Tour Reports

Somei-yoshino cherry tree blossoms coming out at Ueno Park (March 21)

I want to thank all of you for participating in our tour at Ueno Park on March 21.
Nine people kindly joined our tour from Spain, America and UK. It was a bit windy but a nice Spring weather. I hope all of you enjoyed walking with us.

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As a matter of fact Ueno Park is one of the most famous and popular hanami(cherry blossom viewing) spot in Tokyo. Over 1,200 cherry trees are planted with 50 varieties. Although we have witnessed some other early blossoming of the trees, Somei-yoshino, the most planted and favorite species in Japan have just started to bloom. 550 Someiyoshino trees may reach the blooming peak in a week or so depending upon the temperatures.

Since cherry blossoms signal the arrival of Spring, Japanese people traditionally admire them from the ancient times. Somei-yoshino is relatively new in the history. It was developed by the crossbreeding between Ohshima and Edo-higan cherry trees and cultivated by the gardener at Somei Village, currently Toshima, Tokyo in the late Edo period over 250 years ago. It is a clone from a single tree and propagated by grafting to all over Japan and the rest of the world. Therefore, each one has an identical gene and comes together on flowering and falling at once when the condition is met. Before the leaves come out, Somei-yoshino trees enter full bloom. Indeed, the entire tree looks dyed by the pink color of the blossoms. Pink color  gradually turns to white. Also, the petal is relatively large and gorgeous. The tree quickly grows and flowers in about five years earlier than other varieties. In addition, the tree is not too tall, and so they fit well with hanami party. During the season 1,200 lanterns hang from the trees and will be illuminated in the evening. Under the fully blossomed cherry trees people enjoy eating and drinking with family, friends and company colleagues. Since the peak blooming period is just a week or so,  people quickly enjoy the moment and welcome Spring day and night. The impatient people are already picnicking under the trees. Some people excuse themselves for drinking alcohol, though.

After the Meiji period Somei-yoshino became explosively popular and planted at the parks, schools and the bank of a river across the country. There are millions of Somei-yoshino trees in Japan. These are all linked to a single tree. According to the recent academic report one of the cherry trees at the central area of Ueno Park may be the original Somei-yoshino. If it is true, the tree is over 250 years old. I am anticipating the future research and discussion.

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Our tour at Ueno Park is irregularly held and the next tour is scheduled on April 29. We will be looking forward to seeing you then.

(Posted by Yoshi)

WEEKDAY TOUR OF THE EAST GARDENS OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE ON MARCH.19, 2019

Thank you for joining us. We welcomed 13 guests from US, Spain, and Germany. We divided the guests into 3 groups and started our tour at 1:00 pm from Tokyo station. Each group has 2 guides, so all guests and guides were able to enjoy conversation while walking.

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It was a perfect day for walking however still a little early in the cherry blossom season.

Cherry blossom is in full bloom in early spring from late March to the middle of April.The period of bloom depends on the area and the year. In this year, the beginning of bloom would be March 21 in Tokyo according to the forecast. One significant aspect of the blossom is that once it blooms, it lasts only about one week. People enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms not only from the moment the flower bud fully opened, but also throughout the period while they scatter away.When the patals are falling, we see the “hana-fubuki” phenomenon, a snow shower of blossom. It is a particularly breathtaking moment.

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Thanks again to all the guests for joining and having good time with us.We have been introducing our activities at Facebook and Trip adviser.If you have joined our tour,please check them,and give us your comments or feedbacks.

TFWT is going to hold a walking tour at Ueno Park on March 21 at 1pm. Ueno Park has the historic temples and shrines as well as museums. In addition, the park is famous for a “HANAMI” spot in Tokyo and the most symbolic cherry tree, Somei-yoshino is just about to bloom. Cherry Blossom Festival will be held from March 21 to April 7. You can expect to enjoy not only cherry blossoms but also many events.

 

(posted by YUMI.K)

What is special about Japan? March 16 the East Garden Tour

Many thanks to guests coming from all over the world.

On that day for the East Garden of the Imperial Palace tour, we welcomed 25 people from Israel, USA, Russia, Phillipinnes, Serbia, and Canada and divided into 3 groups.

It was fine and warm afternoon. We really enjoyed the tour.

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Many foreigners visit Japan to find something special only seen in Japan. This coming spring, cherry blossoms will be the one.

But there are many more special things foreigners can find in Japan. One very good example is “SNOW MONKEY,” which we call Nihon-zaru (Japanese monkey). Why Japanese monkeys are called that name is that monkeys are supposedly inhabitants in tropical areas such as jungles in Africa or Southeast Asia.

