Tour Report of Sep.22,2018 – East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

Today we welcomed 24 guests from US, Germany, Argentina, Israel, Malaysia, Italy, France, Australia and Denmark.
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Sep.22 happens to be the first day of a long day holiday as well as the day before equinox day. It is said that neither the heat nor cold lasts beyond the equinox day, meaning that we will be released from the humid & heat anytime soon.
In our tour, we guides try our best to provide you with information on history and cultures of Tokyo and Japan in general.It is also a great chance for guests to mingle with other guests and exchange their travel experiences.
At the end of the day, I think everyone enjoyed the pleasant walk in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.

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Some guests may have gotten the chance to catch the Tokyo Game Show 2018 on the next day. The Tokyo Game Show is one of the top game shows in the world, where major gaming companies participate to present their latest games and technologies. You get to try the games at each booth but need to queue up early in the morning in order to
beat the others to the game you aim at.
Others come to this event each year to see the gathering of cosplayers.
A big thank you to every single guest for joining today.
We wish you all a safe stay during your stay in Japan.
Be the next to join the friendly guides on the Tokyo Free Walking Tour.
Report by Asako

Kamakura Emaki masterpiece(September 15)

Thank you so much for joining our tour at the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace on September 15. I sincerely appreciate the participation of the 22 friendly guests from UK, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Israel, South Africa, Canada, America, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Singapore. It was partly rainy and cloudy. Nevertheless, I hope all of you enjoyed walking with us and perhaps got the chance to wear the instant kimono afterwards as well.

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As some of you may be aware there is a small museum which displays Imperial collections (Sannomaru Shozokan)at the East Gardens on our tour route near Otemon gate. They have nearly 10,000 priceless treasures such as the pictures and art products which have been inherited as the Imperial collection for a long time. Some of them are considered as national treasure. Visiting inside the museum is not included in our tour.

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The current exhibition is the masterpiece of picture scrolls(Emaki) of the Kamakura period(1185-1333). All of the Emaki were produced by Yamato-e techniques(classical decorative Japan style paintings) composed of illustrated scrolls of scenes or stories on a long screen in a horizontal direction made up of many sheets of papers or silk cloth. The words and paintings are colorful,exquisite and superb. These scrolls are important illustrated documents containing valuable information. Indeed, they have the artistic values as well as historic significance in knowing folklore materials and the people’s costumes at that time as a form of genre painting. These arts are almost completely preserved in the original states in spite of the passing of a long time.

The Kamakura Emaki scrolls were depicted by the Imperial painters and offered to Kasugataisha Shrine in Nara which kept as a treasure. Then after the aristocratic family’s possession, they were presented to the Imperial court in the Meiji period about 150 years ago. Since then,the Imperial Family had been holding and protected them as a masterpiece. After the long-term restoration works the illustrated scrolls are now on display. Incidentally a series of the Emaki is composed of 20 volumes and change between two terms during the showing period(August 18 and October 21).

 

The art products held by the Imperial Family were donated to the government in 1989 when the Emperor Showa (father of the current emperor) passed away. This museum was open in 1993 as a facility to preserve,study and display those collections.
The museum is small but the inside is great. It is worthwhile to visit once when you visit the Imperial Palace. Please be careful of the opening time/hours. It’s closed on Monday and Friday. Opening hours are 9:00am to 4:15pm (last entry is 4:00pm). Check the schedule more precisely with HP of the Imperial Household Agency.

Depending upon how you watch the works, you may be able to finish watching in a short time. It is possible to visit this museum for quick look after our tour. Free admission!!!

(posted by Yoshi)

The Saturday Tour for the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace (Sep. 9, 2018)

Thank you so much for joining our regular tour on Sep. 9th.  There were 15 guests from Germany, Canada, Philippines, Spain, Israel, and the US, and divided into three groups.

It was a sunny and hot day like a summer coming back again.  Everyone looked tired a little bit, so we tried to have a break sometimes in the shade, with a drink or an ice cream, ha ha!  We also welcomed a one-day trainee student as a guide from a high school in Tokyo.  She felt nervous because that was her first experience as a guide, but she enjoyed a lot.  We hope that she will come back to our group someday!

One of the couple said they were spending there time in Japan as their honeymoon.  How amazing! I would like you to enjoy those pictures for your memory, and we are always waiting for your second visit someday, thank you everyone.

(reported by Hisako)

SAYING GOOD-BYE TO 2018 SUMMER-THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE(SEPT. 1ST)

We would like to appreciate all of those who were energetic enough to join our tour this afternoon. We meet 12 guests from U.S.A., Canada, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Philippines.
Although there were thick clouds in the sky, the weather cooperated with us. We could almost do without our umbrella!!

