The Very Last Tour in Heisei Era, 29 April 2019, UENO Park

Thanks to 3 guests who participated in the tour from Australia and Iran. The weather was cloudy.

This was in fact the very last tour in Heisei Era. As mentioned in other articles, Japan has its own calendar year name by Emperor reigning era, so called Gengo. Until this year’s April is called Heisei. From 1989 till this year was Heisei 1 to 31. Then from May,  Gengo is changed to Reiwa. This year is Reiwa 1.

Until today’s tour, UENO Park course was conducted on irregular basis as trial. But we have decided to conduct it as regular tour, twice a month, every other Sunday afternoon. That is our new plan in Reiwa era.

One of attractions of UENO park is collection of museums along with temples, shrines, a zoo and greenery. There are 6 museums within the park premise.

Tokyo National Museum, exhibiting arts and archaeology, which is like Musee du louvre in Paris or Great Britain Museum in London,

national museum

National Museum of Nature and Science

science museum

The National Museum of Western Art, mainly painting exhibition, which is like Musee d’orsay in Paris. The building was designed by Swiss architect, Le Courbusier and designated as the World Heritage site.

western art

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

metropolitan art museum

The Ueno Royal Museum

royal museum

Museum of Down Town Customs, which exhibit old time common people’s livelihood.

In addition to these, just near the park, only a few minutes walk from the park is Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens, former residence of family who owned Mitsubishi Conglomerate, which exhibits real remain of the old time Japan’s high-society life.

The residence consists of western style mansion and traditional Japanese house. It was built in 1896. Visitors enjoy gorgeous exterior and interior using costly materials. The family no longer reside there since after the second world war ended. Mitsubishi Conglomerate was dismantled for democratisation and redistribution of Japan’s wealth. The family had to give up their huge area and house of their residence. Now it is owned by Tokyo city.

So it was like Japanese version of “Gone with the Wind”, the world renowned novel and the film based on what happened to Southern plantation owner family during American Civil War period.

During the time the family resided in the house, social inequality of Japan was huge. The family hired 50 servants and the residence had an independent generation system while poor commoners sometimes had to sell off their children to earn living.

That should not happen any more. Museums are where you can learn the old things to know what to do for the better future. We should strive to create better future.

Life in Heisei era ends in April and then new life in new era starts.

Like famous words in the film “Gone with the wind,”

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Please come and join us on new days in new era!

(Posted by Masa)

 

The Last Regular tour in Heisei Era, 28 April 2019, Asakusa Temple & Shrine

Many thanks to 9 guests in the morning and afternoon tours at Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine in Asakusa town. Our guests were from Hong Kong, Italy, Estonia, Finland and Israel.

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It was really clear and dry Sunday, which was very suitable for walking tour. We were glad to have wonderful guests in a very great moment in our history.

The tours were very historic in the sense that these tours have become our last regular tours in Heisei Era. Heisei is Japan’s own calendar year name officially used along with Gregorian calendar. Heisei started from 1989 when Emperor Hirohito, father of current Emperor died and the current Emperor, Akihito ascended to the throne. Then this year was 31st year from 1989, which is Heisei One.

On 30 of April, Emperor Akihito abdicated, and then next day, 1 of May new Emperor Naruhito ascends to the throne. This Enthronement day is start of new calendar year name, Reiwa. This year 2019, is marked as Heisei 31 and Reiwa 1. It sounds complicated so that is why we use Gregorian calendar together.

Due to such big events, from this weekend to next weekend and following Mondy, 6 of May, are holidays. Japanese enjoy 10 consecutive holidays. So the atmosphere of the city is very relaxing.

On that day back side of the main temple pavilion there held Crying baby Sumo tournament. This is the sumo tournament in which two babies carried by sumo wrestlers face each other and then whichever cries first becomes a winner.

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This is due to saying “A crying baby can grow healthy.”

But if a grown-up person wants to cry like a healthy baby, there is a very suitable place just near the temple across the Sumida river. That is the SKY TREE, which we describe during the tour because it is very visible from where we walk on.

It is 634 meters high, the world’s second tallest human-made structure. Sky Tree is matched with Sensoji Temple’s five story-pagoda because top floor of the pagoda signifies Sky in Buddhism. From the observatory deck in the tower, you can see the whole of Tokyo city. The two of our guiding sites are seen in the same window from there. One green spot in front is Asakusa, Sensoji Temple and one in the back is Ueno Park, which is scheduled to be a new regular tour in Reiwa Era.

