Tour Reports

Tour Report on Jan. 20(Meiji Shrine and Harajuku)/Ueno Park Tour on Feb.11

Many thanks for joining our tour to Meiji Shrine and Harajuku area on January 20. Weather was perfect. We welcomed seven friendly guests from Australia,Portugal and America.I hope all of you refreshed your body and mind at the Shrine in the beginning of 2019.

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On our tour route there is Ota Memorial Museum of Art specializing in Ukiyo-e wood block printing between Takeshita Street and Omotesando street. They have 12,000 pieces and change the exhibition almost every month.
During the Edo period a variety of figures and trends were depicted in Ukiyo-e. They are beautiful landscapes, everyday life of commoners, actors and courtesans. Current performance displays many works of people, children and animals illustrating their cute(kawaii) and funny (Okashii) behaviors. We may be able to share the same feeling as the Edo people. The exhibition continues until January 27. In February the Museum will show Ohara Koson’s woodblock prints of birds and flowers.

Ukiyo-e is a style of woodblock printing created and developed in Japan about 300 years ago during the Edo period. The major artists are Utamaro,Hiroshige and Hokusai. The low price of the new artwork attracted customers. When Ukiyo-e printing was used as wrapping papers for the ceramics and lacquer ware Japan exported to Europe, people in Europe were amazed at the freshness of printing, bright multi-color and bold composition. Ukiyo-e impacted the painters such as van Gogh and the French Impressionists.
TFWT will have another walking tour at Ueno Park starting on February 11. Ueno Park is full of tourist attractions including trees, museums, monuments, statues, pagodas, temples and shrines. The tour will be held on a trial basis for the time being. Please visit our website and click the tour calendar for details. We will be looking forward to seeing you in Ueno as well.
(posted by Yoshi)

Tour to the East Garden, 19 January 2019, The Year of New Era

Many thanks to 29 guests who joined the tour from Singapore, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Indonesia, India, Italy, USA, Russia, and Portugal on that day.

The weather was fine and not too cold for 2 hour walking tour.

We are actually very proud of welcoming such wonderful guests from all over the world.

In this tour route we walk through Japan’s heart area like Capitol Hill in Washington, Kremlin in Moscow or Buckingham Palace & Westminster in London. The tour route is not just special for foreign tourists but all of Japanese.

This year is known to be a special year for Japanese nationals because 2019 is marked as last year of Heisei and the first year of new era whose name is yet announced. Heisei began with death of former late Emperor Hirohito who was father of current Emperor Akihoto. It was 1989 in the year of our Lord, 30 years ago. So this year is addressed Heisei 31 in Japanese official calendar.

In coming May, new Emperor Naruhito will ascend the throne and current Emperor will abdicate. He reigned for almost 30 years. Before Heisei, there were 3 eras in modern time Japan since 1868. Meiji (1968-1912), Taisho (1912-1926) and Showa (1926-1989).

In Kyoto at a lobby of Takashimaya department store, the actual carriage used for wedding ceremony of current Emperor and Empress  in 1959 when they were crown prince and princess was exhibited in memorial for Heisei Emperor and Empress.

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For the brand new era, we, Tokyo Free Walking Tour is introducing a new guide tour, 4th tour route in our guide history. The walking tour to Ueno Park, which is famous not only for greenery and landscape but collection of museums and temples, a zoo and the statue of “The Last Samurai.”

The trial tour is scheduled on February 11, National Foundation Day. It surely marks a new era of our organization and Japan’s sight-seeing. Why not plan to join?

(Masa)

Tour Report on Jan. 12. 2019 (The East Garden of the Imperial Palace)

Thank you for joining our tour visiting the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace on January 12th. We welcomed 19 people from Australia (16), U.S.A.(1), Canada (1), Japan (1). This time we have a lot of Australian guests, who I hope enjoy Japan’s winter particularly skiing.

A_IMG_8757B_Group20190112Group-C_集合写真20190112_D_集合写真According to weather forecast it is bad weather, but we are not caught in the rain. Usually plum blossoms start to bloom in February and they are a symbol of coming the spring. Some of the plum trees in the Imperial Palace East Gardens are starting to bloom.

