Tour Reports

The seasonal topic of year-end (Dec.8 The East Garden of the Imperial Palace Tour)

Thank you so much for joining our regular tour at the East Garden of the Imperial Palace on 8th December. We welcomed 15 people from Australia, Chili, Canada, USA, Sweden, Argentina, Macedonia, Mexico, and Paraguay. We were so happy to have met you!

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It was beautiful day but a little bit colder than last week. The leaves of the trees in the East garden of the Imperial Palace turned into deep red and brilliant yellow. We enjoyed it during the tour. At the day of the tour, the Palace household agency held the special event of walking through from the Sakashita‐mon Gate to the Inui-mon Gate. So many people showed up to enjoy the Palace.

By the way, do you know “ Sodane ” ?  This is the latest and most popular buzzword of Japan in 2018. In February, the Olympic Winter games was held in PyeongChang Korea. Japanese women curling team joined it. The team consisted of six members from Hokkaido, north part of Japan. During the game they communicated each other with saying “Sodane” as their dialect. “Sodane” means “Right!”, “Got it!” and “Sure.”, so on. Finally they won the bronze medal. This news delighted us all over the Japan . After the Olympic game “Sodane” became a buzzword through the TV show. In Japan the new word and buzzword of the year contest is held at every year-end. Many buzzwords of this year were nominated. “Sodane” was one of the nominee and won the first prize of 2018 at the contest.

If you come to Japan, try to use “Sodane” in your conversation with Japanese people. You will definitely be seen as a person familiar with Japanese. In addition, please add one more “e” vowels to the last e when you say “Sodane”.

Perfect!

 

Posted by YUMI.H

Buddhism and Christianity, 9 December 2018 Asakusa Tour

We thank guests who participated in the tours of that day. We met 13 wonderful people from Australia, Canada, UK, Chile, Portugal, USA, and Singapore.

Our guests were great people and very interested in our explanation. One of them was an artist and draw the picture of Sky Tree.

The weather was cold. It seemed real winter season started. From this time of the year, it is just getting colder. December is actually the start of winter. As a symbol of winter season, you can see illumination or Christmas trees all around the city. It may look strange because Japan is known to be predominantly Buddhist nation. Only 1 percent of the population are Christian. For most Japanese, Christmas may be like a festival.

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The tour route, Sensoji Temple is a Buddhist temple and has been worshipped for more than a thousand years. In feudal era, Christianity was banned by the authority. In modern time the ban was lifted and Christianity has become familiar to us. Although Christianity is a minor religion, but the influence on society is not small like Christmas events seen in the city.

You might say it was not just festivity but some commonality with Buddhism. What are common things in both teachings? Both religions preach all the people are equal regardless of social rank. And both religions respect sincerity of a person.

There is an exact match of describing importance of sincerity in both religions. Very similar tales exist in two religions.

In Christian bible, there is a tale called “The Poor Widow’s Offering” which is about a woman who donated a small amount of money to the temple but was praised by Jesus because she gave all she had while the rich donated much bigger amount from what was left over after they consumed as much as they wanted.

In Buddhism, there is a story titled “The Poor’s Lantern” a very poor woman came to see the temple to listen to the Buddha’s preaching and offered a lantern with small amount of oil to light up the corridor of the temple at night while the rich offered great number of lanterns with huge amount of oil. She sold her hair to buy the small amount of oil. Next morning, fires in lanterns the rich offered were all put out but the lantern she offered had continued to light up.

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Sincerity is important in every aspect of our life. Learning from these stories, we are sincerely committed to this volunteer activity. Please come and join us.

(Masa)

SHIFTING FROM DRESSY COLORED LEAVES TO WINTER EVENING ILLUMINATION (DEC.2, SUNDAY-TOUR)

Thank you for your participation to our Meiji Shrine and Harajuku route tour on December 2. Lovely guests we welcomed counted 9 from Canada, Netherlands and US. The weather was cloudy and rather cold but not windy.  Probably because of seasonality, both Meiji Shrine and Takeshita Street in Harajuku town were less crowded thus we could enjoy walking leisurely.  Autumn colors were still bright, but it became closer to the end of its season.  Lucky for our guests, we could see traditional Japanese style events such as 7-5-3 (family event celebrating healthy growth and wishing longevity of their 7-5-3 years old children), and  wedding-procession dressed in classic Japanese costume.

