Tour Reports

11 AUGUST 2018, EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

7th of August is Risshu in Japanese calendar, which means beginning of autumn. In contrast to the implication of the name, we had another day over 33 degree on 11th of August. It is our big pleasure that we welcomed 18 guests from US, UK, Singapore, Spain, Portuguese, and China. We spent a good time together on such a hot day.

As always, we started from Tokyo station, and we walked through tall buildings. It is fascinating to see mixture of modern and historical sight at one glance.

We carefully chose the route to the east garden to avoid direct sunlight so that we wouldn’t lose much energy. Good news is that there are beautiful fountains and pretty streams in Wadakura Fountain Park, and they gave us cool and crisp feeling even under severe sunshine. From the park, you can see both Tatsumi (Dragon-Snake) and Fujimi (Fuji View) Watch Tower.

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At this time of year, the moats around and inside the Imperial Palace are fully covered with green water-weed. This gives objects in the garden unique view, and brings us the mood of nostalgia.

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It is always good to spend time in the place of well maintained trees and plants. The East Garden is no exception. We enjoyed places in relaxed atmosphere.

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Inside the garden, there are lots of well preserved remaining of Edo castle. Every guest showed keen interest in stories behind those objects.

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There may be lingering heat in the mean time, but soon it will get cooler. A hot day has its own way of joy, and a cooler day has its own as well. I hope every tourist find his/her way of enjoying Japan.

(Takeshi)

 

Dating back to the Edo period(August 12)

A big thank you to all who participated in our tours in Asakusa on August 12. We welcomed eleven guests from UK, Spain, Germany, Taiwan and Australia. It was muggy weather but not too bad. Fortunately typhoon Shanshan had gone away by the time of our tours. I hope all of you enjoyed walking with us.

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The main approach to Sensoji Temple, Nakamise Street is famous, but crossing Denpoin Street has a different atmosphere and maintains the old-time ambience of Edo(currently Tokyo) with the variety of special shops and interesting figures. The name of the street is derived from Denpoin Temple along the street. The temple is the living quarters of the priest and training place in the pretty garden which is normally closed to the public.

The street is just 200 meters long and lined with little shops of the elaborately crafted products such as Edo kiriko, Kanzashi hair accessory and tenugui cloth which are passed down from the Edo period(1603-1868). Edo kiriko are a unique type of cut glass. The clear colors and delicate patterns are artistic. Kanzashi are hair ornament used in traditional Japanese hairstyles. Furthermore, Tenugui are a type of towel with the sense of the seasons. They can be used in various ways such as drying hands, a mat or for a display. These products may be suitable as a souvenir from Asakusa.

It is amazing that the street has full of remnants from the pre-modern period. For example Hansho Bell, a watch tower to look out for fires and strike the bell at that time and tensui-oke, rainwater tank for extinguishing fires. Edo was susceptible to fires, since the buildings were mostly woods and stood very close each other. The Sensoji Temple main hall was destroyed by fires several times. For this reason Tensui-oke are seen elsewhere in the temple precincts as a lesson. These remains are not too conspicuous and easily missed. You have to look very closely to see it.

In addition, there are six outstanding thief characters somewhere on the street. One is a sneaky Nezumi Kozo(literally rat man) modelling a legendary thief and hero who lived in Edo. Nezumi kozo is famous for stealing money from the evil rich and helping the poor. The others are five master thieves and their stories were made into kabuki plays. The principal figure is standing on the street. Most of the figures are not the level of your eyesight and look up. It may be a fun for visitors to look for another four thieves.

Finally, your tour will end up with food and drinks at the extended Hoppy Street. There are plenty of izakaya(tavern) restaurants. Hoppy Street is a common name and came from ‘hoppy’, a low alcoholic-flavored beverage(0.8%) which was traditionally popular, since beer was too expensive after WW2. Now people are drinking hoppy mixed with shochu,clear distilled liquor(25%). Drink hoppy at Hoppy Street and become happy!!!

We are delighted to show you the lovely part of Asakusa including Sensoji Temple and look forward to seeing you then.

(posted by Yoshi)

Tour Report on August 5 Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku

It was another hottest day in Tokyo with beyond 30 degrees Celsius at 10 am in the morning! Despite the heat, we welcomed nine Tokyo lover tourists from Australia, Belgium, U.K., U.S., and Vietnam. We divided up into four groups so that the guides can communicate closely enough in small groups.