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Just like other countries, this summer was “a tough experience” for us. The heat went up so high with continuous typhoons… but we could find some elements of  the upcoming autumn this day. The trees in the orchard garden was preparing to have fruits,  plants (which were evergreen coloured) covering the moat had been withered and the chirping cicadas sounded like they do not want the summer to leave. Feeling the changing season in nature is always a joy.  It might be the season to say Good-bye to summer and Hello to early autumn. Let’s share precious moments of the splendid garden together.  We are always  awaiting  for your participation!!

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(posted by Nori)

Welcome to “Nippon” or “Nihon” 16 JUNE 2018 tour report

Many thanks to the guests who joined the regular afternoon tour to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace on that day. We welcomed over 30 people from many countries including U.K. Italy, Croatia, Australia, USA, Spain, Columbia and Israel.  We divided into 3 groups.

It was a very cloudy day. Since clouds shaded sunlight, the temperature was below 20 centigrade, which was like a early-spring time. That was unusual in this time of a year and good for tourists since Japan’s summer, especially rainy summer time in June is terrible because of high temperature and high humidity by lots of rain. People get much moist in the air. Then in July and August, strong sunlight, heat wave and humidity hurt people.

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From this weekend, Soccer World Cup tournament has been held in Russia. Japan is one of contestants. Our tour is like World Cup since people from various countries including the contestants joined and could talk about the tournament. We enjoyed talking about the World Cup.

At some bars in Tokyo, soccer fans gather to watch games on TV drinking beer. Some bars charge customers just for entering to watch TV when a tournament is Japan vs. other because of big popularity.

Japan has a professional soccer league called “J-League” that consists of 3 layers, J1, J2, and J3. Soccer is as popular as baseball and Sumo.

At a stadium or bar, people chant “Nippon, Gambare” which means “Japan, Go Go!” Nippon is native name of this country. Japan is English name and was initially pronounced “ziben” by Chinese in medieval period and then transferred to Europe. It is just like we call U.K. “Igiris” derived from Portuguese naming of England, “Ingles” in the middle age.

But Nippon is pronounced “Nihon” as well especially when combining with other word such as Nihon-jin (Japanese person) or Nihon-go (Japanese language). Both Nippon and Nihon are correct.

So when you come to Japan, please keep in mind that Japan is called “Nippon” or “Nihon” by native Japanese. When you hear the word, that is when people talk about their country or themselves. We are Nihon-jin who speak Nihon-go as native language in Nippon.

Please come to Nippon and meet Nihon-jin including Tokyo Free Walking Tour guides!

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(Masa)

Emperor and Empress at Tokyo station

“Early bird catches the worm.”
Now I can prove, this is definitely true.
On this morning(June 9th), we welcomed guests from Israel, Indonesia, India and USA.  We could just share the unforgettable time and encounter with Their Magesties.
Thanks to our wonderful 5 guests!!

“ Can you see the central entrance of the Tokyo station? This is the entrance for the Imperial family use.” “A street called ‘Gyoko-dori’ is located just in front of the Tokyo station Marunouchi -side. It is the straight and shortest path which takes you to the front of the Imperial palace.” “‘GYOKO’ means the official visit for the imperior and ‘Dori’ means the path, so ‘GYOKO-dori’ means the path for the imperior when going out to make an official visit to somewhere”.
These are the kind of ways we always try to explain about the royal part of the station and path.  But…who could imagine that a day would actually come to face this entire situation?  A sudden opportunity to meet the royal highness on our very familiar guide route…

This day, their Majesties the Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were to embark from this Tokyo station to attend the National Arbor Day held in Fukushima . We happened to encounter that situation while we were waiting for our guests at Tokyo station. As we usually see on media, their Magesties were waving and smiling to the pedestrians  while their car slided into the station. Then they greeted the stationmaster and finally gave us a friendly wave and smile again at both sides of the entrance. Usually the door is closed, but for the first time,  we could see a red carpet inside the entrance.

But in actual, the schedule of their Majesties  3 days visit to Fukushima seemed to be very busy.  They had an aside schedule to attend the mourn to the victims or a visit to the Tohoku’s revival.  For this seven years, they have come more often to Tohoku  to learn about the present situation of the devastated district in details of the disaster stricken-area (by the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in 2011).   Their Magesties also worries about the nuclear plant and the surrounded area for a long time.
This is because the residents had to keep out from the area and could not go home.
On the other hand, their visit to Tohoku might be the last while they are ‘His Magesty’.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are 84 years old now. The crown will be passed to the Highness Prince next spring.

Even at the East gardens of the Imperial Palace, you could see and feel many
heritage of Their Magesties. As they wish to welcome the visitors from bottom of their hearts, so many part of the garden comes from the suggestion of His Magesty.
There are less fences inside the garden(His Majesty do not prefer fences),
you can see tiny placards on each trees or flowers to recognize their species easy,
you can also enjoy an orchard full of fruit trees (some of them are Edo species, very unusual) and at the Japanese Garden you can see long-fin carps.(hybrid with Indonesian carps).
Please come join our tour.
We are looking forward to walk around “their Magesties” beautiful garden each time with you.

