TOUR REPORT ON MAY 27 IN ASAKUSA AREA

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Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour.
On the day of our two-guided tours, 27th of May, with clear sunny skies, we welcomed 17 guests from Germany, U.S.A. Australia and Argentina.
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As usual, after greeting everyone and introducing ourselves, we made our tour in Asakusa for 90 minutes.
Starting at the red painted gate, called Thunder Gate, we proceeded to the busy shopping street, Nakamise Street.

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Nakamise Street is the entrance to the main hall of Asakusa Buddhist Temple, which is the oldest temple in Tokyo.
It is 250 meters long and has around 90 shopping booths along its both sides.
Most of these small shops sell traditional Japanese items that serve as souvenirs like kimono, chopsticks, accessories and old toys.

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Like the Sensoji temple, this strip of road also has a rich history. The Nakamise shopping area is the forerunner of commercial streets that are now common in Japan.
It has sustained its prosperous business for 400 years, ever since trading have started in this area, in the 17th century.
Nowadays, this historical business-centered street strives to welcome flocks of foreign visitors to Tokyo, and their shopping needs.
Speaking of business in Japan, a traditional fabric called Noren can represent a business establishment’s state. In this area of Asakusa, various types of Noren will come into your sight. Watch out for different colors and symbols that you can see in these fabrics.

What is Noren?
Noren is a Japanese traditional fabric divider, which are pieces of curtain-like rectangular cloth, and it comes in different colors.
These Noren can usually be seen hanging over entrances of Japanese stores, restaurants, and other establishments.


These cloths have a strategically placed slits, cut from the bottom up to a quarter way to the top, to allow visitors to easily pass through the entrance into the building.
Normally, the shops’ name or logo is printed on the hanging cloth in order to warmly welcome customers and to announce the shop’s presence.
Aside from that, they also have an important role to represent a shop’s goodwill and credit.
Therefore, these traditional hangings are used to describe how businesses are being managed.
For instance, opening a new store can be described or is said to be as “hanging the Noren“.
In addition to that “dividing the Noren” is often said if a store opens a new branch.
Moreover, losing the customer’s trust due to a scandal or through a bad reputation is called “damaging the Noren“.
Nowadays, there are many Japanese businesses and enterprises that are facing a lot of challenging situations, in order to meet their customers’ demands and keep them satisfied. That is why their respective managements intensively provide good services to their valued customers. This is to keep their good reputation and to avoid damaging their Noren.
Anyway, go through the Noren and enjoy your purchase and traditional Japanese dining experience.

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We still have two times of our tour in line with the following time slots:
1st from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (regular tour)
2nd from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (trial tour)
Please come and join us at your earliest convenience.

(By Arac)

TOUR REPORT ON MAY 26th(SATURDAY), 2018(afternoon tour)EAST GARDENS of THE IMPERIAL PALACE

Thank you very much for joining our tour on May 26.


We welcomed 21 guests from Argentina, US, UK, Malaysia, Philippines, France, Canada, Bulgaria and Australia.
All of us enjoyed strolling in some groups in the East Gardens.

The last guide point of our tour is Ninomaru Garden which is a part of  East Gardens. .
In Tokugawa Shogunate time, this area used to be the second palace compound of Edo Castle  where Shogun`s family lived.IMG_9348

Prior to the opening of  East Gardens of the Imperial Palace in 1968, only the garden of the second palace was reconstructed at the same place as the original (Edo period) garden referring to a diagram of the mid of 18th century.
This Ninomaru Garden has a traditional Japanese garden style, so-called “a circuit style garden with central pond “ which highlights the natural landscape.
Rocks, small hills, waterfalls and a wide variety of flowers and trees are arranged around a central pond.
It shows different faces according to the season.
From  late May to  early June, Japanese irises (Sward leaved irises) are in full bloom.

84 kinds of irises are planted in the field in front of the pond.

They are very elegant and lovely now!!

If you are in Tokyo, why not come and join us?
Please visit our Website to check the latest tour schedule.
We are very much looking forward to seeing you!!

(Posted by H.N)

East Gardens of the Imperial Palace (May 26 morning)

IMG_6414Thank you so much for joining TFWT for the morning tour on May 26th.

