Tour Report on July 8, 2017

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour. We are honored to have around 60 people from the different corners of the world come and join this tour. All of the participants were split into six groups and the tour was started.
July 8 was a hot and humid day and at the time we were about to start the tour at around 1 in the afternoon, the temperature had already reached 30 degrees Celsius.

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This day truly characterized what a typical summer day is in Japan and it is predicted that the heat index, especially in cities, would be higher in the month of August.

 

 

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Our guides were very responsive and engaging all throughout the tour.

Halfway through our walking tour, we arrived at a refreshment stand, where certain beverages and treats were available for the guests and guides to comfort and refresh us from the humid and tiring walk.
One of the treats that was a hit among the guests was the matcha-flavored ice cream.
It is a kind of green tea flavored ice cream that promptly attracted the guests’ taste buds.

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Machiya ice cream 

Finally, we concluded our two and a half hours intensive but educational strolling at 3:30 in the afternoon at the Hirakawa-mon Gate of the Old Edo Castle.


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Well, here were the reports and notifications for your safe tour in time of coming Japan.
Four days ago, on July 4, Tuesday, heavy rain hit the northern part of Kyushu region, which is in the southern part of Japan. This heavy rain brought about unforeseen catastrophe like flooding and landslides, which left many casualties and missing people on its wake. Reportedly, this was the first time that this calamity ever hit the region.
A few days after the incident, the affected people in the disaster-stricken areas are still having trouble going back to their normal lives, having their life lines disrupted by the disaster. They are also finding it difficult to look for an alternative home under the high calamity alert.

It’s reasonably important to check the local weather forecast of your potential destination in advance, before heading out to these places, in order to address the difficulty posed by the unpredictable climate.

 This is to make sure that you will have an enjoyable time in Japan.

By Arac

Tour Report on July 1, 2017

Today we welcomed 43 guests from Iceland, USA, Australia, the Netherlands, Singapore, Germany, Vietnam, Poland, Mexico, Russia and Lithuania.

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Japan is in the midst of the rainy season, which is expected to last until end July.
With the high humidity and stickiness, this time is said to be the most hated season among Japanese. But looking at the bright side, this is the time when we could enjoy the bright colored iris & hydrangeas pop in the gloomy sky.
Today I was asked by some guests the reason why it is not easy to find a trash bin on the streets of Japan. After browsing through some local authority websites, I have learned that many bins were taken off the streets since year 2001 due to below reasons.
1. Increase of people dumping household wastes
2. Increase of illegal dumping
3. Stray cats & crows pick through trash
4. Cost increase of trash bin management due to above 1.-3
5. Counter terrorism (as a result of a Japanese cult attack in 1994, the  9.11 attach in US 2001 )
None are positive… Although some local authorities are trying to bring the bins back on the streets, it looks like we must carry back our trash for the time being.

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Thank you to all of our guests today. We hope you enjoyed the tour and wish everyone a safe and an exciting stay in Japan. Please also enjoy the sunny spell as much as possible.
Looking for something cultural to do in Tokyo?
Be the next to explore the ruins of Edo Castle with our friendly guides on Tokyo Free Walking Tour.
(Report by Asako)
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Tokyo Free Walking Tour has regular tours every Saturday and has irregular tours in weekdays and Sundays.
If you are in Tokyo, why not come and join us?
Visit our website, Facebook and tripadvisor for the latest schedule!

Tour Report on Saturday, June 24

Many thanks for having participated in our tour at the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace on June 24. We welcomed 75 guests from 23 countries. In spite of hot and muggy weather, I hope you could enjoy the moment and the instant kimono afterwards.

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In the Japanese history there was the time when the government died during the Warring States period in the 15th to 16th century for about 140 years until the peaceful Edo period. There was a strong samurai feudal warlord, poet and a Buddhist monk named Dokan Ohta known for constructing the original Edo Castle at the age of 25. It was 150 years before the Tokugawa’s modern castle was built in the same place. The first Shogun of the Edo period, Ieyasu Tokugawa remodeled and expanded the castle over the foundation made by Dokan.

