Tour Report on Mar.3, 2019 (Meiji Shrine & Harajuku)

Today we welcomed 9 guests from China, Poland, Singapore and US.

Despite of the shivering low temperature and the cold rain, we enjoyed the walk in the tranquil Meiji Shrine and the busy streets of Harajuku.

The Meiji Shrine is said to be one of the powerful spots where you could receive positive energy. Once you enter the shrine compound from the Great Torii gate, you will feel the clear energy flow into your system. It is better to visit shrines early in the morning rather than in the afternoon.

groupBgroupAgroupC2DSC_0141Inside the shrine, we notice people writing something on a wooden tablet. The wooden board is called”EMA” and visitors write their prayers, then hang it on the specified booth along with offertory. Common prayers would be “prayers to pass important exams”, “Safety for one’s family”,”prosperity in business”,”prayer for health” and “success in romance”. Today, some of our guests stopped by the Ema booth and took time to write their prayers for safety of their family and for prayer to pass entrance exam on behalf of her brother. Hope their wishes come true 🙂

We thank our guests for joining us in the cold rain today, and wish everyone a pleasant stay in Japan and a safe trip to their next destination.

Be the next to join the Tokyo Free Walking Tour!

Report by Asako

Tour Report on May.20,2018 – Meiji Shrine and Harajuku

Today, we welcomed 10 guests from UK, Russia, Canada, and Australia.
Everyone enjoyed the peaceful scenery of the Meiji Shrine before diving into the mayhem of Harajuku Takeshita street.
Second half of this tour is about Harajuku.
Takeshita street is a 400 meter long street starting from the JR Harajuku Station. It is particularly well known as a trendy shopping street lined with alternative colorful clothing stores, costumes, colorful fun food shops such as crepes, candies, and ice cream for trendy shoppers.
It is also known for the huge crowd on weekends, as people come from both inside and outside of Japan. Up to 2 hour queue will instantly be formed in front of popular shops.
If you look closely at these lines, you may notice that Japanese keep some sort of distance between them and the person in front on them. This may be due to an experience that comes from the lessons most Japanese learn in gym classes during their elementary school days. Teachers would demand strict discipline, and lining up properly on the call of sensei’s “line up!” , “attention!” “right face!” was one of them. 
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We thank all of our guest who have joined us today.
We wish each and everyone a safe and pleasant stay ahead.
Be the next to join our friendly guides on the Tokyo Free Walking Tour
Posted by Asako  

Tour Report on 27th February (Tuesday), Weekday Tour to the Imperial Palace East Gardens

Thank you very much for joining our weekday tour to the Imperial Palace East Gardens on February 27th.
The tour welcomed 8 guests from Austria, Canada, Romania and Argentina. We divided us into two groups ― group A and B.

It was a slightly chilly day, but the sunshine of early spring made us warm and cheerful.

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On the way to the Imperial Palace East Gardens, group A happened to meet 4 horses being trained along the large avenue. These 4 horses, owned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, were practicing leading a coach parade for the Ceremony of the Presentation of Credentials (see a report below on January 18).

Generally, horses are very coward, because they do not have any ‘weapons’ like horns or fangs. All they can do is to run away from enemies as quickly as possible. So, they always have to be sensitive to their circumstances ― sound, smell or movement of other horses.
Nevertheless, when a parade is held, horses are surrounded by a crowd of people. Some children might scream; some cars might honk a beep. Horses in the parade must be endurable and obedient to riders during the ceremony. That is why they sometimes have to practice trotting through heavy traffic, in order to be accustomed to noisy situation.

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Until the beginning of 20th century had horses been essential and significant for Japanese way of life. They worked to cultivate a field and as means of transportation. Of course, in wartime, horses played an important role as military conveyance. Most of Japanese samurais and farmers had their own stables inside their mansions. In a cold region in Japan, people lived in a large house that included both living rooms and a stable, literally under one roof, sharing warm air from the kitchen together with a horse as a member of the family.

(Images from https://jafnavi.jp/, https://mayumail.exblog.jp/, https://www.linkedin.com/)

But time has changed. Since the end of Edo period (1860s), Japan might have put too much emphasis on economic profits instead of having refined and elegant mind. Caring horses needs a lot of time and labor costs compared with using automobiles, so horses have been replaced by cars and automatic cultivators. Now Japan has become one of the most economically developed countries in the world; in the process of development, however, Japanese people had to give up coexisting with horses in our daily life.

A horse coach makes us remember Japan’s good old days: the tranquil and cozy sound of the clatter of hoofs brings all the people a relaxing and peaceful moment.