But in Japan monkeys live in a snowed mountain like Jigokudani in Nagano prefecture. The place has become a big tourist attraction because wild monkeys come to bathe in hot spring in the snowed mountain. Meaning the monkeys are the world’s northernmost living primates except humans. Visitors can easily approach to the monkeys and observe their livelihood. It is not a zoo but wild monkeys habits.

We are the very guides who can share such good information, so please ask us what special thing you can find in Japan.

So now we would like to introduce you our special guide tour to UENO Park, scheduled on March 21 at 1pm. Ueno Park has the historic temples and shrines as well as museums. In addition, the park is famous for a hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spot in Tokyo and the most symbolic cherry tree, Somei-yoshino is just about to bloom. The blooming peak may be at the end of the month or beginning of April depending on the weather. The meeting place is between Park Exit of JR Ueno Station and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. It will be accessed from Ueno Stations of JR, Tokyo Metro Ginza/Hibiya Line and Keisei Line. The tour takes about two hours. Join us to enjoy nature and culture at Ueno Park.

(Masa)

St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17/Ueno Park tour on March 21

Thank all of you for joining our tour at Meiji shrine and Harajuku area on March17. The weather was perfect in the beginning of Spring. We had 16 friendly guests from America, Australia and UK. I hope all of you enjoyed walking with us.

Meiji Shrine was constructed about 100 years ago and is dedicated to the souls of the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The shrine is the most popular destination during the new year days. The torii gate unique to a shrine and represents the border between the actual world and sacred world.

The massive display is the sake barrels which were donated by sake manufacturers across the country. There are approximately 200 barrels. Each barrel can contain 72 liters but all of them are empty. Sake is rice wine. Rice and Shinto shrine have been inseparable from the ancient times. The fundamental function of the shrine is to pray for the good harvest of rice. Rice and sake are offered to shrines at the time of a good harvest.

Purification is an essential element at a shrine. Before visiting the main hall, it is a tradition for visitors to follow the ritual practice to cleanse their hands and mouths at the purification pavilion. Now as you feel refreshed, let’s go to the main building to make a wish.

We saw the cars at the pavilion waiting for the purification rite to eliminate traffic accidents.
Of course, there is no guarantee for no accidents but the ritual by the shrine priest can get you feel comfortable. The writer used to follow this tradition. In addition, wedding couples paraded with their parents and relatives in front of the main building. This is a common scene at the shrine on weekends. A bride usually wears a white hood called ‘Tsunokakushi’ which represents hiding a horn. The horn makes people uncomfortable. By having a hood, the bride holds the feeling of jealousy and become modest and obedient to her husband. This tradition stays in the modern society. Why not men having the same thing?

Takeshita Street is full of street fashion targeting to the teenagers and always crowded. There are 130 shops on a narrow 400-meter street. They are mostly clothing, shoes and accessory shops but in recent years the street became commercialized with fast food restaurants, crepe and cotton candy shops etc. Also, there are dog and cat cafés as well. I hope it was an interesting experience for you to enjoy walking with the ‘teenagers’ and suppose you felt younger than you were.


March 17 was the St. Patrick’s Day and the parade was held on Omote Sando street at Harajuku after our tour had been completed. It is customary to wear green clothing and accessories to respect the symbolic color of the greenish island of Ireland. This is the annual event held in Tokyo since 1992. Many people participated wearing green things during the parade. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


TFWT is going to hold a walking tour at Ueno Park on March 21 at 1pm. Ueno Park has the historic temples and shrines as well as museums. In addition, the park is famous for a hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spot in Tokyo and the most symbolic cherry tree, Somei-yoshino is just about to bloom. The blooming peak may be at the end of the month or beginning of April depending on the weather. The meeting place is between Park Exit of JR Ueno Station and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. It will be accessed from Ueno Stations of JR, Tokyo Metro Ginza/Hibiya Line and Keisei Line. The tour takes about two hours. Join us to enjoy nature and culture at Ueno Park.

(posted by Yoshi)

Ueno Park Tour to be held on March 21

Ueno Park is historically famous for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spot in Tokyo. There are over 1,200 cherry trees. Some species have already bloomed but the most symbolic cherry blossoms (Somei-yoshino) have not come out yet and are expected to be in full bloom toward the end of the month or beginning of April depending on the weather(temperatures).

Ueno Park site was the part of Kaneiji Temple which used to be the largest and a family temple of the ruling Tokugawa clan during the Edo period. Some species of the wild cherry trees were originally brought from Mount Yoshino in Nara known for one of the Japan’s most famous and oldest cherry tree spots and planted at the current Ueno Park site when the Temple was built about 400 years ago.

The best part is the central pathway between the southern main gate and the fountain square at the park. Several historical buildings stand along the main street. All of them were constructed during the Edo period about 370-400 years ago.