We welcomed 8 guests from USA and India. A family, a lady and a group of three men. We enjoyed walking under the beautiful weather in May.

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Now irises were blooming in Ninomaru garden. For another month will be the best time to come and enjoy the irises.

Hydrangeas are beginning to bloom in the Honmaru area. Even after the cherry blossoms, we can enjoy a lot of flowers in this Imperial palace garden. This is a place to enjoy fresh green in the middle of Tokyo.

It is said that foreigners who visited Japan are amazed that there are many flower beds in town, and these flowers are well groomed and beautifully bloom. A friend from overseas once told me that flowers blooming like this will be stolen amazingly quickly in his country. Of course there are few outrageous person also in Japan, but most flowers are loved in the form of nature. It is being well maintained not only in private gardens but also in the corner of the sidewalk of the street. This may be called a unique culture in Japan.

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Lavendars in Furano

Japanese people gladly pay for looking beautiful flowers. The solid evidence is that there are a lot of large flower parks that opened recently, in Furano: lavenders, in Ashikaga: wisterias, in Hitachinaka: tulips and nemophilas, etc. And tens of thousands visitors gather per day during the best season. These are popular tourist spots also for foreigners.

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Ashikaga Flower Park

In these parks, the flowers and the landscape are united, and reputed to be like a beautiful picture. I don’t think there are parks like these outside Japan, with hundreds of thousands of flowers are planted in a tremendously large hill.

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Hitachi Seaside Park

Finally I’d like to introduce my favorite flowers in my own garden. This flower is named “Hot lips”. It is cherry sage. This flower is a kind of herb. This flowers keep bloom for a long time from April to September.

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(Keiko)

TOUR REPORT ON MAY 21 & 23, 2018 IN ASAKUSA

 

Thank you for your participation to “Tokyo Free Walking Tour – Asakusa Route” on May 21 Mon.  We welcomed 7 guests from Austria, Germany, USA & Ukraine.  As for May 23, it was a private tour based on the request from a guest from Toronto on the May 20 Meiji Jingu Shrine & Harajuku tour.

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Group B 集合

 

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Monday tour was held under a lovely sunny sky though was rather hot.  But there was a light breeze which was very pleasant. Weather changed into cloudy on Wednesday, but still cozy for Asakusa exploring.

 

As guests’ size we had for both tour was not large, we could offer private tour for each groups.

Our lovely guests enjoyed not only historical & cultural guiding but local sweets.

Toward hot summer, one of the recommendations is “Maccha green tea drink with cube ice”.

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Sanja Matsuri, ne of the biggest events for Asakusa was held May 18-20.

Sanja Matsuri or Sanja Festival is one of the three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo held annually for 3 days on the third weekend of May in Asakusa Shrine. The festival is held in honor of the three men who founded Senso-ji Temple. Sanja Matsuri is considered as one of the wildest and largest festivals in Tokyo, which welcomes over 2 million visitors in 3 days.

 

Early summer flowers, such as hydrangea and iris are gradually flowering and are expecting you, guests from overseas!

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(Reported by Akemi)

Tour Report on 19 May 2018, East Garden of the Imperial Palace

We thank guests who participated in this tour. We welcomed 38 guests from USA, Ireland, U.K., Canada, Malaysia, India, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Austria, Singapore, South Africa, France, and China. Then we divided into 4 groups.

That day was coincided with Royal Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding in U.K.

That signifies our tour because our providing tour has a spot that memorises our imperial family’s marriages, called Wadakura Fountain Park that consists of two fountains. The park was established in 1961 containing one fountain to commemorate marriage between current Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko when they were crown prince and princess in 1959. Then 1993, the other one was established to commemorate marriage between current crown prince Naruhito and princess Masako.

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Two water structures behind this group form wedding cakes. These are symbol of celebration just like the world celebrated marriage between Prince Harry and Meghan.

The Royal marriage is thought to be progressive in the sense Princess Meghan is divorcee and bi-racial American. Just like that, marriage between Emperor and Empress was progressive because Michiko was from commoners’ family, the first time in Japan’s history. So it was a symbol of Japan’s democracy after the second world war.