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During the tour, we take short break at “Forest Terrace” rest house near by main entrance.  Having pleasant chat and networking among the group is also not a little enjoyment of our tour.  You can gain local information both from us, local guide and other guests from abroad.  Also,  you can have a quick bite of some Japanese snacks such as baked dumpling with soy sauce during this break time.

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Evening illumination events are one of the popular tourist attractions in winter.  You can enjoy the illumination viewing at various spots in large cities and at some sigh seeing cites all over Japan.  Omotesando Illumination is a classic and popular winter illumination event in Tokyo.  The 1.1km street is lined with 150 zelkova trees lightened up with approx. 90.000 LED lights in champagne gold color during Christmas season. Some of the trees were planted almost a century ago, witness of the history of Harajuku indeed.

(posted by Akemi)

Tour Report on 1-December, 2018, Saturday afternoon

Thank you the guests who kindly joined our afternoon tour on 1st of December. We had 13 guests from six countries, divided by four groups.

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Hard to believe that it was already in December: it was very warm and a best day for walking tour.  I enjoyed the tour with our lovely guests, rainbow at Wadakura Fountain park, and very beautiful autumn leaves during the tour. In particular, we could see the reflection of such autumn leaves at the pond in Ninomaru Park. Awesome!

Speaking of Ninomaru park, I recently found a “zigzag” bride over the pond. It makes us to walk more slowly and enjoy the surroundings, compared to a normal straight bridge. This structure is not only for the bridge in the park, but also the pathway in town. In particular, we can see it in castle town in Japan. The structure is defensive strategy against the enemy: they have to walk slowly through such zigzag path to reach the center of the castle.

Talking about castle, some colleagues here in TFWT like castle and we had a hiking at Odawara castle last weekend. Edo castle’s tower was not rebuilt after the last burn in 1657, but the tower in Odawara castle was reconstructed again and again. It was originally constructed in 15th century. We can reach Odawara from Tokyo station in ca. 1.5h with local train (JR or Odakyu line) or 35m with Shinkansen bullet train. If you look for something historical monument around Tokyo, I strongly recommend you to go there. Enjoy it!

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(Posted by Katsumi)

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

East garden of the Imperial palace welcomed us in a full dressy color (Nov.29, weekday-tour)

Time passes away…, so we settled off with a empty boat for a while.
Finally, 4 trippers were so generous to take a ride on the way.
Well, here comes the joy boat!! Also, we would like to thank our guests
teaching us about  their beautiful country, France and Australia.
When we have a talk like this, we just wish to visit there soon.

Needless to say, the color of the autumn trees were in full change.
The sky was so blue so the contrast with the trees were extremely vivid.
The Ginko leaves in full yellow, witch hazel leaves in yellow and red,
Maple leaves in red and green,  evergreen trees, the fruitful orchard garden in orange,
On weekends, the east garden of the Imperial house are usually lively with many visitors.
However, this day, we could see less people walking around.
So, it was like a private garden!

The moderate morning walk was a like a fantastic adventure and
we really appreciate our guests to take part in to share their each precious time.
The heartwalming talk with our guests, the warm color of the trees,
we just appreciate the time we could spend with you all.
Thank you very much again and hope that all of you could enjoy your stay in Japan!

(posted by Nori)

THE YEAR-END SEASON BRINGS US THE RESTLESS TIME IN JAPAN, the 25th of November (Asakusa)

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour. On the day of our two-guided tours, the 25th of November, we welcomed 12 guests from, U.S.A., Canada, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Brazil, and Uzbekistan.
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As usual, we started guiding people to Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center in order to see better views of Asakusa areas from its rooftop.
Right after we left the information building, we moved into Sensoji compounds by passing through the famous gates, Kaminariomon Gate (Thunder Gate) and Hozomon Gate (Treasure Gate), and there are vendors lined up called Nakamise Street.
Our tour ended at the Shinto establishment, Asakusa Shinto Shrine.

Just like a picture postcard of town areas, Tokyo Skytree, and its surrounding areas were seen on the backdrop of the blue sky from the rooftop of Asakusa Information building.
The scenery will immediately catch viewers’ attentions. The views often lead Asakusa tourists first to this memory location, which is more adorable than any other sights in this historical town.
It’s no wonder that this historical location, Asakusa, is one of the most remarkable spots in Tokyo.