Ueno Toshogu Shrine is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun who established the Edo Shogunate. There are over 200 stone and 48 bronze lanterns along the approach. The shrine remains absolutely gorgeous and the lanterns are owesome. On the way to the shrine the magnificent five-storied pagoda is seen close at hand. This is a traditional wooden structure with the independent central pillar to control an earthquake. It is famous that Tokyo Sky Tree introduced this quake-absorbing technology when it was built seven years ago. Closer to the gate is Kiyomizu Kannon-do Temple which was designed in the image of Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto on the slope. Although the size is much smaller, the balcony commands a fantastic view of Bentendo Hall on the island in Shinobazu Pond. It is incredible that all of these buildings were built as the part of Kaneiji Temple and survive the earthquakes, fires and wars in the perfect conditions for nearly 400 years. All of these buildings are designated as the nation’s important cultural properties and included in the guided tour.

Our next tour at Ueno Park is scheduled on March 21. I hope some Somei-yoshino trees will bloom and the scent of Spring will hang in the air by that time. The tour starts at 1pm and the meeting point is between the Park Exit of JR Ueno Station and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan and the tour takes about two hours. We offer the pleasant Japan experience for all the guests and believe that you will be satisfied with our guide. Our staff will be waiting for you with Tokyo Free Walking Tour flag. Enjoy rich nature and vigorous culture with us at Ueno Park.

(posted by Yoshi)

A Buddhist god promotes Ueno tour; Mar. 21 1 PM -Asakusa tour report, Mar. 10

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour.
On that day, May 10, we had two times of tour-10 A.M and 1 P.M.
We welcomed totally around 14 guests from the different corners of the world; Germany, U.S.A., Canada, Italy, Australia, Bulgaria and Mexico.
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Finally, the month of March has come. In Japan, March is the month in which students bid farewell to their universities during graduation, and for working people to move to new workplaces, or retire.
April, on the other hand, is when companies welcome new workers among their divisions, and for schools to welcome back old and new students alike.
These weeks now provide a semester break for students so that they can travel around, earn money or prepare for a new school year.
Under theses seasonal atmosphere, we met 14 people in Asakusa of Tokyo.
As usual, after greeting everyone and introducing ourselves, we made our regular tour in the historical location for 90 minutes.
Our tour started at the red painted gate, called Thunder Gate, which served as an ice-breaking topic.


A lot of people gathered in front of this Buddhist gate to take their memorable photos with the gate as their background.
The image of this Buddhist gate is wildly used on the cover of the Japanese guide books.
In addition, the printed images are also seen on the packages of Japanese souvenirs.
That is because Asakusa has been one of the must-to-see spots in Tokyo.

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After proceeding to the busy shopping street, Nakamise Street, we concluded our tour at Asakusa Shinto Shrine.
This religious building is well-located as well for us to discuss Japanese Shintoism, its related rituals and building structure.
Aside from that, this spot is a good content to talk about what Shintoism and Buddhism are, because both religious establishments share the same compound.
Well, we would like to let you know about a one of the annual events in Asakusa.
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The 18th of March, Monday, is a specific day when we can witness the “Kinryunomai”, or golden dragon dance, which will be held in the Sensoji Temple’s compound.
Together with lotus flowers on pillars, which are associated with Buddha, a golden papier-mache dragon controlled by graceful dancers will be dancing while being paraded.
The golden dragon, which is 18 meters long, and is weighing 88 kilograms, is skillfully maneuvered by 8 people.
These numbers and measurements are connected to the 18th day of the month of March, which serves as the day for the Buddhist festival.


The parade will start from the main hall of the Sensoji Buddhist Temple, and will proceed to Nakamise street, the passageway towards the Buddhist establishment.
This distinctive festival has been celebrated annually since 1958, the year when the renovation of the Sensoji Temple’s main hall was completed, and the event is in honor of that milestone in the Buddhist building.
This religious event serves like a commencement to the upcoming annual celebrations that will be held in the temple from May until August. These traditional events definitely will make the temple come alive.
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In this month, we are planning to make Ueno Park tour as follows:
Date&Time Mar.21 1p.m.

 

Hopefully, this will give you another excitement as well as Asakusa do.
Please come and join us.
(By Arac)

TOUR REPORT OF THE EAST GARDENS OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE ON MARCH.9, 2019

Thank you for joining our tour to the East garden of the Imperial Palace on March 9. We welcomed 14 guests from Italy, Argentina, Mexico, France, UK, Indonesia and USA.
The guests are divided into four groups and a few guides accompany them respectively. We started our tour from Tokyo Station and walked through modern business area to go into the East garden of the Imperial Palace, former Edo Castle. I hope that guests deepen their understanding of Japan through our explanation and conversation. We have been inspired by guests, too. Thank you very much.

