otemachi, the imperial palace east garden & a shrine to warriors {walking tour 2}   9 comments

Sunday, May 14:  After spending all day Saturday stuck in my rabbit hut apartment because of a steady deluge of rain, I’m ready to get out on Sunday.  The forecast is for plenty of clouds but no rain, so off I go to explore the Otemachi area and Imperial Palace East Gardens, as well as the Yasukuni Shrine.

My first stop is Masakado-zuka, or Masakado’s Tomb. It doesn’t look like much, stuck as it is in the midst of high-rise buildings and construction projects, but apparently it has great cultural significance. It enshrines the decapitated head of Taira no Masakado (903?-940 AD), a well-known hero of the eastern region of Japan. A precursor of the samurai warriors, he carried out political reforms in the Kanto area (the area around Tokyo) and became immensely popular among the common people for helping the weak and poor and fighting against oppressors. In 940, Taira no Masakado was defeated and killed in a struggle with the government and his decapitated head was put on display in Kyoto.  Legend has it his head flew all the way back to the Kanto area as a vengeful spirit and finally landed in this spot. People believed that vengeful spirits, who were thought to cause plagues, could be appeased by worshipping them as guardian deities. Thus it was that in 1309, Taira no Masakado was enshrined as one of the deities of Kanda Shrine, which was originally located here.

Hill of Masakado’s Head

Hill of Masakado’s Head

Today, I’m following Walking Tour 2 of Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City: Otemachi, Imperial Palace Gardens, and Yasukuni Shrine.  I already went to Marunouchi, the Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park on April 30, so this walk is a sort of continuation of that one.  I won’t feel that I’ve done the area justice until I’ve completed the whole circuit.

On the city streets in Otemachi, my eye is caught by a fire station with its gleaming red fire engines.

fire station in Otemachi district

random sculpture on the street in Otemachi

I must cross the moat again, as I did last time, but on this walk, I’m on the northeast corner of the palace complex.

Ote-bori – the moat around the Imperial Palace East Garden

The Ote-mon Gate was the main gate of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s Edo Castle. Daimyos (feudal lords) attending ceremonies held inside the palace entered through this gate. A smaller gate and larger gate form a right angle, to slow advancing intruders. Trapped between the two gates, intruders came under attack from firing points on the larger gate. The larger gate was destroyed in an air raid in 1945 during WWII, and was rebuilt in 1967.

Ote-mon Gate

Ote-mon Gate

door at Ote-mon Gate

fish sculpture at Ote-mon Gate

Ote-mon Gate

The Hyakunin-bansho Guardhouse was positioned at the most critical point to guard the entrance to the Honmaru, the main compound, of the Edo Castle. Hyakunin means 100 persons.  Four teams, each consisting of 120 guards, worked in the guard-house in shifts, day and night. This is one of three remaining guard-houses of the castle.

Hyakunin-bansho Guardhouse

I continue walking into the grounds and come to a small forest, the Ninomaru Grove, where deciduous trees are maintained to allow undergrowth plants to expand their leaves and bloom in spring before the area is covered in tree leaves.

The grove was created from 1983-85, at the suggestion of Emperor Showa, the father of His Majesty the Emperor.

Ninomaru Grove

The East Garden includes the Hon-maru (Central Keep), the Nino-maru (Second Keep), and the San-no-maru (Third Keep).  The Imperial East Garden was the former castle site, but the buildings and fortifications were mostly destroyed by fire.  Today it is primarily a garden site.

The Nino-maru Area (the Second Keep) lies at the foot of the Hon-maru; before 1868 it was the residence for the retired shogun.  Its gardens were originally planted in 1630 by Kobori Enshu, a famed landscape artist of the 17th century. Today’s garden, a reconstruction, contains the elements of a traditional Japanese garden: a pond, stone lanterns, a waterfall and a bridge.

Nino-Maru Area

Eighty-four varieties of iris grow in this garden.  These varieties have been carefully maintained since they were donated  by the Iris Garden of Meiji Jingo Shrine in 1966, when the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace were being created.

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

white blossoms

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

wisteria trellis

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

tiny flowers

Nino-Maru Area

carp in the pond

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

wildly shaped pine trees

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

waterfall at the Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

Nino-Maru Area

peas in a pod

Nino-Maru Area

At the far side of the Nino-Maru Area is the early 19th century Suwa-no-chaya tea ceremony pavilion.