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Although Dokan’s castle was not as great as the Tokugawa’s exquisite one, the fortresses were considered to be sufficiently secure from every kind of attack from the enemies at that time. Apparently Dokan fought in about 30 battles and never failed in the Kanto region.
There were about 200 fortified castles in the area and Dokan selected Edo for its topography and the possibility of economic growth. Dokan was the lord of the castle for 30 years.In fact the site was the place where earlier the Edo family had kept their residence.
Unbelievably he was assassinated by his boss in the conspiracy typical of the lawless period. Many people in the Kanto destrict even now keep in their mind that Dokan was the person to build the original Edo Castle, create a path to prosperity and died a tragic death even though 560 years have passed.

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There are twelve bronze statues of Dokan in the Kanto mostly at the battle sites. Outside Hirakawa Mon Gate, the last of our guiding spots at the East Gardens, a stone monument of Dokan Ohta silently stands behind the tree.
Let’s get together at our tour and share the Japanese history, culture, etc. with you.

(Posted by Yoshi)

Tour Report on 17 June 2017, Saturday

On that day we welcomed around 45 people from Australia, U.K., Singapore, USA, Canada, Chile, Spain, Hong Kong, India, Denmark, France, Phillipines, Vietnam, Argentina, and Switzerland. We divided into 7 groups. It was sunny and hot in the afternoon.

Recently, front square of Tokyo Station has become wide-open so we can have a better view of surrounding area including a white building just next to the Tokyo Station.

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The building is central post office, which was established in 1931. It looks simple but that was advanced-garde style in that era. It is called modernism style like BAUHAUS in Germany. Compared to Tokyo Station established in 1914, it is very simplified. It may be said that this style is basis for modern architecture, which emphasises functionality rather than goergeousness with decoration. One can learn history of architecture by standing on the square.

The building was renovated in 2012 so that the white building is combined with high-rise glass building. Left side of the building turned to be shopping mall with stairwell from the ground to the top. The white building was preserved as a cultural heritage just as Tokyo Station building was.

From rooftop of the white building one can view the Tokyo Station from the above and its front square and Shinkansen (bullet trains) on platforms.

Speaking of 1930’s stuff, there was a great invention of fashion by Japanese in that era. In Hawaii, Aloha or Hawaiian shirt was invented by Japanese immigrants settled there. They made the shirts converted from kimono fabrics. Design of Kimono matched with Hawaii’s tropical atmosphere. Then it was developed to be more fancy and became common clothes in Hawaii and then one of the most popular fashion in the world. One of the guides wore revival of the very original Aloha shirt, which was reformed from the old time silk kimono. Comparing with kimono one of the other guides wore, one can learn kimono was basis of Aloha shirts.

In this tour, guests can learn many of the old things which relate to current matters.  Past is in the past. But we are living in modern days that succeeded the old time matters. In Japanese, there is a saying Onko-chishin (温故知新), “Learn the past to have better forecasting of the future.”

We are providing such great opportunities. Please come and join us.

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Tour Report on Saturday, 10th June

Thank you for coming the regular tour of the Imperial Palace and the East garden.  We welcomed 55 guests from all around the world and divided into 4 groups on that day.  Even it has already started the rainy season this year since last week, it was nice and sunny early summer day which is good for the walking tour.

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June, the rainy season, is the best timing to see Japanese iris.  There are many place you can enjoy irises around Tokyo (eg. Meiji Jingu Shrine, Hama Rikyu Garden,  Kiyosumi Garden, etc), and my best recommendation is here, Ninomaru Garden, Imerial Palace. There are 4 fields of iris and 84 kinds of Japanese iris blooms from early to mid June. So many people come to the Ninomaru Garden with camera to enjoy these flowers. Some of them (including me!) tries to make this flower by Origami. 🙂

Hope all guests enjoy the rest of their days in Japan, and all guides always look forward to meeting them at the next tour!!

