyo. In the Ninomaru Japanese Style garden, flowers and greenery were so beautiful.

Finally, we had a photo session of our quick kimono. Kimono is the traditional Japanese clothing. Our guests were in kimono. They look like a samurai and a samurai princess. It’s so cool.

Thank you very much for joining our tour.
Have a nice trip!

(Posted by Masa Ito)

Tour Report on April 21, 2018, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.

Thank you for all our guests who joined ” April 21, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace”.  We welcomed 43 guests from U.S.A,  Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, Italy, Germany, India, Indonesia and Malta.

As you see in the pictures, not only adults but also a lot of children fully enjoyed our tour at flourish and lushly green gardens 🙂

On April 25th, Emperor Akihito and empress Michiko held annual garden-party at “Akasaka Imperial Garden”. Emperor and Empress enjoyed talking among top-notch medalists of Olympic Games and other professionals who got People’s Honor Awards in Japan. These guests were really proud of themselves to see Emperor and Empress. The noble and gorgeous event was attracted wide press coverage in Japan.

Getting back to talking about our tour, it is said that The Imperial Household Agency will start offering guided tours of the Imperial Palace in English from May in response to the growing number of foreign visitors there. We hope we will cooperate with them regarding imperial palace tour in the future since we already have much experiences of east garden tour for long time!

The sun has been strong these days in Tokyo hence please make sure to wear sunglasses, putting on sunscreen and keeping carry water with you to prevent heatstroke and dehydration.

We really looking forward to meet you before long!

(Posted by Yas)

TOUR REPORT ON APRIL 22, 2018 IN ASAKUSA

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking.
On that day, April 22, we were honored to welcome 19 guests to our walking tour.
These people came from different regions of the world, including U.S.A., U.K., Israel, Canada, Italy, Malaysia, and Germany.

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Apparently, we experienced a windfall condition which was higher temperature than that of seasonal ones.
As we started our tour, the temperature seemed to increase more than 25 degrees and it completely allowed us to wear sweatshirts.
Normally, the daytime temperature rises around 20 degrees, though, at night or early morning, we occasionally have less than 15 degrees.
This is a typical atmosphere of springtime in Japan because this unstable weather condition lasts in the late spring.
Under this seasonal atmosphere, we were pleased to meet a lot of Asakusa lovers.
Kaminarimon Gate, or Thunder Gate warmly welcomed us while we’re strolling in this iconic spot for around 90 minutes.

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Most of our visitors are a little familiar with the Sensoji Buddhist Temple and some temple rituals due to the information provided by websites like Trip Advisor, Facebook and other social media sites.
However, before we step foot into the sacred Buddhist building of the Sensoji Temple, let’s take a look around. At the left side of the building, we can see a stone-like monument or concrete marker, called the Maigo Ishi.
Amazingly, legend and history say that this spot once served as a place for social interactions among local Asakusa people in the Edo era(from 1603 to 1861).
Let’s see for ourselves and share this hidden location as well, like how the people in the old days in Asakusa interacted with one another through this small spot. This is one of the few inconspicuous places in Asakusa, and similar to that we have introduced before in this Asakusa blog, alongside the Kumeno-Heinando.

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Maigo-Ishi literally means the stone for missing people in English, stands nearby the main hall of Sensoji Buddhist Temple in Asakusa.
It’s 1.8 meters high and a rectangular shaped stone, which was used like some kind of a bulletin board.
Commonly, people wrote down the name and the personal information of their loved ones on a piece of paper and stuck them on the left side of the face in hope that someone could luckily find their missing persons.
Likewise, some people wrote down relevant information and stuck it on the right side in response to inquiries.
It was not uncommon that children get lost in case of emergency like accidental fire or sudden earthquakes because it frequently happened in the Edo period.
Additionally, citizens believed that some of the lost people would get spirited away.
Therefore, this majestic stone fulfilled its responsibility to help the desperate people, who unfortunately lost their hopes, reunite with their loved ones.
Aside from this unique landmark, there are two other sites in Tokyo where the same type of stones convey roles alike.
These historical assets still retain the atmosphere of the Edo period in Tokyo.

(By Arac)

TOUR REPORT ON APRIL 24TH, 2018 (WEEKDAY TOUR) EAST GARDENS OF IMPERIAL PALACE

Thank you very much for joining our weekday tour to the Imperial Palace East Gardens on April 24th. We welcomed 11 guests from Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy and USA.

We divided our guests into 3 groups. It was cloudy but it was a good day to walk around the gardens. We hope all of you enjoyed the tour.

We could see a lot of flowers in the gardens, such as wisterias, azaleas, and iris japonicas. We also enjoyed seeing new green leaves.

Cherry blossom season has ended in most parts of Japan, but you still have a great chance to see beautiful cherry blossoms in the north of Japan such as Tohoku and Hokkaido.

