BUDDHIST AND SHINTO DEITIES ARE WAITING FOR THE NEW YEAR SEASON, the 23rd of December, Asakusa

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour in Asakusa.
On the day of our two-guided tours, the 23rd of December, we welcomed 22 guests on our walking tour.
These people came from different corners of the world, including Malaysia, Switzerland, Philippine, U.S.A. and U.K.
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The hectic and restless atmosphere in Japan signals that the year-end festivity has finally started. In Asakusa, most of the streets are packed with the influx of holiday shoppers, tourists and Buddhist devotees.

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An iconic location in the area named the “Kaminarimon Gate” or Thunder Gate is also surrounded by people. Most of them are tourists taking photos, trying to preserve the memories against the red painted gate. After managing to go through the Buddhist gate, tour groups stepped onto a busy street called the Nakamise Street. This street serves as the path to the main hall of the Sensoji Buddhist Temple. Still having some obstruction on our way to the narrow street, we were able to share to the group the information regarding the size and historical background of Nakamise street. Looking up at the colorful signboards and decorations hanging from the shops lining the streets, we felt that this, along with the jam-packed shopping areas that we passed, are real signs of the start of the year-end festivities in Japan. These jolly decorations and signboards are usually associated with things seen during New Year celebration. These include battledores, kites, and other lucky charms.


At the time we concluded the tour in the Asakusa Shinto Shrine, with joy, we coincidentally saw two people working hand-in-hand in making mochi, or rice cakes, in the Asakusa Shinto Shrine compound during our tour.
The mochi that they are making will most likely be offered to the Shinto deity enshrined in this religious establishment for the upcoming New Year celebration.


In the past, it was customary that most of the families made mochi in their home during the year end, and enjoyed eating these celebratory foods during new year season in hopes of being persistent and persevering person like mochi because of its stickiness.
Nowadays, we rarely encounter the mochi making act in Japan because people buy the mochi at grocery stores.


This was the final tour this year of the Asakusa area.
It’s our pleasure to have welcomed people from the different countries for the entire year.
A lot of people participated in our Asakusa walking tour and expressed their great interests in religious rituals or topics related to Japanese cuisine like ramen, sushi or other distinctive dishes.
Aside from that, we truly appreciate some guests who extended their stay and joined our last day’s tour held in the East Garden of the Imperial Ground to participate in this Asakusa guiding.
Hopefully, more and more guests willingly come and join our tours.
Have a nice new year holiday.
(By Arac)

Tour Report on Dec. 22 (The East Garden of the Imperial Palace)

On 22nd of December 2018, we had the last tour to The East Garden of The Imperial Palace for this year. Despite the cold rainy weather, we had 15 guests from Australia, Canada, Philippines, India and China. We are thankful to all of them for attending our tour in the bad weather.

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This year, we can still enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage. As strolling along the path of the East Garden, we were sometimes greeted by the gingko’s dazzling yellow and maple’s stunning red.

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By the way, today is 23rd of December, and is the current Emperor’s 85th birthday. Also, it is the last birthday for him as the Emperor. He abdicates at the end of next April, and the current crown prince ascends the throne soon after that. Since the current Emperor has been much loved and admired by the people of Japan, many people visited the Imperial Palace today to celebrate his birthday on the General Public for His Majesty’s Birthday. Recently the visitors are not only Japanese but also many tourists from abroad. For those who missed attending, the chance of greeting the royal family comes again on the 2nd of January 2019. And it’s entirely the last to see him directly as the Emperor. Most Japanese are more or less sentimental recalling the 30 years of his era. This period of time is called Heisei “平成”. At present, nobody knows what name is going to be given to the new Emperor’s era. Whatever the name is, we do hope the upcoming new era will be filled with peace, hope, aspiration and joy!

(Posted by Masako)

Tour Report on Dec.18 (The East Garden of the Imperial Palace weekday tour)

We had two guests from Germany and Singapore joining our weekday tour at the East Garden of the Imperial Palace on Dec.18 .