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If you have a fear of heights, this is definitely a place to cry out. Not just window view but there is a glass floor that lets you view 350 meters below your feet.

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After or before Asakusa tour, it is recommended to visit Sky Tree so that you can enjoy the both sites at fullest.

We wish to have greater tours in a brand new era. Please come and join our regular tours in Reiwa era.

(Posted by Masa)

Tour report on THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE on 2019.4.27

Thank you for joining TFWT hosted tour visiting the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace on April 27. We welcomed 13 guests from Finland, USA, France, Australia, Hong Kong, UK, Germany and The Philippines.

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Now in Japan, we are all excited about advent of new Japanese era, Reiwa, which is effective on 1st May. Japan is a unique country in the sense that we deploy two different calendars, western and Japanese own calendar or Gengo. This Gengo can be described as the name of emperor’s reign and only changed when a new emperor is ascended the throne in accordance with the current Japanese law.

However, in the past, it was changed multiple times for a variety of reasons within the same emperor’s reign. For example, in Meiwa 9 (1772), a major conflagration swept through the central parts of Edo (current Tokyo) which left around 20,000 deaths including 4,000 who went missing. This great fire of Meiwa is later presumed as one of the three greatest fires happened during the Edo period (1603 – 1868). Confronting this massive disaster, people started rumoring “The great fire happened because of GengoMeiwa 9, which sounds exactly same as the Japanese word: “Meiwaku” or “In trouble!!”.  Meiwa was immediately abolished and replaced by new GengoAnei”.

While writing this article, I just realize my home is located in vicinity to the place where the great fire of Meiwa broke out. I do hope this is just a coincidence and no big disaster will occur in the upcoming new period of Reiwa. Wish you all Happy New Japanese Year!

(Posted by Kenta)

Weekday Tour of the East Gardens of Imperial Palace on April 24th

Thank you very much for joining our weekday tour to the Imperial Palace East Gardens on April 24th. We welcomed 26 guests from USA, Israel, UK, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Estonia, and Turkey. We divided our guests into 4 groups.

Unfortunately, It was raining, but everyone enjoyed walking in the gardens with full of nature. The season of the cherry blossom is almost over in Tokyo though, some double cherry blossoms were blooming, and we could see other beautiful flowers and lush greenery. Especially we enjoyed walking in the Ninomaru Japanese style garden. The pond, carps, stones, waterfall, trees and flowers made us feel calm. Around Ninomaru garden many Azaleas were beautifully blooming. So guests enjoyed taking a lot of photos.

Azalea is very common in Japan. We can see many azalea bushes in various places such as streets, parks or gardens. One of the famous places for viewing azalea is Nezu Shrine, which is one of Japan’s oldest shines. It has a famous spacious hillside garden with thousands of azalea bushes including Goyo tsutsuji azalea, the symbol of princess Aiko. This week I visited there and I could see many kinds of azalea blooming beautifully pink, white, red, and purple.

Nezu shrine is a 20-minute walk from Ueno Park, so you can fully enjoy the both historical and beautiful places on the same day. We have Ueno Park tour on April 29th. We are looking forward to seeing you in the tour!

Also we have other tours this weekend, the East Gardens of Imperial Palace and Asakusa tour. Please check the tour schedule on our website.  We hope we can see many people joining our tours!

(posted by Kaori)

SHINTO DEITIES TO WELCOME THE NEW ERA, APR. 21 IN HARAJYUKU

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour in Harajyuku area of Tokyo.
On that day, April 21, we were honored to welcome 26 guests to our walking tour. These people came from different regions of the world, incl­uding Australia, Canada, Greece, Italy, Mexico Spain, U.K. and U.S.A.
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It is already the peak of springtime in Japan.
In Tokyo, we can no longer see magnificent sakura or cherry trees blossoming.
Most of the fragile petals of the sakura trees have fallen due to the wind blowing, or occasional rain. Most of these trees have shed their blossoms naturally, because these flowers only last for 3 weeks, at most.
In effect, more and more green leaves are visible as days go by.
This significant event of cherry blossoms blooming truly lead to the sense of fragility of springtime, and an early transition into summer.


Under these seasonal atmospheres, we met 26 people in the Harajyuku tour.
After greeting our guests, we managed to form the three groups with one or two guides.
Punctually beginning our strolling at the torii gate of the shrine, we proceeded to the next attraction through the ever-green forest.
Upon arriving at the main building’s square, we saw many visitors of the shrine witnessing a traditional Shinto-style wedding ceremony. Most of the people were curious about the ceremony, and also taking photos of the beautiful celebration.
This magnificent sight serves as a good topic for our guides to explain a typical Japanese celebration.