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December is fast approaching.
This season instantly drives the sense of restless in every household and workplace.
Many people have a strong commitment to finish workloads before the year ends.
Well, we’ll talk about one of the year-end events in Japan, “The Kanji of The Year”
The Kanji of The Year

It’s about time we welcome one of the much-awaited events happening each year, the
Kanji of the Year.
Kanji of the Year is one of the many year-end events that people celebrate, and in this particular event, a distinct kanji character is revealed to the people of Japan.
It is organized by the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, an institution that encourages people to enjoy learning kanji characters. They are also responsible for certifying people’s Kanji Proficiency Level in the country.

:———— 2014 “zei”                                          2016 “kin” ————:
(From the website of the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation)
This yearly celebration takes place in Kiyomizu Temple of Kyoto Prefecture, wherein the event organizers announce a specific kanji character that describes the social trends in Japan during the entire year.
This occasion is broadcasted by television stations all over Japan, and is seen as a very exciting moment because a senior monk reveals the selected the kanji  character of the year by creating a calligraphy of it in a huge canvas outside of the temple.
The process of selecting the kanji character for each year is decided through how a kanji character symbolizes the sense of social trends that happened in that year. Various aspects included in social trends are politics, society, entertainment, weather, and other happenings.
For instance, the character “税 (zei)” or tax in English, was selected as 2014’s Kanji of the Year, because it was the first time in 17 years that the government of Japan increased consumption tax from 5% to 8%.
It led to consumers’ immediate purchase before the tax hike.
Consequently, after this tax rise, people were discouraged to buy their ideal items.
Meanwhile, 2016 kanji of the year was determined as the word 金(kin), or gold in English because there a lot of money scandals among cooperate or private sectors in the year.
Additionally, the Japanese athletes won a lot of gold medals in London Olympic game.
This eye-catch calligraphy writing started in 1995 and signifies one of the year-end news in Japan.
We are looking forward to seeing  “The Kanji of The Year 2018”.

(By Arac)

ENJOYED EARLY WINTER IN THE EAST GARDENS OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE (NOVEMBER.24)

Thank you for joining Tokyo Free Working Tour on Nov.24th.
We welcomed a total of 24 guests from: US(10), Canada(2), UK(1), Spain(2), Tunisia(1), Singapore(4), Manila(2) and Australia(2). Last Saturday was a  bit cloudy and cold but it was still an enjoyable tour course with beautiful  autumn views.

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In some areas of the garden, we could enjoy cherry blossoms. Of course cherry blossom season is in spring but this cherry blooms two times per year. There are lots of special flora and fauna inside the imperial palace, . You also can enjoy special Nishiki-koi (Colored carp) in a  pond in the  Ninomaru area. This carp fish is a hybrid between a long tail fin type from Indonesia and a traditional Japanese  one from Emperor Akihito who is an  ichthyologist. Last week, emperor and empress released 9 hybrid Nishiki-Koi carps in the  pond before stepping down next year.


During the tour, we also could enjoy chatting  with our guests. Sharing time and talking about my country for guests is my one of my motivations to be a volunteer tour guide. This time, one guest said that he lost his JR pass during his stay but in spite of his bad luck he visited many places to climb mountains. I felt sorry for him but he also told me he could enjoy Japan so much so that I was  relieved. Basically, Japan is quite safe and most cases lost property is returned  to the owner.  I lost my smart phone a few times but they came back to me from their trip. Not only my  smart phone but also my JR pass, brand bag etc..! On the other hand, I picked up brand new smart phone on the pedestrian crossing and brought  it to police box last month. It’s normal. So if you find a lost item during your stay in Japan, please take it to the nearest koban/police box for the owner!
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Again, imperial palace has a lot of flora and fauna. We guarantee all four season can be enjoyable so please come again and lets chat together in our tour!

(posted by Miyuki)

The leaves on the Japan’s first avenue are turning yellow(November 18)

TFWT appreciate your participation in our tour of Meiji Shrine and Harajuku area on November 18. We welcomed the 21 friendly guests from Spain, Switzerland, Israel, Canada, America, Taiwan and Vietnam. Weather was perfect in the midst of autumn. I hope all of you enjoyed viewing Shichi-go-san(7-5-3) event, chrysanthemum display, wedding procession and changing colors of the leaves with us.