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It was a beautiful sunny day to enjoy the colorful leaves of ginkgo trees and maple trees that still remained in the beginning of winter .

 

As it was a weekday morning tour ,  we found few visitors walking around .  Therefore , we had enough time to appreciate not only  peaceful surroundings but also the exhibition of the Imperial collections at the Sannomaru Shozokan Museum .

 

We were so happy to share an enjoyable time with our guests , and hope they add our tour on their memories of Japan .

( by    Rei )

 

THE SHINTO DEITY CALMLY WELCOME AN INFLUX OF VISITORS – the 16th of December, Harajuku

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking tour in Harajyuku areas.
On the day of December 16, with a low temperature and overcast sky, we welcomed eighteen guests from different regions like U.S.A., Australia, Canada, Israel, Germany and U.K.

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Finally, December has come.
The hectic year-end holiday season undeniably brings us restless times and drives us into engaging into piles of work and commitments.
In Japanese households, people start their extensive year-end cleaning tasks, and in the workplace, workers are confronted by the deadlines of their tasks before the year ends.
It is a kind of routine that people do, brought about by the season.
During this time of the day, we happily met 18 early-bird tourists of the walking tour and commenced in front of the huge torii, or the gate of the Shinto shrine.
After designating the participants to their respective tour guides, and after the introductions, we started the 90-minute tour of Tokyo’s Harajuku district along with our tour route.

Once we stepped into the evergreen forest that nestles the Meiji Shinto Shrine, most of the members of the tour seemingly forgot the restless and hectic ambiance of the city, and it was replaced by a sense of calm brought about by the tranquil and soothing environment inside the shrine compound.

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This sacred place is also a good venue for tourists and travelers to learn about special events that are occasionally conducted in shrines, in line with the Shinto rituals, like shichigosan , and Japanese traditional weddings.
Aside from celebrations, there are also specific locations that are important to the Shinto belief. Some of them are the Chozuya, a place where visitors take part in purification rituals before going in the shrine definitely can inspire visitors’ curiosity.
At the time we concluded our tour at Omotesando Avenue -an approach of the Shinto establishment, all of the Harajuku areas were packed with an excess of pedestrians.

Known for its close proximity from the holly area, Meiji Shinto Shrine and the busy street Takeshita Street, Harajuku station currently are undergoing its massive renovation due to the urgent need for upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
This construction project will cause inconvenience and congestion for commuters and tourists.

There’s a great possibility that there will be an influx of visitors during this year-end and the coming new year holidays.
This is because this train station is a significant gateway for those who will visit the Meiji Jingu, or commercial areas like Takeshita Street, Omote Sando Avenue, Shibuya town areas, or other neighboring spots.


(From left: Takeshita Street, Omotesando Avenue, Shibuya Station, , , )

During the Christmas season, these shopping areas are full of shoppers or window viewers aiming to obtain reasonable or top-notch items for their Christmas presents.
Meanwhile, from the 31st of December to the 4th of January, more and more devotees or enthusiastic visitors come and worship the famous shrine in hopes of their health, business or academic success.


This is the final tour of the Harajuku area for this year.
Our guides are privileged to welcome people from different corners of the world for the entire year.
Hopefully, more and more Harajuku enthusiasts will come and join our tour next year.
At the same time, we would like to ensure these goers to experience the contrast between the tranquil and busy atmosphere in Harajuku.
Have a nice new year holiday.
(By Arac)

Tour Report on Dec 15th (East Garden of Imperial Palace)

Thank you so much for coming our regular tour on Dec 15th.  We 14 guides divided into 4 teams, and welcomed 22 guests from US, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, UK, Thailand, Israel and Germany.

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Today was a little bit chilly and nice sunny day, and good enough to enjoy about 2.5 hrs walking outside, even for the little kids!

This autumn season is continuing longer than usual, we hope all of the tourists can enjoy these beautiful scenery as long as possible.