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Japan is set to welcome a new era in the light of Emperor Akihito’s abdication from the chrysanthemum throne.
In modern Japan, the era’s name is deeply connected to the enthronement of a Japanese emperor.
Heisei, the current Japanese era, which started in 1989 when Emperor Akihito’s reign was inaugurated, will come to an end on the 30th of April this year. The new era, Reiwa will officially commence on the 1st day of May, simultaneously starting the reign of the new Emperor Naruhito.
In retrospect. many people have mixed feelings regarding the Heisei period that lasted for 31 years.
A survey conducted regarding the Heisei era showed 70 percent of respondents rated the era as “Good” or “Relatively Good”.
However, there are some people who expressed their dissatisfaction.

Anyway, ear’s name has been deeply reflected on describing historical incidents or persons even on the school name like The Heisei Emperor, Heisei Great Sumo Champion and Teikyo Heisei University.
The inheritance ceremony will be held on May 1st in Imperial residence and the elder son of Emperor Akihito, Naruhito, will succeed to the Imperial throne.
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As was notified and featured on our previous blog, Ueno park tour is coming soon.
We will briefly introduce this peaceful location for potential guests.
Our next tour at Ueno Park is scheduled on April 29. The tour starts at 1pm and the meeting point is between the Park Exit of JR Ueno Station and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. The tour takes about two hours.

We offer the pleasant Japan experience for all the guests and believe that you will be satisfied with our guide. Our guides will be waiting for you with Tokyo Free Walking Tour flag.
Come and explore the serenity, the culture and the history that is Ueno park.

(By Arac)

TOUR REPORT OF THE EAST GARDENS OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE ON APRIL 20, 2019

Thank you for joining our tour to the East garden of the Imperial Palace on April 20.
We welcomed worldwide 57 guests from U.K, Australia, U.S, Spain, Indonesia, Argentina, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Germany, India, Denmark, Mexico, South Africa, Ireland, Switzerland, including a cute baby guest.
We made five groups for the guest and 2 guides accompanied them respectively. The weather was so perfect, Bright Sunshine, 18℃(64℉), Gentle wind. Due to such pleasant climate, the tour was longer than usual. We really appreciate all guest for sharing your precious time together and enjoyed our tour with the guests.

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In the garden this season, late-flowering cherry blossoms (Double Cherry Blossoms) remain, and Azaleas and Irs Japonica etc. are full bloom. From now on, wisteria also begins to bloom. We are expecting the season when the flowers grow thick.

 

Consecutive holidays from the end of April to the beginning of May in Japan are called “Golden Week”. Since May 1st is also a holiday of “Accession of new emperor” this year, many people will enjoy 10 consecutive holidays from Apr 27th through May 6th.
In fact, Japan have a lot of national holidays. There are usually 16 holidays in the year and 17 on this year. The number is a top class in the world.
In Japan, on the day when a holiday overlaps with Sunday, the next weekday becomes a holiday. On this golden week is May 6th. In addition, the day between holidays also becomes a holiday. It’s like Othello game and interesting, isn’t it? That’s April 30th and May 2nd this year.
Are you worried that our tour will not be held during the holidays? Don’t worry!!

We are operating 4 tours, “East Garden of the Imperial Palace”, “Meiji Shrine & Harajuku”, “Asakusa” and “Ueno Park” tours during Golden Week, as usual. Only a schedule of the East Garden of the Imperial Palace Tour will be irregular due to the imperial ceremony.

Please check our tour calendar for sure, and enjoy the most greenery season in Japan with us!!
(Posted by Toyo)

 

Ueno Park Tour scheduled on April 29/National Treasures of To-ji Temple

Although cherry blossoms have fallen at Ueno Park, Tokyo National Museum is displaying the breathtaking arts of Esoteric Buddhism from Toji-Temple Kyoto.
To-ji Temple has the 1200-year history which is the Japan’s first esoteric temple associated with Kukai or Kobo Daishi. Toji-Temple is designated as a world heritage
property and a number of the treasures are gathered together from the Temple.