In Japan, the second Monday of January (this year it is 14th) is Coming-of-Age Day. On this day, youths who have reached the age of 20 are cerebrated. Municipal governments hold grand ceremonies. So you may see the young men and women dressed in formal wear such as kimono. They can legally drink alcohol and smoke.16078026959_dae435063a_o(posted by N)

Tour Report on January 13(Asakusa) . Ueno Park Tour kicks off soon

Thank you so much for your participation in our tour in Asakusa on January 13. This is our first Asakusa tour in 2019. We welcomed five people from Australia and Italy. I hope all of you enjoyed our walking tour in spite of the congestion of the worshippers visiting Sensoji Temple in the New Year period. Another walking tour at Ueno Park in Tokyo is scheduled on February 11 which will be referred at the end.

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Komagatado Hall is a vermillion building located within 7 to 8 minutes walk from Sensoji Temple Kaminari-mon gate to the southern edge of Asakusa beside the Sumida River. It is the spot where the principal image of Buddhist Kannon, Goddess of Mercy housed at the Sensoji Temple main hall was discovered by the two fishermen in the Sumida River and pulled up on land about 1400 years ago. Apparently Komagatado Hall is standing at the birthplace of Sensoji Temple.

The original building was built over a thousand years ago. During the Edo period the port was congested with ferryboats for pilgrims visiting Sensoji Temple every day from the early morning because its main gate is said to be located around the place. Before heading for Sensoji, the visitors paid tribute to Komagatado Hall. In fact this was the starting point of Sensoji pilgrimage. The entrance of the building originally faced the river but while the building was repeatedly fired like the buildings of Sensoji, the front door began to face behind the river over time. The current building was reconstructed in 2003.

Komagatado literally means a horse-shaped hall leading to the name of Komagata bridge within a stone’s throw and the nearby town. The enshrined image is Bato Kannon which means horse-headed Bodhisattva of Compassion holding a horse’s head on its head like a crown. Since horses were important for farming and an essential means of transportation in old times, the Bodhisattva is regarded as the god of traffic safety and beneficial to safe journey. If you are around Asakusa or the Sumida river area, it is highly recommendable to drop in Komagatado Hall.
PS TFWT will have another walking tour at Ueno Park starting on February 11. Ueno Park is one the first Japanese public parks and full of tourist attractions including trees, museums, monuments, statues, temples and shrines. It is known for the most popular spot for cherry-blossom viewing in Tokyo in spring but is beautiful no matter what season of the year you visit. The tour will be held on a trial basis for the time being. Please visit our website and click the tour calendar for details. We will be looking forward to seeing you in Ueno as well.
(posted by Yoshi)

Happy New Year! TOUR REPORT ON JAN.5 (EAST GARDEN OF THE IMPERIAL PLACE)

Happy New Year to all of our friends in various places in the world. We appreciate your having keen interest in Japanese culture, history, customs, and people in 2018, and we hope you to have more in 2019.

Year 2019 has just started, and our free walking tour also stared its regular operation. January 5th is the day of our first tour in 2019, and we welcomed 24 guests from Australia, Argentina, Singapore, Canada, UK, Taiwan, Denmark, and US. Thank you for sharing good time with us in such a wonderful condition under clear sky and in warm climate.

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It is often mentioned that a good thing about Japan is there are 4 distinct seasons, and every season appeals in its unique way. Winter season in Ninomaru Garden is excessive case. Please look at this breath taking photo. You may sense the sound of silence from the scene.

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Look at the family below. It is our biggest pleasure to witness such a wonderful scene, like confirming strong family tie, and having fun with Instant Kimonos.

In 2019, there are many things going to happen in Japan. The new Emperor will take a position on May 1st, and many related events will be hold before and after the day. Count down to Tokyo Olympic Game keeps ticking, and many associated events will happen. Also Rugby Football World Cup will take place in autumn.

If you have been thinking of coming to Japan but not yet made it happen, it’s time to make up your mind. If you have already visited Japan before, you will find more next time. We welcome you all!