Weather was just fine. Sunshine, 15℃(57℉), a little bit windy. We saw a lot of people relaxing on the Honmaru Lawn. Spring is certainly approaching. But please be careful about the feature of Japanese weather in this season.
From February to March in Japan, it is time to shift from winter to spring, but it is characterized by swapping cold days and warm days. There is a word “Sankan Shion”, meaning “cold for three days and then warm for four days”. It is a feature of the climate in northern China and the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, I think that it is perfect for expressing the climate of this season of Japan, too.
There is also the word “flower chill” in Japan. This express that the cold weather will turn back when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. According to the latest Cherry blossom forecast, the cherry blossoms in Tokyo are expected to flow around March 21 and full bloom around March 29. Everyone who is going to visit Japan from now to spring will recommend not to forget warm clothes, just in case. And please don’t forget Tokyo Free Waling Tour, either!
We operate three regular guide tours, the East Garden of the Imperial Palace, the Meiji Shrine and Asakusa. In addition, Ueno Park tour is schedule for March 21, Vernal Equinox Day.
You will have an interesting experience about history and contemporary Japan under the cherry blossoms decorated with light brown. Why don’t you take this opportunity!
(Posted by Toyo)

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 of THE EAST GARDENS OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE ON March.2, 2019

Thank you for everyone, joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour on March 2, 2019 at The East Gardens of The Imperial Palace. We welcomed 26 guests from Australia, USA, Canada, Malaysia, Poland, Argentina and Tokyo. We divided them into 3 groups, and started the tour 13:00.

Tokyo Marathon 2019 would be held on the next day, then, many people are preparing for the event. Some of the guests would entry the marathon. I hope they win.

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Anyway, the day is clear and comfort, then we could hold the tour comfortably.

Early bloomer cherry are blooming now, however, plum flowers are in full bloom now.

Speaking of plum flower, “SUGAWARA no Michizane,” very famous Japanese government officer at one thousand years ago, created this poem.

“When the wind is in the east, I want it to blow the scent of Japanese plum flowers to me; even if I disappear from here, you, Japanese plum flowers, do not forget spring.”

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He was relegated from Kyoto to Kyusyu, due to the political ploy. He missed the plum flower, and created this poem. Many Japanese like this poem and know this story, so, we feel such poetic feeling from the plum flower.

Famous spots of plum flower are Dazaihu Tenmangu in Kyushu, Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto, and Yushima Tenjin in Tokyo.

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Why don’t you join our tour of East garden of the Imperial Palace, Asakusa, Meiji-jingu shrine and Ueno? We are waiting for your entry.

(Reported by Yasunori Yamada)

TOUR REPORT of THE EAST GARDENS OF THE IMPERIAL PALACE ON FEB.26, 2019

Thank you for all our guests who joined the tour of East Gardens of The Imperial Palace. We welcomed 6 guests from Canada, UK, and Brazil. We divided all guests into 3 groups, and started the tour at 10am.

It was a little bit cold, but a good day for walking around. Plum blossoms are in full bloom just right now! We all enjoyed pink and white flowers and the scent of those flowers.

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Recently, the current Emperor published a paper to report feeding habits of the raccoon in the Imperial Palace. The raccoon is known as “Tanuki” which scientific name is Nyctereutes procyonoides. The raccoon is a native animal to Japan and it belongs to mammal species of the canid family member similar to foxes, wolves and domestic dogs. The Emperor collected and examined feces from raccoons for 5 years in a specific place within the Imperial Palace, and reported what kinds of foods they ate in each seasons. The paper writes that raccoon in the Imperial Palace strongly depends on natural foods such as fruits and insects. Most of those food items are native to Japan since the past Edo period.

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“Tanuki” is well respected in Japanese society. It is a legendary name we all know about. If you are interested in Japanese folktales then it is the time to start reading some! You could discover Tanuki in the story of Bunbuku Chagama (Lucky Tea Kettle Story), in Kachi-Kachi Yama (The Crackling Mountain Story) and such. In fact, Tanuki is found throughout Japanese folktales as mysterious, shape shifting sprits.

 

In modern Japan, you will find ceramic Tanuki statues all over Japan, especially outside restaurants and bars.

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It is amazing to have wild Tanuki in this highly urbanized Tokyo, isn’t it?! Not limited to Tanuki but also there are hundreds of birds, insects and plants in the Imperial Palace thanks to woodlands handled with care. After plum blossoms, cherry blossoms (SAKURA) is coming in succession, so we are waiting for you to come to Japan and join out tour!