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(Image from Tokyo Station Facebook)

Good news!! You will be able to watch a coach column on March 6th!! It starts from Tokyo Station at 10 AM. It goes along Imperial Palace Avenue (Gyoko-Dori Avenue). Why don’t you come to Tokyo and enjoy watching a horse carriage together?

(Kayoko, illustrated by Yoko)

Tour Report: January 7, 2018 (Meiji Shrine and Harajuku)

Thank you for joining our first Meiji Shrine and Harajuku tour of the year!

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walking down Takeshita-dori street

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, or the transition of political power from the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Constitutional Monarchy. The Shoguns had virtually closed down the country for over 250 years, until in the year 1868 when the Emperor took over and eventually opened the county to learn modern technology and culture from western powers. I, among many other people, find this transition very interesting, and it is something I like to share with guests who join our tour. Meiji Shrine built to commemorate the Meiji Emperor is an ideal location for such conversation.

It being the final days of the New Year season, there were still many people at the Meiji Shrine for “Hatsu Moude” or the first visit of the year to shrines to wish for good luck. There were also various food stalls out that we don’t normally see, and our guests were quick to try some bites.
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trying “Amazake”, or Japanese hot rice wine

On the second leg of the tour we strolled around Takeshita-dori street and Omote Sando street. This area has long been where the latest pop culture are born. There is always something new to find even in the narrowest alleys of Harajuku, and it is definitely worth walking around.

Thank you again to all our guests, I sincerely hope you will enjoy your stay in Japan to start a wonderful new year!

(Yohei)

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Tour Report on Thursday, September 21 (Weekday Tour)

Tokyo Free Walking Tour thanks all 8 wonderful guests, who joined the tour on September 21. It was a sunny day with slightly strong winds.

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Seeking a Simple Life

Last month I personally attended a summer programme on environmental ethics in Finland. Environmental ethics is a field of philosophy emerged in 1970s that studies the moral relationship between human beings and natural environment.

In this course, the teacher mentioned a theory of Deep Ecology by Arne Naess, a philosopher from Norway (1912-2009). The basic characteristic of his theory is human-in-ecosystem image; it considers human beings and all living things as elements that are related with each other, like ‘knots’ in a net. Naess criticises conventional ecology as ‘Shallow Ecology’ in that it is based on the idea that human beings are separated from nature. In his words, we should ‘protect the planet not only for the sake of humans, but also, for the sake of the planet itself, to keep ecosystems healthy for their own sake’.

Surprisingly, Naess refers to Buddhism when he claims the importance of ‘listening with the third ear’. When it comes to Japan, the spirit of Zen Buddhism might have similarity to the Deep Ecology philosophy.

Zen is a sect of Buddhism that originated in China in the 6th century, and was developed in Japan by the 12th century. The principle of Zen is that everyone has potential to awake to the truth, which is covered by worldly thought in daily life. We can reach the truth only when we remove unnecessary thoughts and desires, through serenity of mind.

Zazen, sitting meditation, is a main practice of acquiring peace of mind. Through zazen activity, you can become free from daily concerns and busyness. The senses of hearing, touching and smelling are sharpened so that you can feel details of natural environment. The meditation gives us an opportunity to reconsider whole ecosystem, greatness of nature, and arrogance of humans.

 

Ninomaru Garden in Edo Castle, on our regular tour course, is said to follow Zen style of gardening. It was designed by a garden artist Enshu Kobori (1579-1647), whose accomplishments can be found all around Japan.

When you visit the garden, try to feel Zen spirit; pause, relax and control your breath. You will surely have an opportunity to rethink about natural environment, acquire humble attitude towards nature, and seek a simple life.

(Images from http://www.asoview.com/, http://www.soto-kinki.net/, http://www.irasutoya.com/)

By Hiroshi N.

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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!

Notice:Weekday Tour on Thursday, September 21, 2017

・Date/Time : Thu. Sep. 21, 2017(10:00-1200)

・Meeting Place : Tokyo Station Marunouchi Central Gate (ground floor)

・We leave at 10:00.  Please take care to arrive on time!

・Participation Fee : Free

・Reservation : Not required

・Participants : Foreign tourists and residents, and their accompanying Japanese friends,  families, etc.

For more imformation on our tour, please visit our website, facebook, and TripAdvisor page!

Tour Report on 17 September 2017, The Very First Meiji Jingu and Harajuku Tour

That day was our first tour for the Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku District course.

It was a heavy raining day with forecast of a typhoon coming. But surprisingly, we could meet 10 guests at the entrance Torii gate of Meiji Shrine. We were so glad because we thought no one would come because of the bad weather. They were from Columbia, Australia, USA and Canada.