(By Takeshi)

Tour Report on Jan. 6 (Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku Tour)

Thank you for joining our 1st Meiji Jingu Shrine & Harajuku Tour in 2019.   We welcomed 8 guests from Australia and Germany.

<Group A: 3 guests and 2 guides>

 

<Group B: 1 family and 4 guides>

From Jan 1st to 3rd, more than 300,000 people had visited the Meiji Jingu Shrine to make wishes for the coming year.  We could feel the special atmosphere of the busiest shrine in Japan.

We Tokyo Free Walking Tour is going to have the 10th anniversary in this year!  From now on, we will keep doing our best to provide the valuable tour for all of you, so why not come and join us?  Thank you!

(written by H.S)

BUDDHIST AND SHINTO DEITIES ARE WAITING FOR THE NEW YEAR SEASON, the 23rd of December, Asakusa

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour in Asakusa.
On the day of our two-guided tours, the 23rd of December, we welcomed 22 guests on our walking tour.
These people came from different corners of the world, including Malaysia, Switzerland, Philippine, U.S.A. and U.K.
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The hectic and restless atmosphere in Japan signals that the year-end festivity has finally started. In Asakusa, most of the streets are packed with the influx of holiday shoppers, tourists and Buddhist devotees.

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An iconic location in the area named the “Kaminarimon Gate” or Thunder Gate is also surrounded by people. Most of them are tourists taking photos, trying to preserve the memories against the red painted gate. After managing to go through the Buddhist gate, tour groups stepped onto a busy street called the Nakamise Street. This street serves as the path to the main hall of the Sensoji Buddhist Temple. Still having some obstruction on our way to the narrow street, we were able to share to the group the information regarding the size and historical background of Nakamise street. Looking up at the colorful signboards and decorations hanging from the shops lining the streets, we felt that this, along with the jam-packed shopping areas that we passed, are real signs of the start of the year-end festivities in Japan. These jolly decorations and signboards are usually associated with things seen during New Year celebration. These include battledores, kites, and other lucky charms.


At the time we concluded the tour in the Asakusa Shinto Shrine, with joy, we coincidentally saw two people working hand-in-hand in making mochi, or rice cakes, in the Asakusa Shinto Shrine compound during our tour.
The mochi that they are making will most likely be offered to the Shinto deity enshrined in this religious establishment for the upcoming New Year celebration.


In the past, it was customary that most of the families made mochi in their home during the year end, and enjoyed eating these celebratory foods during new year season in hopes of being persistent and persevering person like mochi because of its stickiness.
Nowadays, we rarely encounter the mochi making act in Japan because people buy the mochi at grocery stores.


This was the final tour this year of the Asakusa area.
It’s our pleasure to have welcomed people from the different countries for the entire year.
A lot of people participated in our Asakusa walking tour and expressed their great interests in religious rituals or topics related to Japanese cuisine like ramen, sushi or other distinctive dishes.
Aside from that, we truly appreciate some guests who extended their stay and joined our last day’s tour held in the East Garden of the Imperial Ground to participate in this Asakusa guiding.
Hopefully, more and more guests willingly come and join our tours.
Have a nice new year holiday.
(By Arac)

Tour Report on Dec. 22 (The East Garden of the Imperial Palace)

On 22nd of December 2018, we had the last tour to The East Garden of The Imperial Palace for this year. Despite the cold rainy weather, we had 15 guests from Australia, Canada, Philippines, India and China. We are thankful to all of them for attending our tour in the bad weather.

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This year, we can still enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage. As strolling along the path of the East Garden, we were sometimes greeted by the gingko’s dazzling yellow and maple’s stunning red.