One of the best places to view wisterias is the Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture, about 2 hours from Tokyo. There are various colors of wisteria to be seen, such as pink, purple, blue, and white. Now they are in full bloom and so gorgeous! One large wisteria tree is 150 years old and its branches are supported to create a huge umbrella of blue flowers. There is also a long white wisteria tunnel that visitors walk through enjoying the beauty of the flowers from below.

 

We thank you all again, and we hope you have wonderful memories in Japan!

(posted by Kaori)

 

 

TOUR REPORT ON APRIL 15, 2018 AT MEIJI SHRINE AND HARAJUKU

On that day, April 15, we were honored to welcome 13 guests to our walking tour. These people came from different corners of the world, including U.S.A., Australia, Brazil, Singapore and Israel.

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Springtime, has finally reached its peak, so most of the cherry blossoms have reached the height of their blossoming. Therefore, we can no longer see any blossoming in certain parts of Tokyo.
However, in a sacred place called the Meiji Jingu, a relaxing evergreen forest can fascinate and impress us instead.
Under this seasonal atmosphere, we were pleased to meet a lot of Harajuku enthusiasts.
Torii, or a shrine gate, was overlooking us, and it seemed to warmly welcome our tour group, as it always does.
We commenced our 90 minutes-strolling in front of the Torii.

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———— Clapping One’s Hands————–

As everyone knows, clapping of hands are universal gestures normally seen in events, ceremonies and performances for people to express their appreciation, respect or gratitude. This movement is called “Hakusyu” in Japanese.
But in Japanese culture, clapping of hands can also have a different purpose. One example is typically done in shrines, with different approach and is also accompanied by rhythm.
One of the types of this hand gesture is conducted in Shinto rituals for people to express their respect to deities in hopes of having solace and comfort. This clapping of hands is called “Kashiwade“.
These are the steps on how to pray to the deities with “Kashiwade”.
First, you should approach in front of the Shinto building and make two bows.
Next, clap your hands twice, but slowly and gracefully.
Finally, bow once more. (See video)

https://youtu.be/xMWJVDPR4Pc

Additionally, these hand strikes can also be seen in the end of a special event to bring the occasion to a peaceful, lively close.
It’s called “Tejime”, roughly translated as “closing by hand”. Tejime means the conclusion of important and successful events such as a celebration, a grand opening, or the closing of a deal or other business negotiations.
There are variations on how to do “Tejime” in line with the locally traditional rhythm.

The main types are:       C ⇒⇒one clap      space ⇒⇒a slight pause
@ Itchō-jime: This is a single clap.
C
@ Ippon-Jime:  Repeat a set of three claps, and clap once.
CCC   CCC   CCC      C
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(They are making “Ippon-Jime clap” to conclude their tour.)

@ Sanbon-jime : Repeat a set of Ippon-Jime three times (See video)
CCC   CCC   CCC      C
CCC   CCC   CCC      C
CCC   CCC   CCC      C

https://youtu.be/18LOU4gGS2o

Teijime is normally done by a group and is led by a person with high stature, leadership or age.
These Japanese traditional gestures are different from normal clapping because they are done for special and important events.
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Apparently, April marks the 6th month of the Harajuku regular tour, since it started on September last year. Currently, we are welcoming a steady number of participants to our strolling tour. Why don’t you come and join us in our Harajuku tour, so we could discuss many informative topics like “What is Shinto and what is Buddhist?”
(By Arac)

Tour Report on 14 April 2018, East Garden of the Imperial Palace

18年4月14日写真1We could welcome 59guests amazingly although cherry blossoms season was over.

We were so grateful having such a so many guests!

Here are our group photos. See below,

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The East Garden of the Imperial Palace has many kinds of cherry blossoms. Most of them were over. They are at their bests at the beginning of April in a typical year, but it came earlier this year. It was at the end of March.

I anticipated that I couldn’t show the guests cherry blossoms that some of our guests expected to see. I felt sorry for it. But fortunately, I found some cherries still bloom in the garden.

Our course in the East Garden of the Imperial Palace features a Japanese style-garden which is called “ninomaru-garden”. Here the other our group photo having the garden in the background.

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Azaleas, wisterias, Japanese irises, Japanese roses, and peonies were in full blooms. Our guests walked and enjoyed to see there.

Thanks for reading, I hope YOU join our tour next time.

Written by Akira Hoyanagi

 

TOUR REPORT ON APRIL 8 AT MAIJI SHRINE AND HARAJYUKU

Thank you for joining our Meiji Shrine and Harajuku Tour on April 8. We were so happy to have met all 13 guests from U.S.A.,Australia,Brazil and Taiwan. The guests were devided into 3 groups and a few guides for each group.
It was lovely day for walking tour and we enjoyed fresh air in the Shrine.