First of all, what is Meiji Shrine? It is a memorial of late Meiji Emperor, who had been on the throne during Meiji Era (1868 to 1912), 3 generation in advance of current throne, great grand father of current Emperor, Akihito. It was Japan’s Reconstruction era from feudal period to Modern period. In this period, the Emperor’s residence was relocated from Kyoto to Tokyo. Meiji Emperor is known to be contributed to Japan’s modernization. His figure is depicted in Hollywood film “The Last Samurai” in which Tom Cruise played as US military official dispatched to Japan.

The shrine was established in 1920 to commemorate the late Emperor who died in 1912. The forest trees in the Shrine premise were all artificially planted, not wild plants.

After walking for half an hour from the entrance, we could reach the main Shrine facility. There, the guests could learn Japanese traditional manner and methods of praying. The shrine consists of 4 side surrounding walls. 3 of 4 sides have gates to get in and out. One side is shrine’s main building where offering box is placed and various ceremonies are held. Luckily, we could see traditional Japanese wedding ceremony held there.

After the Meiji Shrine, we took to the Harajuku district, a most fashionable and fancy quarter of the city. The sacred shrine with the forest and the amusement district are adjacent to each other. That may be a unique landscape for foreign visitors. We strolled from the Takeshita street in the district and found fancy shops and cafes. The final destination was Oriental Bazar (Souvenir Shop for foreigners) on Omote Sando Street, a big main street with line-up of trees on both sides which might look like Les Champs-Elysees in Paris.

 

This tour is currently non-regular basis so we haven’t yet decided when to hold the next time. Please check our website.  We are looking forward to meeting great people from the world again over there.

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Tour Report on September 16, 2017

Thank you all the guests for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour. We are honored to have around 25 guests from the different corners of the world like Malaysia, Switzerland, the UK, Germany, Peru, Mexico, and the U.S.

We started from Tokyo station and strolled around the central Tokyo, Marunouchi business area, and the East Garden of the Imperial Palace.tour1

 

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Although typhoon is hitting in Japan, luckily, we had a comfortable time without getting wet with rain. Also, we enjoyed autumn flowers, red spider lilies and pine trees in the garden.tour3

It’s said that autumn is a good season for sports or reading in Japan. Please let us introduce ①Japanese national sports, “SUMO” wrestling and ②a Japanese popular comic book, “HIKARU NO GO.”

① SUMO
Sumo is a match between two sumo wrestlers. A wrestler wins when he drives opponent out of the ring or when a part of the opponent’s body touches the ground. There are 6 annual tournaments held at different cities. An autumn tournament is being held now.

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② HIKARU NO GO
“Go” is a Japanese traditional board game of capturing territory. It was in the news that AI(Artificial Intelligence) defeated human players in “Go” matches as well as chess ones. “HIKARU NO GO” is a comic book which describes main character HIKARU’s growth through “GO” and created a “GO” boom in Japan. English version is also published.

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We hope you enjoy autumn in Japan by trying some Japanese cultural things.
Lastly, we wish you all a safe and wonderful stay in Japan.

 

(Posted by A. Kuno)

Tour Report on 9 September 2017

Thank you for joining our tour on September 9th.

 

 

On the day of tour, it was quite hot, but not so humid compare to Aug and Jul. I guess beautiful Japanese autumn season is around the corner!

We welcomed 27 guests from Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Spain, UK, US and so on. We divided into 5 groups.

Some of the guests on that day were really interested in Ninja. We usually take you to the “Hyakunin Bansho” where it said the Ninja used to work during the Edo period. When we take the guests there, we explain not only for basic Ninja information but also add some details about it.

 Group A,

At the end of the tour, a few guests asked me about fruit in Japan. It seemed they wanted to obtain Japanese apples.

Apple is one of our popular fruit in Japan, so that students often bring them as their lunch or lunch dessert to the school. I think it is the same situation in the other many countries, but in some foreign countries, students bring it without cutting and bite it directly at school. On the other hand, in Japan, apples are cut in less than one quarter, and then, putting in a lunch box, and students bring them to the school. They eat them using toothpick or grab it directly with their hands. I think It’s because Japanese apples are bigger than that of other companies.

In addition, the skins of the apples are often peeled off completely, but sometimes peeling like a rabbit

 

Autumn season in Japan has a lot of fresh and sweet fruit, such as pears, peaches, chestnuts and grapes and so on. Please try them when you visit Japan.

 

We have a regular tour every Saturday and irregularly Asakusa tour. Please check our website, Facebook and TripAdvisor.

(Posted by Chizuru)