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By the way, today is 23rd of December, and is the current Emperor’s 85th birthday. Also, it is the last birthday for him as the Emperor. He abdicates at the end of next April, and the current crown prince ascends the throne soon after that. Since the current Emperor has been much loved and admired by the people of Japan, many people visited the Imperial Palace today to celebrate his birthday on the General Public for His Majesty’s Birthday. Recently the visitors are not only Japanese but also many tourists from abroad. For those who missed attending, the chance of greeting the royal family comes again on the 2nd of January 2019. And it’s entirely the last to see him directly as the Emperor. Most Japanese are more or less sentimental recalling the 30 years of his era. This period of time is called Heisei “平成”. At present, nobody knows what name is going to be given to the new Emperor’s era. Whatever the name is, we do hope the upcoming new era will be filled with peace, hope, aspiration and joy!

(Posted by Masako)

Tour Report on Dec.18 (The East Garden of the Imperial Palace weekday tour)

We had two guests from Germany and Singapore joining our weekday tour at the East Garden of the Imperial Palace on Dec.18 .

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It was a beautiful sunny day to enjoy the colorful leaves of ginkgo trees and maple trees that still remained in the beginning of winter .

 

As it was a weekday morning tour ,  we found few visitors walking around .  Therefore , we had enough time to appreciate not only  peaceful surroundings but also the exhibition of the Imperial collections at the Sannomaru Shozokan Museum .

 

We were so happy to share an enjoyable time with our guests , and hope they add our tour on their memories of Japan .

( by    Rei )

 

THE SHINTO DEITY CALMLY WELCOME AN INFLUX OF VISITORS – the 16th of December, Harajuku

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking tour in Harajyuku areas.
On the day of December 16, with a low temperature and overcast sky, we welcomed eighteen guests from different regions like U.S.A., Australia, Canada, Israel, Germany and U.K.

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Finally, December has come.
The hectic year-end holiday season undeniably brings us restless times and drives us into engaging into piles of work and commitments.
In Japanese households, people start their extensive year-end cleaning tasks, and in the workplace, workers are confronted by the deadlines of their tasks before the year ends.
It is a kind of routine that people do, brought about by the season.
During this time of the day, we happily met 18 early-bird tourists of the walking tour and commenced in front of the huge torii, or the gate of the Shinto shrine.
After designating the participants to their respective tour guides, and after the introductions, we started the 90-minute tour of Tokyo’s Harajuku district along with our tour route.

Once we stepped into the evergreen forest that nestles the Meiji Shinto Shrine, most of the members of the tour seemingly forgot the restless and hectic ambiance of the city, and it was replaced by a sense of calm brought about by the tranquil and soothing environment inside the shrine compound.

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This sacred place is also a good venue for tourists and travelers to learn about special events that are occasionally conducted in shrines, in line with the Shinto rituals, like shichigosan , and Japanese traditional weddings.
Aside from celebrations, there are also specific locations that are important to the Shinto belief. Some of them are the Chozuya, a place where visitors take part in purification rituals before going in the shrine definitely can inspire visitors’ curiosity.
At the time we concluded our tour at Omotesando Avenue -an approach of the Shinto establishment, all of the Harajuku areas were packed with an excess of pedestrians.

Known for its close proximity from the holly area, Meiji Shinto Shrine and the busy street Takeshita Street, Harajuku station currently are undergoing its massive renovation due to the urgent need for upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
This construction project will cause inconvenience and congestion for commuters and tourists.

There’s a great possibility that there will be an influx of visitors during this year-end and the coming new year holidays.
This is because this train station is a significant gateway for those who will visit the Meiji Jingu, or commercial areas like Takeshita Street, Omote Sando Avenue, Shibuya town areas, or other neighboring spots.


(From left: Takeshita Street, Omotesando Avenue, Shibuya Station, , , )

During the Christmas season, these shopping areas are full of shoppers or window viewers aiming to obtain reasonable or top-notch items for their Christmas presents.
Meanwhile, from the 31st of December to the 4th of January, more and more devotees or enthusiastic visitors come and worship the famous shrine in hopes of their health, business or academic success.


This is the final tour of the Harajuku area for this year.
Our guides are privileged to welcome people from different corners of the world for the entire year.
Hopefully, more and more Harajuku enthusiasts will come and join our tour next year.
At the same time, we would like to ensure these goers to experience the contrast between the tranquil and busy atmosphere in Harajuku.
Have a nice new year holiday.
(By Arac)