Having got together in front of the first Torii Gate next to JR Harajuku station, we started the tour on time at 10 am, though some of the guest came pretty early. We were sorry to have them wait but the tour requires no reservation for any possible tourists to drop in on sight.

Crossing the Torii gate which separates the crowded human world and the holly God’s world, we had a “cool” walk in the forest surrounding the shrine. On the way toward the main building, things behind Japanese culture were introduced such as who was Emperor Meiji and history of the imperial family, the “spiritual” function of sake, etc.

The guests on today were lucky enough to see a bride and groom once they entered the main building property. They were in formal traditional kimono costumes, the bride in white kimono and the groom black kimono.

In addition to practice praying in a formal manner, the guests experienced writing wish on a wooden tablet or in a letter, which was another fun event.

Due to the heat, some of the groups finished the tour only inside the shrine, but others went so far, through Takeshita Dori Street, the mecca of fad in Japan, toward the International Bazaar, the place to get decent Japanese souvenirs. The “finishers” would definitely have deserved Japanese-style shaved ice, Kaki-gohri.

(Posted by A.I.)

AUGUST 4, THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

It has been an unusually hot summer. Despite the heat, tourists continue to visit Japan to enjoy holidays.

On our tour to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace on August 4, 15 guests from 9 countries joined us. Thank you so much.

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It was another hot day with high temperature up to 35 degrees, so we chose to walk and stay in the shades of trees as much as possible, took longer rests at air conditioned rest houses to reduce the risk of heat stroke.

 

We were relieved by the gentle wind coming through the trees when we strolled around the Ninomaru Japanese garden.

No one seems to have been excessively tired during the two-hour tour. I believe all the guests have enjoyed the tour to the end.

 

Lush green garden and cicadas singing loudly in the East Garden made us feel we are just in the middle of summer season, and that reminded me some haiku (short poems) of Matsuo Basho. He was a famous haiku poet who lived in 17th century.

Summer grasses,
All that remains,
Of warriors’ dreams
(Natsukusa ya, tsuwamonodomo ga, yume no ato)

Deep silence,
The shrill of cicadas,
Seeps into rocks
(Shizukasa ya, iwa ni shimiiru, semi no koe)

 

Summer is getting hotter in recent years. But if you go to watch a spectacular fireworks show or join in a local town summer festival, which you can experience only in summertime, you can still enjoy and make the most of your summer holidays in Japan.

(Chino)

Unpredictable typhoon crosses from East to West – July 28, East Garden of the Imperial Palace

Luckily, scorching heat seemed to sooth down after lasting for  20 days.
But what came next was an “unpredictable typoon”.
We fixed our eyes on the weatherforcast with anxious, but were  happy to draw a conclusion that we would be able to conduct our tour at last since the storm would not hit us during the tour and the transportation was in usual operation.

Despite such a weather condition,  it was our huge pleasure meeting each of our guests.
We had an AM tour and an PM tour this day and could welcome 24 guests in total.
Thank you for coming from U.S.A., Canada, U.K. Israel, Hungary, Australia, Taiwan.

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People on the streets were less but we could rather enjoy the quiet
Marunouchi and Imperial Palace like our private area.
In the middle of  both of our tours, there was  a ‘mad’ raining time for about 20 minutes,
but for the rest, we could  walk confortably through the garden without an umbrella.
And more to say, this season, the color of the greenary in the east garden could be a really relief !! Let’s go through the historical area with a lot of greenary, stone walls, and so on.

The typhoon was predicted to reach Tokyo from the evening,
so the famous Sumida River Firework Festival had been postponed to next day.
We felt sorry for our guests whom expected to go to see them but hope all of
you could find another activity to replace your fun in this broad Tokyo.

Every Saturday we look forward meeting you. On the other hand,  we have to announce that our country is experiencing unusual weather this summer with heavy rain and intensive heat. Please keep your eye on our Facebook for possible changes in our tour schedule.

[Facebook ] Tokyo Free Walking Tour   –> search by texting the next –> @TokyoFWT

(posted by Nori)

24 July 2018, Weekday Tour of The East Garden of The Imperial Palace

Many thanks to our weekday tour guests of 24th July at the East garden of the Imperial palace. We welcomed 8 people from Switzerland, Russia, Germany, France, Greece, Italy, and Israel.
It was a terrible hot weather. Before starting the tour the temperature showed 34 degrees. At first we worried about heat shock in this bad condition, but our tour was much better than we had expected.
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During the tour we chose the explaining place with shade like under the trees or inside the rest house. Fortunately our guests were so positive and energetic. Owing to their active behavior we were able to go up the base part of the main tower of Edo castle. We felt a pleasant wind and enjoyed Marunouchi skyline at the top of base part. We were so happy to have experienced Japanese exceptional summer.
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Speaking of the Japanese summer, The National High School Baseball Championship is one of the highlights of the Japanese summer. Recently Japanese people like football. But Japanese people like baseball from long time ago. Especially The National High School Baseball Championship is very popular in Japan.
Now each country is holding preliminary games. After that the winner of each country’s high school can participate in The National Championship at The Koshien Stadium in Hyogo prefecture.