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Shichi-go-san is an event to pray for the growth of children of three, five and seven years of age around November 15. Boys and girls of three, boys of five and girls of seven are celebrated. Parents as well as children express their gratitude to the deities for their growth and blessing for the future. We saw a girl wearing pretty kimono on the shrine approach. After the purification rituals Chitose Ame(thousand year candy) are given to the children wishing good health and long life. Although there are a few theories, the origin of Shichi-go-san can be traced to the Edo period about 300 years ago. The fifth Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi brought his eldest son to the shrine hoping good health since he was so sickly. In addition Hamaya are the ritual arrows to drive away devils and bring good fortune.

Then we passed Omotesando street. This street used to be the approach to Meiji Shrine and is actually the Japan’s first avenue. Omotesando is also known for the lines of grand zelkova trees. Those leaves are turning yellow and may be the peak of autumn foliage soon. The image of the street changed from the shrine approach to a fashion epicenter in 1970s. Now this area has a number of the internationally famous flagship brand shops. The leaves of the trees will be illuminated in December.
Lots of fun and amusements will satisfy you in Harajuku area. Join us, we are delighted to guide you at Meiji Shrine and Harajuku.

(posted by Yoshi)

A WONDERFUL DAY IN THE EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE

Thank  you  for  joining  our  tour  visiting  the  East  Garden  of  the  Imperial  Palace on  November 17th.   We  welcomed  as  many  as  29  people  from  U.S.A.,  Australia,  Singapore,  Italy,  Canada,  Switzerland,   France,   Spain,   India,   and    Nether-land.

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Being  a  little  bit   late,   leaves  of  Tokyo  area  begin  to  color  to  yellow  and  red,   and    it  was  very   fine,  comfortable   day.   Scenery  of  these  colored  trees  matches  modern  buildings  and   remains  of  old  Edo  castle  (stone  wall  and  moat  etc)  very  well.

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The  circumference  of   Edo  castle  is  said  to  be  6  kilometers   and   all   surrounded   by  stone  walls  and   moats,   and   these  remains   of   the  huge  castle  can  be  seen  in  many  places  near  Imperial    Palace. We   could  enjoy   these  harmonized  scenery  from  the  begging to  the  end  of   our  tour.

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Every  time  it  is  a  great   pleasure  for  us   to  welcome   foreign   guests,  and  guide  this  tour.     This    time   there  were  two   guests   who   are   friends   of   one  of   our   guides   and   live   in    New   York.   They  came  Tokyo   and   kindly   join   our  tour ,   met   him  in   their    busy   schedule,  and   cheered  us.

We  were   very   happy  having  been  with  our  guests.    We   appreciate   again,  and   hope  all  of   our  guests  will   have  wonderful  memories.

(posted  by  Shino.)

The very “Imperial Palace” day, 14 November 2018

We thank 12 guests who participated in the tour from USA, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, and U.K. on that day. We divided into 2 groups.

 

 

 

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It was a very lucky day for the tour to the imperial palace. Because it was a weekday morning to noon, we could view a very “Imperial Palace” events.

One is Ambassador’s inauguration ceremony at Tokyo Station, where a horse carriage welcomed newly appointed ambassador and took that person to the imperial palace so he could participate in the ceremony meeting with Emperor.

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In that morning, 2 ceremonies for 2 ambassadors from Finland and Ireland were held consecutively. The carriage went along with another horse guards. It was almost like European dynasty.

A newly appointed ambassador waited for the horse carriage in the imperial waiting room on 1st floor of the Station Building just right next to Marunouchi central gate, where guides and guests meet every time.  The square in front of Tokyo Station was barricaded and heavily guarded by the station clerks and police.

The other event was held inside the East Garden. The Imperial Brass-Band played instruments on turf in Honmaru area, on which feudal lord castle used to stand. It was a lunch time concert. People enjoyed listening to the music on turf.

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These are the events only seen on week days. Our guests could take advantage of a weekday tour.

The season is turning autumn as you can see the color of leaves on the route. It is getting colder so if you wish to participate in the tour this season, please do not forget to wear warming clothes such as jacket, coat or scarf.

(Masa)

Tokyo Free Walking Tour hosts the tour to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace at 1PM every Saturday afternoon but occasionally weekday morning tours are held so please check out our tour calendar page for the weekday tours as well as other tours on Sunday and National holidays.