Our nation, Japan and the United Kingdom have many things in common. One is that both nations have monarchy as symbol of national unity and parliament with a prime minister. Both nations are islanders. Both nations have left hand traffic rule. Most nations in the world are right hand traffic rule. So U.K. and Japan share strong bond as minority in that sense. Left hand traffic may be derived from feudal period Samurai custom that they held swords and its sockets on left side of their waists so they could take swords out using their right hands. Walking on left side of the road prevents two sockets hitting each other while two samurais were walking from opposite directions.

During the tour, we often introduce the site of ex-Matsuno-roka (Pine tree corridor), which is related to a historic revenge incident happened on a snowing day in the feudal period, whose themes and story set up was similar to the famous English mystery novel by Agatha Christie, titled “Murder on the Orient Express.” A group of people who shared the same grudge against one man patiently, and carefully planned the action and finally gathered in the same place to take revenge and the revenge was justified.

After the ex-Matsuno-roka, we take you to the former castle tower base to introduce Budokan Stadium which you can view from there.

The stadium was established in 1960’s to hold Judo matches for 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In 1966 British popular band, the Beatles concert was held first time in Japan.

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From the same spot you could view Tokka Gakudo music hall which is within the East Garden and established in the same year to commemorate late former empress Kojun’s 60th year. She was mother of current Emperor. But the music performed is not like Beatles but traditional court music and the capacity is much smaller than the Budokan, only 200 seats and only those invited or win the lottery can attend the concert.

Beatles has been a very popular band since then. A leader of the band, John Lennon married a Japanese woman, Yoko Onno.

These things make U.K. closer to us. Since it was a day of Royal wedding, we had to come up with a song of love. The best song for that is Beatles’ “All you need is love”

Interestingly, the lyrics is mistranslated in Japanese. First two sentences, “Nothing you can do, that can’t be done. Nothing you can sing, that can’t be sung.” That was translated as “You can’t do that even if you try. You can’t sing even if you try.” Correct translation was reverse because it was double denial.  That thing we have to correct. Meaning we have to be positive.

In modern period Japan acquired so many things from U.K. Like Tokyo Station Building meeting spot for the tour was designed by a Japanese architect who studied architect in England and Japan’s railway network was established by a man named Inoue, who studied that stuff in England as well. The statue on a corner of the station is him.

When Japanese imperial family members study abroad to learn English, it is usually UK and they learn the Queen’s or King’s English.

Just like Great Britain, Japan had a history of separation as described in this report. western part of Japan was like and maybe still kind of Scotland in U.K.

Both nations are kind of united although we are islanders on both ends of Eurasian continent.

Sorry, I talked too much about U.K. We love and treat everyone who joins the tour equally. We want to know about your country. Every country is of our interest. Please join us. You are all friends of ours!! Please tell us about your country and find some similarities with us.

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(Masa)

Tour Report on May 13 in Asakusa area

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking tour.
On that day, May 13, we had two times of tour-10 A.M and 1 P.M.


Although the weather condition was not so good, we welcomed totally around ten guests from the different corners of the world; U.S.A., Swiss, Poland, Rumania, Germany, Austria.

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We started by introducing ourselves and giving our brief orientation about this tour and went to Asakusa Information Center in order to see better views of the Asakusa areas.
This is because the rooftop of this building is high enough for us to enjoy breathtaking views.
We made time to stroll around 90 minutes in line with our tour route like this picture shows.


Finally, the time for Golden Week in Japan, from the 29th of April to May 5, has come to an end, and most companies and schools in Japan are now back to their regular schedules.
It seems like we will have to wait for a little longer before we can finally say that the summer season is here.
In Asakusa, it is not an exaggeration to say that we are excited to welcome the most anticipated season this May, because there are tons of annual events that will happen until the late August.
First of all, the Sanja Festival will take place on May 18 until May 20.
Sanja means three deities, who have been enshrined in the Asakusa Shinto Shrine.
This Shinto-related event aims to show respect and appreciate the solace and comfort given by the deities.
There are more than 100 portable shrines that are carried around by festival enthusiasts in the area.
Community people were busy preparing for upcoming Sanja Festival.
Luckily, we found three specific portable shrines displayed in the compound of Asakusa Shrine.
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The spirits of the three deities, who reside in this Asakusa Shrine, are temporally set to be transformed to each portable shrine respectively in line with Shinto ritual.
This religious act, called “mitama utsushi“, is solemnly made by the Shinto priests on the first day of the events.
Following this religious celebration, the next festival to look out for is the Sumidagawa Firework Festival. This will be held on the 28th of July over the Sumida River in the Asakusa area.
Every year, about a million people gather around and witness 20,000 fireworks launched over the riverside.
It is one of the most notable fireworks festivals in Tokyo, and this commemorates the Edo period, wherein it serves to convey the atmosphere of old Tokyo during those days when people used to watch fireworks displays near the river as a form of entertainment.