(posted by Nori)

No more Sakura, but another beautiful flowers here in Tokyo

Thank you for the guests who kindly joined our afternoon tour on 9th of June. We had 19 guests from six countries, divided into three groups.

 

I do this guide volunteering from several years, and believed I’ve known well the area which has beautiful flower or the best season to see them. However, it was false. I was arrogant. Thanks to one of our guest’s suggestion, I saw a beautiful big Magnolia flower on the tour route for the first time on last Saturday. It boomed beautifully, solemnly, and its sweet smell made us happy.

Cherry blossoms season is over, but we still at a best season to see beautiful flowers in Tokyo. For example, you can enjoy beautiful irises at Ninomaru Park here in our tour. Speaking of iris, I went to another famous iris garden last weekend. It was Horikiri Iris Garden in Katsushika-ku. One of famous Ukiyoe painters in Edo era, Hiroshige Utagawa (1797-1858), drew an Ukiyoe paint under the theme an iris at that garden. This park is also free entrance.

 

We have rainy season: usually starts from early Jun and ends around late July. Most Japanese doesn’t like such rainy season, but I like it. I like hydrangea very much. Believe me; the color of the flower reflects the best in the rainy day, under dark and wetly air. I guess the color of petal is also a bit dark, so that’s why. Also, I have another the reason why I love hydrangea. It is my birthday flower, in June. I thank everybody and everything involved in my life.

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(Posted by Katsumi)

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

On Bushido, or the Samurai Way (June 2nd)

2018.06.02_B010It was a pleasant day just before the start of the rain season. I had just finished sharing the story of the 47 samurais who willingly gave up their lives for the honor of their master. A guest from the UK asked a question – “When did such ideals of the samurai way come about? Is such mentality still common in the society?”

There is a perfect book on this subject. It is Bushido: The Soul of Japan, originally written in English in 1899 (text available online). The book was written by the Japanese educator Inazo Nitobe, and is his response to a question he received from his Belgian friend – what is the moral backbone of the Japanese people?

In the book Nitobe elaborates on how the virtues of his time actually derives from the code of the samurai warriors that was refined through the history of Japan. He draws historical examples of acts and deeds typically praised in bushido, or the samurai way. In the end he concludes that although the samurais are gone, the mentality is deeply rooted in the people and the society.
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Going back to answer the second part of the original question, I think yes, the mentality still lives on even a century after Nitobe wrote Bushido. We sometimes relate ourselves to samurais as a symbol of courage or justness. However I won’t be surprised if the symbolism, or what bushido stands for, is different from what is written in Bushido, let alone the actual code of conduct in the days of the samurais.
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For advanced learners, Hagakure is another famous book on bushido. It was written in the early 18th century by an actual samurai as a guidance to his juniors. Interestingly, it criticizes the 47 samurais on the account of acting too late. This contrasts with Bushido in which the samurais represent the virtue of Rectitude.

So thanks to all of you who joined us on our tour. Enjoy your stay, and let us know what you think are revelations of the samurai spirit in modern Japan.

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(Yohei)

Report on 29 May 2018, Weekday Morning tour to The East Garden of the Imperial Palace

Many thanks to 18 guests who joined the tour from USA, Canada, Australia, Columbia, Vietnam, Portugal, and Germany. We divided into 4 groups.

It was hot and humid morning as May is known to be beginning of summer season. In the East Garden, irises blossomed beautifully. Our guests enjoyed viewing the irises. The pond contains collection of various species of irises. That is treasure of the garden.

Now is early summer in Tokyo, but in southernmost prefecture of Japan, Okinawa is already in mid-summer. I traveled to Okinawa, a few days before this tour. There beautiful flowers such as hibiscus bloomed. But not just flowers but corals were beautiful to look at.

I joined boat tours to view corals in Oura Bay and adjoining Henoko coast. There I could view the world’s largest blue coral which has existed and continued to grow for 3000 years, and 300 year old stony corals.

The tour was more like environmental study than sight-seeing because these are near ongoing landfill construction site for runways. It is concerned that the runways would change water current and eventually threaten lives of these corals. If corals die, tropical fish that inhabit in corals would disappear, so whole ecosystem would be adversely affected.

There is a civil movement in Okinawa to cancel the construction project. The tour was actually funded by citizens’ donation. Majority of Okinawa locals and the governor of Okinawa are opposed to construction of runways.

The flowers and corals are greatest creatures on earth. Different colors and forms delight us. That is the bio-diversity we have to appreciate and save.

Speaking of diversity, our tour welcomes most diverse collection of people in the world. That is why we are so happy to guide. Because we are so different and beautiful, it is so wonderful to communicate among one another.

Diversity includes gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, language, culture, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. As for last two kinds, Tokyo held rainbow pride event and parade in early May.

Tokyo Governor Ms. Koike announced support for LGBT in the opening of the event. Our tour has already welcomed LGBT guests many times. We are friendly to anyone. That is our pride!

Why not join us to enjoy and appreciate this diversity!

(Masa)