The Koshien Stadium is a professional baseball team’s home field (Hanshin Tigers’) but is also a sacred place for high school baseball players.
If you go to Kansai region, visit The Koshien Stadium to watch the games directly.
If you don’t have much time to visit there, you can watch the games on TV. This summers championship will hold from 5 August to 16 August. It is longer than usual.
The passions of young baseball players thrill audiences. Try to watch the games!

Posted by Y.Hino

 

SUMIDA RIVER FIREWORK SHOW IS COMING SOON-22th of July

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour in Asakusa.
On the day of our two-guided tours, on the 22nd of July, we welcomed 31 guests on our walking tour.
These people came from different regions of the world, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Colombia, India, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland and U.S.A.
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The growing momentum of the scorching heat brought about by the summer season continues to prevail all over Japan.
Some areas in the western side of Japan even experienced the temperature of around 40 degree Celsius.
At Asakusa in Tokyo, the temperature reached 35degree Celsius in the morning and intensified around the time that we started our afternoon tour.
Despite the extreme summertime heat, we were lucky and happy to meet 31 energetic participants who joined our tour of the district.

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We went through the Kaminarimon Gate or the Thunder Gate of the Sensoji Buddhist Temple and proceeded to the Nakamise Shopping Street. All of the participants were eager to explore Asakusa, however, at the time that we concluded our tour at the Asakusa Shinto Shrine, most of the guests seemed exhausted, mainly because of the unbearable temperature.


(Data from Japan Meteorological Agency)
As we have recommended in our previous blog posts, strolling around Asakusa during the nighttime might interest you if you are not fond of going outdoors during the daytime on summer days. Aside from a cooler temperature, you can also explore the district in a different atmosphere at night.
So, firework festivals are outstanding fixtures of the summer nights in Japan.

The Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival or Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai in Japanese, is one of the most notable fireworks festivals in Tokyo.
It is an event held annually, held every last Saturday of July, over the Sumida River near Asakusa in Tokyo.
This extravagant event is held to commemorate the Edo period and to convey the atmosphere during those days, when people used to enjoy watching firework displays near the river.


Initially, this firework event was launched in 1732 to mourn for the lives of the people who have died of famine due to the desperate and critical economic crisis in those days.
At the same time, this event had a crucial role to comfort and encourage the families of the stricken people and it coincided with the re-opening of the Sumida River.
Hanabi or Fireworks are often associated with beauty and fragility because of the short but majestic time it burns in the sky.
For instance, immediately, after we see fireworks launch and explode into the sky, they are instantly gone moments after, leaving behind its loud sound and smoke, before fading away into the dark.

(2018 Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival will be held at 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM on Saturday, July 28)
(By Arac)

21 July 2018, The East Garden of the Imperial Palace

Thanks to all the guests for joining the tour and having a good time with us on 21st July!

We welcomed 34 guests and divided into 3 groups. It was extremely hot, the temperature got over 35 C, so we walked shady route as possible and recommended guests to drink at every water tap facilities.

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This summer season reminds me of the Bird Man Rally Contest which is held at Lake Biwa of Hikone city in Shiga prefecture. Rule of this contest is to fly by only human power with a  handmade plane, take off from the platform at 1om height (approach length is also 10m). The winner pilot flew 40km!! last year. Though lake Biwa is biggest lake in Japan, the width of the lake is short for 40km, so pilot needs to turn his plane at 20km point from the platform to fly more distance. The winner last year succeeded to back to platform area. It’s first time in this contest.

To fly more distance, location of flight turning point is changed from 20km to 30km this year, so maximum distance becomes 60km! The 41st contest is planned to be held on 28th and 29th July this year, and it would be broadcasted on TV in Aug or Sep. It’s really my pleasure to watch TV program and hope one of pilots fly to 60km.

If you have chance to visit Hikone city or to watch TV program in Japan, don’t miss it!