 

 

The last half of the tour is walking around HARAJYUKU shopping district. This area is very busy and fantastic. We walk through TAKESITA-DORI(TAKESITA street) one of most famous street in Tokyo. It is very popular with young teenagers, particularly those visiting Tokyo on school trips, or local young people shopping for small KAWAII goods and having fun at weekends.

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There are many small shops and major chain shops like DAISO(100yen shop) and some pleasant cafes. Those are cat café and owl café! You can touch cats or owls with drinking something. If you want to touch another interesting animal,I recommend hedgehog café nearby TAKESITA-DORI. 

We TFWT have another tours. Please check the tour schedule on this homepage.

 

 

 

Tour Report on 7 April 2018, East Garden of the Imperial Palace

Many thanks to the guests joining the tour. On that day we welcomed 38 people from USA, Israel, Australia, Nederland, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Vietnam, Russia, Spain and France. We divided into 5 groups. The weather was cloudy and windy.

From last week of last month, the most prominent cherry blossom tree called “Someiyoshino” started to come out and this week the trees were ending the blossoming.

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But instead some other species of cherry trees came out along with other spring flowers such as azaleas in the garden.

The period of Someiyoshino blossoming is almost the same nationwide except Southernmost island prefecture Okinawa and Northern regions such as Tohoku and Hokkaido.

During the period, I traveled to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

In Nagasaki, a port city of Kyushu Island (Southernmost among main 4 Japan islands), cherry trees blossom just next to the monument in memorial of 26 Christians who were executed at the site during the feudal period when Japan banned Christianity. It seemed cherry blossoms comforted the souls of the Christians. If you want to know history related to the Christians, please watch the film “Silence.”

Then in Hiroshima, cherry blossoms bloomed at the Hiroshima castle, recreation of the feudal lord castle after the war and the riverside that connects from the castle to the A-bomb dome and the Peace Memorial Park, where the tomb for the victims on which the message “Please rest in peace and this will never happen again” is inscribed and the Museum that exhibit records and evidence of what happened in August 1945 are located.

The dome is designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cherry blossoms and the dome might not match with each other. But because of beauty of the trees in addition to significance of the facilities, majority of the visitors were foreigners. It seemed cherry trees contributed to the world peace.

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So from south of main four island chain to Tokyo region, the Someiyoshino blossom and fall down in the same period. It is because the flowers are clones of the same specie. But there are many other cherry blossom species. Some blossom earlier and some do later.

In this week, in Kyoto, Omuro-Zakura was in full-bloom at Ninaji Buddhist Temple. They blossom after Someiyoshino season ended. The feature of the trees are short-height. In Kyoto beautiful women of short-height are called the same name “Omuro no Sakura. (Cherry trees in Omuro)” If you miss Someiyoshino, you should visit there to enjoy these short height cherry trees instead.

Cherry blossoms are not only for viewing but also used for other methods so that you can enjoy this even after blooming of the flowers ended. Cherry blossom flavor is used for ice cream. The color of ice cream is pink-white and it tastes sweet like the flower.

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Not just for eating but clothing, it can be dyed of the flower color by soaking with the tree essence.

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You view, eat and wear cherry blossoms. The beauty of the flowers are penetrated into various parts of Japanese life.

By Masa

TOUR REPORT ON APRIL 1, 2018 AT MEIJI JINGU SHRINE AND HARAJUKU

Under the perfect warm weather, we welcomed 35 guests!! They are from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Singapore and US. The guests were separated into five groups so that eleven tour guides could have closer communication with each guest in small groups.


We got together in front of the Ichino Torii Gate located right across the tiny bridge over JR Harajuku station, and began the tour on time, 10 am.
After learning about how to go through “torii,” i.e. to stop to bow for a moment before cross underneath, we had a nice walk on gravel path surrounded by fresh green forests toward the main shrine building. On the way, we explained various aspects of Japanese culture such as the imperial families, sake barrels and use of sake for spiritual purification, prayers crowd on new year’s eve, etc.
Before going into the main shrine, the guests could experience how to wash their hands to purify their hands and mouth. Then inside, we prayed together to the evergreen tree branch called Sakaki in Japanese, whose green leaves have sharp top to receive God’s bless from the upper world. The guests could also learn the precise manner of praying from the guides.


In addition to just praying with their hands putting together in front of God, throwing money, writing your wish on a wooden tablet called Ema was another fun event. Some of the guests today really did it had lots of fun.
As a gift to us, probably from God, we were lucky enough to see at least two couples in kimono for wedding around the building.
Having experienced solemn atmosphere inside the shrine, we plunged into the crowd of Harajuku, the mecca of Japan’s pop culture and fads. Since it was Sunday and right in the middle of a spring break for students as well; plus in the best season for going out, Takeshita Street were full of people. We barely keep walking to the end, which took far longer than usual. We hope the guests enjoyed even such a crowd as one of the must do’s, or inevitably “have to do” in Tokyo. (Posted by A.I.)