 

Tour report on Saturday, June 11th, Asakuasa

Thank you for coming Asakusa areas.
We welcomed around 20 guests on that day and briefly introduced ourselves. Right after that, we start our tour with climbing the roof top of Asakusa Tourist Information Center, where we enjoyed seeing the breathtaking views of these historical areas.
Normally, we visit seven spots in this Asakusa strolling and conclude at Asakusa Shinto Shrine.

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We hope we can have a number of Asakusa tourists as well as the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.

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Are you looking for serene and historical sites in Asakusa? You can visit Sensoji Buddhist Temple, Asakusa Shinto Shrine or Kaminari Gate. These are certainly beautiful and appealing places but would you like to visit a hidden place? I think the Kumeno-Heinai Do will interest you.
This is an amazing and fascinating spot in Asakusa.
“Kumeno-Heinai” was a samurai in the early Edo period, at around 17th century.
On the other hand, “Do” means a tiny temple.

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This small memorial building enshrines this samurai’s statue and there are many stories about him.
One of the most popular stories about the samurai is the legend that Heinai was a great sword master and he was able to kill many people over the years.
Later in his life, it was said that he lived in peace in a Buddhist Temple, where he devoted his life to religious services as a way of lamenting and honoring the souls of the people he killed.
This was because he was fiercely repenting the misdeeds that he committed.

 

Moreover, it is said that just before he passed away, he ordered his followers to carve a figure of him on a stone and to bury it on a busy street in the temple’s compound, so that the visitors of the temple would “step on” his statue.
He did this because he was hoping that the sins he committed in his life would be expiated.
Afterwards, the stone statue was eventually dug up, restored and placed in this small and humble temple.

Aside from his very colorful past, there is an additional episode to this spot.
Do you believe that the samurai Kumeno-Heinan is also considered as the God of Marriage?
The word ” step on ” can be translated to “fumu” in Japanese language and the pronunciation of the word is close to the word “fumi” which means letter.
The word “fumi” is often associated with love letters, especially by young women. This is a play on words between “fumu” and “fumi”, thus, resulting to Kumeno-Heinan to be considered as the God of Marriage. This location is also considered as a pilgrimage site on the way to visiting the Sensoji Buddhist Temple in Asakusa.

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It is extremely ironic that a once-fearful samurai’s symbol lures the Japanese female’s interests, though, it’s uniqueness might be a great help for you to meet your ideal partner.
Good luck!

(By Arac)

 

Tour report on Saturday, June 3rd

 We welcomed around 50 guests from all over the world to our regular tour on Saturday, June 3rd.

It was a beautiful sunny day for a tour. We enjoyed a wonderful walking tour in East Gardens of the Imperial Palace with our friendly and cheerful guests from all over the world.

The starting point of our tour is Marunouchi Exit of Tokyo Station, JR. The front of the Marunouch Exit has been under construction for a long time. And we’ve found today that the part of area is now open towards the Imperial Palace. At the open space, we took a group photo with all our guests.行幸東京駅前全員

The construction of Marunouch was planned to complete in spring this year, however, it looks like being delayed. According to the completion drawing, there will be a wide open space with greenery. Once the construction has been completed, we can enjoy more walking through Gyoko Dori towards Imperial Palace.イメージ

During our tour at East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, we enjoy not only historical spots in Edo Castle but also beautiful gardens of roses, bamboos, cherry blossoms, tea trees, orchards of classical species and others in the four seasons. At the Ninomaru Garden, a lot of species of irises are now blooming. It is the best time to visit for viewing beautiful irises.アイリス

グループD集合TFWTグループAグループD(Posted by Akiko)

Tour report on 27th May, Saturday

Thank you for joining our tour.
Although it was drizzling the previous day, the weather was very nice that day.
We were honored to have around 60 people from the different corners of the world came and joined this tour.
We split them into six groups and started our tour.
The guides were very responsive to the inquiry of the guest because most of them were very attentive and curious at the same time.

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Normally, our strolling is two-hour long and it consists of two parts.
The first locations are the modern Japan and its cultural assets like Tokyo Station.
Next is to showcase the old Japan like the Edo Castle, which is now the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.

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We hope all of you can enjoy the view of these historical sites.
Aside from explaining the historical background of each site, guides are talking about the relevant stories like anecdotes or new findings.
Moreover, instant-kimono experience is one of the highlights in our tour.