Next Saturday and Sunday, we are going to have our last tour on 2018 at the East Garden of Imperial Palace and Asakusa, so don’t miss them, OK? \(^^)/

(by Hisako)

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The seasonal topic of year-end (Dec.8 The East Garden of the Imperial Palace Tour)

Thank you so much for joining our regular tour at the East Garden of the Imperial Palace on 8th December. We welcomed 15 people from Australia, Chili, Canada, USA, Sweden, Argentina, Macedonia, Mexico, and Paraguay. We were so happy to have met you!

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It was beautiful day but a little bit colder than last week. The leaves of the trees in the East garden of the Imperial Palace turned into deep red and brilliant yellow. We enjoyed it during the tour. At the day of the tour, the Palace household agency held the special event of walking through from the Sakashita‐mon Gate to the Inui-mon Gate. So many people showed up to enjoy the Palace.

By the way, do you know “ Sodane ” ?  This is the latest and most popular buzzword of Japan in 2018. In February, the Olympic Winter games was held in PyeongChang Korea. Japanese women curling team joined it. The team consisted of six members from Hokkaido, north part of Japan. During the game they communicated each other with saying “Sodane” as their dialect. “Sodane” means “Right!”, “Got it!” and “Sure.”, so on. Finally they won the bronze medal. This news delighted us all over the Japan . After the Olympic game “Sodane” became a buzzword through the TV show. In Japan the new word and buzzword of the year contest is held at every year-end. Many buzzwords of this year were nominated. “Sodane” was one of the nominee and won the first prize of 2018 at the contest.

If you come to Japan, try to use “Sodane” in your conversation with Japanese people. You will definitely be seen as a person familiar with Japanese. In addition, please add one more “e” vowels to the last e when you say “Sodane”.

Perfect!

 

Posted by YUMI.H

Buddhism and Christianity, 9 December 2018 Asakusa Tour

We thank guests who participated in the tours of that day. We met 13 wonderful people from Australia, Canada, UK, Chile, Portugal, USA, and Singapore.

Our guests were great people and very interested in our explanation. One of them was an artist and draw the picture of Sky Tree.

The weather was cold. It seemed real winter season started. From this time of the year, it is just getting colder. December is actually the start of winter. As a symbol of winter season, you can see illumination or Christmas trees all around the city. It may look strange because Japan is known to be predominantly Buddhist nation. Only 1 percent of the population are Christian. For most Japanese, Christmas may be like a festival.

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The tour route, Sensoji Temple is a Buddhist temple and has been worshipped for more than a thousand years. In feudal era, Christianity was banned by the authority. In modern time the ban was lifted and Christianity has become familiar to us. Although Christianity is a minor religion, but the influence on society is not small like Christmas events seen in the city.

You might say it was not just festivity but some commonality with Buddhism. What are common things in both teachings? Both religions preach all the people are equal regardless of social rank. And both religions respect sincerity of a person.

There is an exact match of describing importance of sincerity in both religions. Very similar tales exist in two religions.

In Christian bible, there is a tale called “The Poor Widow’s Offering” which is about a woman who donated a small amount of money to the temple but was praised by Jesus because she gave all she had while the rich donated much bigger amount from what was left over after they consumed as much as they wanted.

In Buddhism, there is a story titled “The Poor’s Lantern” a very poor woman came to the temple to listen to the Buddha’s preaching and offered a lantern with small amount of oil to light up the corridor of the temple at night while the rich offered great number of lanterns with huge amount of oil. She sold her hair to buy the small amount of oil. Next morning, fires in lanterns the rich offered were all put out but the lantern she offered had continued to light up.

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Sincerity is important in every aspect of our life. Learning from these stories, we are sincerely committed to this volunteer activity. Please come and join us.