The special exhibition features an extraordinary 15 out of 21 Buddhist statues counting 11 national treasures and 4 important cultural properties housed at the Lecture Hall
of To-ji Temple. In addition, outstanding paintings, calligraphy and fancy artworks representing the pinnacle of Esoteric Buddhism are also on display. All of these objects
are handed down for nearly 1,200 years at To-ji Temple since its establishment.
Shingon Buddhism was founded by Kukai, one of the most influential monks and demonstrates Kukai’s world representing ultimate happiness and enlightenment. Mt. Koya is its birthplace and has been the object of pilgrimage from ancient times. You will be mesmerized by the dignified beauty and taken to the unrealistic world.
It is recommendable to see this special performance regardless of whether you will go to Kyoto or not because the major items are now in Tokyo during the exhibition period. It  continues to be held until June 2 at Tokyo National Museum. In addition, you can also see the permanent collection of the great cultural and historical art treasures at several buildings such as Japan gallery and Asian gallery. Admission is 1600 yen. It’s worth pay money for that.

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Our next tour at Ueno Park is scheduled on April 29. The tour starts at 1pm and the meeting point is between the Park Exit of JR Ueno Station and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. The tour takes about two hours. We offer the pleasant Japan experience for all the guests and believe that you will be satisfied with our guide. Our guides will be waiting for you with Tokyo Free Walking Tour flag.

(posted by Yoshi)

Lovely Spring Sunday in Asakusa (April 14 Asakusa tour report)

We welcomed 21 guests from France, India, Hong Kong, Mexico, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey & USA.   Wow, we are happy to know our guests cover 5 continents!

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It was a lovely sunny spring day though it gradually became cloudy and windy at the end of afternoon tour.  Period of  “sakura”(cherry flowers) in full bloom  has almost finished in Tokyo.  OK. Please do not disappoint!  A flurry of cherry blossoms blown in the wind is so romantic.

 

Senso-ji in Asakusa is one of the most visited and photographed temple in Tokyo with long history which is some 1400 years.  Thus, there are lots of events & ceremonies related to Senso-ji temple and its neighborhood districts.

 

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One of such events, “Shirasagi-no-mai or White Heron Dance” was performed on Sunday in front of Senso-ji temple.  This was first performed in 1968 to commemorate the century anniversary of Tokyo as the capital of Japan.  The beautiful dance was demonstrated by participants in historical costumes such as white heron, pole carrier, parasol carrier, warrior and musician.

by Akemi

Tour report of THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE on 2019.4.13

Thank you for joining TFWT hosted tour visiting the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace on April 13.   We welcomed 53 guests from USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel, Brazil, Vietnam, Spain, India, UK, Germany, France and Mexico.

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The day was actually the best tour day with comfortable temperature and bright sunlight.  Additional gift for us was Cherry blossom.   We could enjoy blooming cherry trees, especially varieties of late-blooming trees.   Relatively low temperature until the day before might have been prolonged their transient life.

Also, we could enjoy lovely red and pink colored flower of Azalea starting to bloom at Nino-Maru Garden.

Now, the historical event; the ceremony of Transferring Throne from current Emperor to his son prince has been approaching.    Imperial Palace is the main stage of the ceremony.   

It was announced that greeting ceremony of  Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress will be held at Imperial Palace on May 4th.   Everyone will have a chance to participate in the General Public to the Imperial Palace grounds and celebrate His Majesties the Emperor and Imperial family at there. 

Because of this ceremony which will be held in the middle of so called “Golden Week” in Japan, government decided to set special continuous ten National Holidays this year.    Every Japanese are looking forward to experience the memorable days and hoping everything will go smooth during the time.

If you have interest, please find details at  

http://www.kunaicho.go.jp/e-event/sanga03.html

We hope all of guests enjoyed this tour and wish you remember as one of nice memories of traveling in Japan.   We are looking forward to have time with you or with your friend again at series of TFWT hosted tours in future.

(posted by Masao)

Tour Report on Apr.4 (Weekday Tour of The East Garden Of the Imperial Palace)

Thank you for joining our weekday tour of the East Garden of the Imperial Palace  on Apr.4. We had 24 guests. They were from Australia, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom and U.S.A.

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It was a warm day, and moreover cherry blossoms were fully blooming. Our guests enjoyed taking pictures of them with historic sites.

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In Japan, April is the beginning of the new year at school and work. Many Japanese make a start on their new classes, schools and jobs. However, this April differs from the usual. As the new emperor will accede to the throne on May 1, the anticipated new name of era was annonced to the public on Apr.1. The new name is Reiwa meaning “beautiful harmony”.

The first era was Taika in AD645 and Reiwa will be the 248th. Since the middle of 19th century, the name of era has been replaced by each imperial succession.

We hope the new period will be beautifully harmonized as it was named.

This spring is surely the beginning of a new period in Japan !!

 

( by Rei )