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In Japan, Tsuyu season is coming soon.
“Tsuyu” is referred to as the rainy season in the beginning of summertime in Japan that usually starts in early June and lasts until the middle of July.
Annually, Japan Meteorological Agency forecasts the beginning and the end of “tsuyu”, along with the regions where it will occur.
Normally, people have a lesser chance in doing outdoor activities during this wet and rainy season.

However, we can still find magnificent beauty during these rainy days.
Why don’t you visit some flower gardens?
You can see Hydrangea flowers blooming during the days when the rain falls.
Hydrangeas are one of the flower species that are native to Japan. The Hydrangea shrub typically grows up to 2 m tall and 2.5 meters wide, with large clusters or heads of delicate pink or blue flowers. They usually bloom during summer and autumn season.
These flowers are appealing enough to visitors and their beauty captures the guests’ attention and entertains them, even though it is drizzling or overcast in places in Japan.
This is one of the attractions on our tour of the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, where the flora and fauna will welcome and amaze you.

(By Arac)

Asakusa Tour Report on Sunday,28th May

Thank you so much for joining our tour in Asakusa on 28th May.We are glad to receive 20 friendly guests from eight countries. The weather was fine and the streets were congested with people as usual. Some of you might have seen a Shinto-style wedding ceremony at Asakusa shrine.I hope all of you enjoyed a short walking tour with us.

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Now the beautiful five-storied pagoda has just been uncovered. Renovation and repair works have been underway since June last year and almost completed. The height is about 53 meters or 15 to 20th floor of a building and it is the second tallest pagoda in Japan. We are pleased to get back the beautiful landmark of Asakusa.
The current pagoda was built in 1973 and the former pagoda had been standing at the opposite side of the street for about 300 years.It was destroyed in the firebombings during WWⅡ in 1945.

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Some pagodas were destroyed by fires,typhoons and lightning. Currently there are approximately 80 five-storied pagodas existing in Japan and there is no record that pagodas have been broken down by earthquakes.
Apparenty pagodas including this tower are an earthquake resistant structure with many flexible joints which resembles a snake dance and absorbs the vibration of the building. With this traditional construction method, earthquakes are controlled.
Incidentally five-storied pagodas originate from an indian stupa, dome-shaped tomb typically known for Buddha’s ashes which are kept on the top floor of the tower as a treasure. Buddha’s ashes are officially gifted from a Sri Lankan temple. The pagoda is not open to the public except the supporting members.
The vermillion five-storied pagoda of Sensoji Temple has been renewed. We are looking forward to welcoming you in Asakusa.

(posted by Yoshi)

Tour report on 20th May,Saturday

I want to express many thanks for sparing your precious time and joining our tour to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace on 20th May. We welcomed 71 friendly guests throughout the world.The weather was fantastic but in spite of the heat of the early summer I hope you could enjoy the tour and the instant kimono afterwards.

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By the way I presume many of you have seen Fujimi Yagura(Mt. Fuji viewing fortified tower) from outside. This is the highest building at the Imperial Palace, so the leading figures in the olden days might have enjoyed viewing Mt. Fuji from the top. It is not possible to see the mountain now because the tall buildings get in the way of viewing.
Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 meters and located about 100 kilometers from Tokyo and is really most beautiful in Japan. The mountain is an active volcano which last erupted about 300 years ago.

Mt. Fuji is sacred and has accepted the pilgrims from the ancient period. The mountain is regarded as a symbol of the country and mental support for the Japanese people.

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When snow melts, climbing season will come during July and August.Approximately 300,000 people climb to the top in every summer to witness the sunrise. If you are planning to visit Japan at that time, it is recommendable to keep this as an option.  Otherwise one day trip to the fifth station (2,300 meters) is alternative from Tokyo by the Shinkansen or bus. You can enjoy a panoramic view as well as the cool air. Besides, there are hot spring resorts around the lakes at the foot of the mountain. Why not getting relaxed at onsen after climbing Mt. Fuji?

(posted by Yoshi)