 (Hikone city has Hikone castle, built in 17th century, designated as national treasure.)

 Please post your feedback in our Facebook or Trip Advisor, and tell your friends your experiance of this tour. We are great happy if your friends join our tour in the future.

 (Reported by Nao)

 

Huge Torii welcomed us with a giant branch , July 15, Meiji Jingu

Thank you very much for joining us even it was a
very hot day. We appreciate all of our guests whom were  brave enough to
overcome the heat!!
(Actually we could have plenty of shade inside Meiji Jungu to walk around)
We could welcome 17 guests from U.S.A, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Italy, U.K.

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“What is this?”
We were asked by our guests when arriving the 2nd Torii.
It was also our first time to see a SAKAKI attached to the Oo-torii, and the branch itself looked like an giant ornament to match the size of the huge torii.

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SAKAKI (English name: Cleyera japonica Thunb)is a sacred tree, which has a meaning of  the boundary between gods and humans.
It is said that the the gods dwell in the sharp branches.
Or in Japanese old myth, SAKAKI marks the place where the god exists.

What an a amaze…,
Each time we visit the Meiji Jingu or Harajuku,
we have a new discovery so as our guests!!

Let us share the lasting excitement or surprise with all of you.
We look forward meeting you every other week at Meiji Jungu,
Sunday 10:00 a.m.

(posted by Nori)

FIRES AND QUARRELS WERE THE HIGHLIGHT OF EDO-JULY 14

Thank you for joining out Tokyo Free Walking Tour in the East Garden of the Imperial Palace.
On the day of our two-guided tours, 14th of July, we welcomed 38 guests from, India, Canada, Germany, U.K., Australia, Hungary, Indonesia, U.S., Spain, Israel, Philippine and Iran


The temperature rose up to around 35 degrees Celsius and stayed the same degree or more in the afternoon. With this, we started our two-hour tour from Tokyo Station.


Tokyo Station was overlooking us, and it also seemed to warmly welcome our tour group, as it always does.
After a fifty-minute walk from Tokyo Station towards the direction of the East Garden of the Imperial Ground, where we were surrounded by the bountiful flora in the well-maintained and truly majestic garden.

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At the Otemon Gate, the main gate of the Edo Castle, our guides usually explain an ornament to tourists.
This ornament called Shachihoko is believed to be a guardian and a protector of the castle from fire.
Countless incidents of fire occurrences have been recorded in the town of Edo, both major and minor ones. As this chart explains, some of them are so huge that it has left more than 100,000 casualties and severe damage to the town.
There is even an anecdote that says “Fires and quarrels were the highlights of Edo”.
As this anecdote mentions, dreadful fires and quarreling brought huge inconveniences and even misfortunes but provided some sort of entertainment to people’s lives.
Interestingly, some fire occurrence has somewhat romantic tale.
We would like to share you one of the topics, the story of Yaoya-oshichi.

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In Edo era, from 1603 to 1861, people in Edo city, which was old Tokyo, commonly said that “Fires and Quarrels were the highlights of Edo”.
In other words, there were lots of notable fires and disputes in Edo City.
Under these circumstance, Yaoya Oshichi’s story was made.
Yaoya Oshichi literally meaning “greengrocer Oshichi”, was fourteen years old, and the daughter of a wealthy greengrocer, Tarobei.
They lived in Edo city at the beginning of the Edo period.
Unfortunately, Oshichi was burned at the stakes for committing arson.
Behind this incident, there were a lot of sadness and disparity, which inspired this young woman to drive to arsenal crime.
One day, the Oshichi’s family had their house burned by an accidental fire.
So, they temporally evacuated in some temple while they were reconstructing their new house.
In the evacuation facility, this young woman happened to meet a man, Saemon, and she fell in love with this young guy.
However, the time had come for her to leave there because her new home had already constructed.


After returning to her newly built house, the memories of the young girl were fully dominated by her romantic relationship with her loved one.
As a result, the next year, she set fire to her residence in order to attract Saemon’s attention, thinking she could meet him again if another fire occurred.
This fire was called “Oshichi Fire”, which resulted in around 3500 causalities in Edo city.
It was listed as one of the top ten serious fires in this historical town.
This may sound unbelievable in real life nowadays but throughout the ages, it is true that people can seriously be blinded of love.
This is why this story has been popularized in novels and Kabuki play as a romantic love story.
Nowadays, the soul of Oshichi is enshrines at Enjyoji Buddhist Temple in Tokyo and its memorial event is held annually.
(By Arac)