In addition, in the late summer season, Brazilian style carnival, Samba Festival is also hosted yearly. It features the exotic atmosphere and makes viewers feel excited and involve.
This is because there is a significant Brazilian presence and the Samba Association in this old district.

In this month, we are planning to expand our Asakusa tour for a one-month period on a trial basis in hope of meeting more visitors.
For instance, a tour which is held on the second and fourth Sunday of the month will be in line with the following time slots:
1st from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (regular tour)
2nd from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (trial tour)
It is an absolute pleasure for us to receive the influx of people who would like to participate in exploring this historical city.
Please come and join us at your earliest convenience.

(By Arac)

TOUR REPORT ON MAY 12TH, 2018 (AFTERNOON TOUR), EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

Thank you so much for joining Tokyo Free Walking Tour on May 12th afternoon.  We welcomed 26 guests from U.S.A., Singapore, Uruguay, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, U.K. and Romania.  We enjoyed walking while watching the beautiful green trees.

During the tour, I was asked from our guest what kind of Japanese food we eat every day.  The guest was wondering why Japanese women are slim.  If you think of Japanese food, what comes to your mind?  Sushi and Tempura are well known as Japanese food, however, we don’t eat Sushi and Tempura every day in general.  We eat various kind of Japanese food.  A basic arrangement of a Japanese meal consists of one kind of soup and three side dishes.  Japanese-style set menu meal is one main dish with small side dishes, a rice as staple diet and miso-soup.  You can have good balanced food. Small portion of dishes can be avoid overeating.

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In addition to that, most of Japanese girls believe thinner is better figure.  When you calculate BMI (Body mass index ⁼ Weight(kg) ÷Height(m) ÷Height(m) ), between 18.5 and 25 is categorized healthy weight.  However, many young Japanese girls want to be underweight.  Recently low carb restriction diet is trend then they stopped eating rice for thinner figure.  If you ask Japanese girls “did you lose weight? you look thin”, many of them would be happy to hear about it rather than “you look gorgeous and sexy”.   One of the top Japanese female idol group, AKB48, all members are slim and TV commercial promote slender women. I think, therefore you see many slim Japanese women in town.

Traditional Japanese cuisine, Washoku was registered as a UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage in 2013.   Forget about your diet and please enjoy various seasonal fresh food and well-balanced food during your stay in Japan!

Please visit our website at https:// tfwt.jp for our tour information!

(Posted by Tomoko)

TOUR REPORT ON MAY 12TH, 2018 (MORNING TOUR), EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

We would like to thank all of our guests showing up from the morning this day. For this week, most of the days were covered with thick cloud and raining has lasted for long, but this day was just like a miracle. We could enjoy a comfortable walk under a blue blue sky. We welcomed energetic 8 guests from Venezuela, Chile, Croatia this day.

All the talk we had with our guests was quite interesting!! After our group had passed a tea-house next to the Ninomaru-garden, there was a simple discussion about Japanese-tea. Generally speaking, we have 3 types of tea, Green-tea, Hoji-tea, Genmai-tea.
The first green tea is very common. They pick fresh leaf and steam, then dried and crumpled. You may be served everywhere in Japanese-style restaurants. Each bending machines are also ready to serve you green tea anytime. The Hoji-tea is originally green tea but is roasted. The colour of the tea is brown. The taste, it depends on each individual since it could be described as “black tea” or “smoky” and so on. Gemma’s tea is a brend of green tea and roasted brown rice, and the colour of the tea is rather yellow. The taste is quite mild and roasty.