(Masa)

SHIFTING FROM DRESSY COLORED LEAVES TO WINTER EVENING ILLUMINATION (DEC.2, SUNDAY-TOUR)

Thank you for your participation to our Meiji Shrine and Harajuku route tour on December 2. Lovely guests we welcomed counted 9 from Canada, Netherlands and US. The weather was cloudy and rather cold but not windy.  Probably because of seasonality, both Meiji Shrine and Takeshita Street in Harajuku town were less crowded thus we could enjoy walking leisurely.  Autumn colors were still bright, but it became closer to the end of its season.  Lucky for our guests, we could see traditional Japanese style events such as 7-5-3 (family event celebrating healthy growth and wishing longevity of their 7-5-3 years old children), and  wedding-procession dressed in classic Japanese costume.

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During the tour, we take short break at “Forest Terrace” rest house near by main entrance.  Having pleasant chat and networking among the group is also not a little enjoyment of our tour.  You can gain local information both from us, local guide and other guests from abroad.  Also,  you can have a quick bite of some Japanese snacks such as baked dumpling with soy sauce during this break time.

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Evening illumination events are one of the popular tourist attractions in winter.  You can enjoy the illumination viewing at various spots in large cities and at some sigh seeing cites all over Japan.  Omotesando Illumination is a classic and popular winter illumination event in Tokyo.  The 1.1km street is lined with 150 zelkova trees lightened up with approx. 90.000 LED lights in champagne gold color during Christmas season. Some of the trees were planted almost a century ago, witness of the history of Harajuku indeed.

(posted by Akemi)

Tour Report on 1-December, 2018, Saturday afternoon

Thank you the guests who kindly joined our afternoon tour on 1st of December. We had 13 guests from six countries, divided by four groups.

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Hard to believe that it was already in December: it was very warm and a best day for walking tour.  I enjoyed the tour with our lovely guests, rainbow at Wadakura Fountain park, and very beautiful autumn leaves during the tour. In particular, we could see the reflection of such autumn leaves at the pond in Ninomaru Park. Awesome!

Speaking of Ninomaru park, I recently found a “zigzag” bride over the pond. It makes us to walk more slowly and enjoy the surroundings, compared to a normal straight bridge. This structure is not only for the bridge in the park, but also the pathway in town. In particular, we can see it in castle town in Japan. The structure is defensive strategy against the enemy: they have to walk slowly through such zigzag path to reach the center of the castle.

Talking about castle, some colleagues here in TFWT like castle and we had a hiking at Odawara castle last weekend. Edo castle’s tower was not rebuilt after the last burn in 1657, but the tower in Odawara castle was reconstructed again and again. It was originally constructed in 15th century. We can reach Odawara from Tokyo station in ca. 1.5h with local train (JR or Odakyu line) or 35m with Shinkansen bullet train. If you look for something historical monument around Tokyo, I strongly recommend you to go there. Enjoy it!

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(Posted by Katsumi)

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We have a regular tour every Saturday and have weekday/Sunday tours irregularly.
Please check the calendar on our  facebook and tripadvisor.

East garden of the Imperial palace welcomed us in a full dressy color (Nov.29, weekday-tour)

Time passes away…, so we settled off with a empty boat for a while.
Finally, 4 trippers were so generous to take a ride on the way.
Well, here comes the joy boat!! Also, we would like to thank our guests
teaching us about  their beautiful country, France and Australia.
When we have a talk like this, we just wish to visit there soon.

Needless to say, the color of the autumn trees were in full change.
The sky was so blue so the contrast with the trees were extremely vivid.
The Ginko leaves in full yellow, witch hazel leaves in yellow and red,
Maple leaves in red and green,  evergreen trees, the fruitful orchard garden in orange,
On weekends, the east garden of the Imperial house are usually lively with many visitors.
However, this day, we could see less people walking around.
So, it was like a private garden!

The moderate morning walk was a like a fantastic adventure and
we really appreciate our guests to take part in to share their each precious time.
The heartwalming talk with our guests, the warm color of the trees,
we just appreciate the time we could spend with you all.
Thank you very much again and hope that all of you could enjoy your stay in Japan!

(posted by Nori)