 

You can buy these 3 type of teas at  convenient stores. At convenient stores, they are usually sold by tea bags, so you can enjoy them easily at your hotel room.
Please just try them and tell us how the “Hoji-tea” tasted to you!

(posted by Nori)

Tour Report on May 6, 2018 at Meiji Shrine and Harajuku

Many thanks for joinig our tour at Meiji Shrine and Harajuku on May 6. We had seven guests from America,Australia,Spain and Chile. Some of the guests had participated in our tour at the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace on the previous day which we appreciate very much. We all enjoyed walking at the quiet Shrine and bustling Harajuku.

 

Meiji Shrine looks like a natural forest but actually it was artificially designed. When the forest was created 100 years ago, the area was merely a wasteland belonging to the Imperial property. The shrine is dedicated to the souls of Emperior Meiji and Empress Shoken. Since the tomb of the Emperior was founded in his hometown Kyoto, Tokyo people were anxious to have something to worship in Tokyo where he spent most of his time and thereafter the shrine project was set up.
At the time of the construction over 100,000 trees were donated by people across the country and 10,000 volunteers contributed to the project. While the number of species was decesed from 370 to 270, the number of the trees increased to 170,000. Although the then Prime Minister Shigenobu Ohkuma wanted to have the grand trees such as cedars typically seen at Ise Shrine and Nikko Toshogu Shrine, the scholars and garden planners were strongly against the idea and insisted on the evergreen trees such as oak,chinquapin(chess nut) and camphor trees in the light of adaptability and the soil structure. Consequently the evergreen trees were chosen as the scholars advised. Some cedars and pine trees were planted but all of them disappeared over time. If cedars were chosen as the main trees as the Prime Minister wished, we would not be able to see such a beautiful forest.

Furthermore the trees as well as weeds have never been cut down or removed from the woodland. None of the trees have been deforested for the maintenance. Initially all the trees were carefully selected and distributed, and since then the grove has been left in the natural conditions. As you see the shrine staff everyday clean and sweep up the fallen leaves at the shrine approach, all of them will return inside the forest. Currently there are 170,000 trees with 270 species of plants and small animals which make up a ecosystem. It is quite rare for a forest  with the size of 70 hectare to preserve an ecosystem without any human involvement in the the world.                         

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All the trees at Meiji Shrine were artificially planted 100 years ago. Although they have been untouched by human hands, it is amazing that they remain beautiful and magnificent. These trees will continue to flourish for another hundreds of years in the heart of Tokyo.                                                                                                                              Please join us and you may be able to find something new with us.

(posted by Yoshi)

 

TOUR REPORT ON 5-MAY, 2018, THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

Thank you for coming our regular walking tour in the East garden of the Imperial palace on 5th May. It was on the National holiday of Children’s Day. The weather was fine and very comfortable. We welcomed 36 guests from 14 countries (U.S.A., Poland, UK, Canada, Germany, Israel, Australia, Spain, France, Netherlands, Austria, Czech, Sweden, and Cyprus). We were so happy to have met you!

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Many people showed up to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace because of long holiday of Golden week in Japan. For Japanese people this long holiday of Golden week is good chance to take long vacation but can cause some problems, for example, heavy traffic jam, expensive hotel rate, and packed places. However, it makes us happy!

Speaking of the Golden Week, I would  like to introduce you to Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route to visit as a perfect place during this season.

Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is located deep in the mountains between Toyama Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture. It was made as the road for constructing the Kurobe Dam fifty years ago. Now the road is being used for sightseeing tour. Because of its location, we need to transfer the electric-powered buses and the cable cars four times from Senzyaku station (at Nagano) to Murodo station ( at Toyama). In Golden Week a lot of people visit there, so trains are terrible crowded. Please be patient for a while.

The snow wall appears at around the top of mountain near Murodo station. It is the road surrounded by the much layered snow. During the Golden week we can enjoy walking in the snow valley. It is amazing!

The height of snow wall is getting lower and lower. We can see it from the middle of April to the middle of June. But it depends on the weather. The way to  Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is far away from Tokyo. It takes about five hours by car. However, I think it is worth going.

Posted by Y.Hino