Suwa-no-chaya tea ceremony pavilion in the Nino-maru Gardens

Suwa-no-chaya tea ceremony pavilion in the Nino-maru Gardens

Heading west, I come to the wall of massive granite stones brought from the Izu Peninsula in the early 1600s; it supports the Hon-maru.  The Hakucho-bori, the Moat of Swans, is at its base.  Germany gave the gift of 24 swans in 1953 when the East Gardens were open to the public.

the wall to the Hon-maru Area

delicacies

The Hon-maru is much flatter and less interesting than the Nino-Maru Area. It originally contained the Audience Hall, the residence, and other official buildings of the reigning shogun.  At its southwest corner is the Fujimi Yagura, which I saw from the Outer Garden on my last walk. It is one of three towers out of the original 21 that topped the castle walls. Though destroyed in the Long Sleeves Fire of 1657, it was reconstructed two years later.

The Long Sleeves Fire was said to have been started accidentally by a priest who was cremating an allegedly cursed kimono. The kimono had been owned in succession by three teenage girls who all died before ever being able to wear it. When the garment was being burned, a large gust of wind fanned the flames causing the wooden temple to ignite.  The fire burned 60-70% of Edo, lasted 3 days, and claimed over 100,000 lives (Wikipedia: Great fire of Meireki).

Fujimi-Yagura

flower garden in the Hon-Maru Area

flower garden in the Hon-Maru Area

trellis in the Hon-Maru Area

roses in the Hon-Maru Area

roses in the Hon-Maru Area

flowers in the Hon-Maru Area

tea bushes in the Hon-Maru Area

roses in the Hon-Maru Area

bamboo in the Hon-Maru Area

bamboo in the Hon-Maru Area

The octagonal Tokagakudo Concert Hall was built in 1966 to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Empress Kojun, His Majesty The Emperor’s mother.  The roof is in the shape of a clematis flower.  The mosaic images on the wall include birds, the sun, moon and stars, pine, bamboo and plum trees, and musical notes. Though the hall is not open to the public, it hosts concerts performed by the Music Department Orchestra, distinguished graduates of music universities, and others in the presence of the Imperial Family.

Imperial Toka Music Hall

The pride of the castle was its 5-story Donjon (Tenshukaku), or tower, which loomed over Edo. The tower, like much of Edo, was destroyed by the Long Sleeves Fire.  Today, nothing but the base of the Donjon survives.

the base of the Donjon

Imperial Toka Music Hall

From the Hon-Maru area, a drawbridge leads into Kita-no-maru, the North Keep.  It became a public park in 1969 to celebrate the birthday of the Showa emperor, Hirohito.

Kita-no-maru Park

unknown memorial at Kita-no-maru Park

I leave this park through the north gate onto Yasukuni-dori.  Strangely, I find a lighthouse, which is no longer used. Built in 1871, before much of Tokyo Bay was filled in and before tall buildings were erected, the beacon lit the way for boats on Tokyo Bay.

lighthouse near Yasukuni Shrine

man on horse near Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni-dori

Yasukuni Jinja, a Shinto Shrine, was established by the will of the Meiji Emperor as Tokyo Shokonsha in 1869, but it was renamed Yasukuni Jinja in 1879. It was built to comfort the souls of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, especially those who died in battles for the Meiji Imperial Restoration and the extinguishing of Tokugawa rule. The name Yasukuni, given by the Meiji Emperor represents a wish to establish the peace of the nation.

First Torii (Daiichi Torii) at Yasukuni Shrine

The shrine was run by the army until 1945 and became the center of fevered nationalism. It still attracts right-wing militarists and extreme nationalists today, according to Tokyo: 29 Walks.

First Torii (Daiichi Torii) at Yasukuni Shrine

This statue of Ōmura Masujirō (1824 – 1869) was a Japanese military leader and theorist in the Bakumatsu period in Japan; this period encompasses the final years of the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate ended. He is regarded as the “Father of the Modern Japanese Army,” according to Wikipedia.

Statue to Masujiro Omura

sake barrels

Third Torii

Haiden, the Hall for Worship, at Yasukuni Shrine

gold-plated gate

ema at Yasukuni Shrine

Haiden of Yasukuni Shrine

Yushu-kan (Military Exhibition Hall)

Statue honoring horses

Memorial Monument to Patrol Boat Crew Members

Statue of War Widow with Children

Japanese umbrella

Shinchi (Divine Pond)

Shinchi (Divine Pond)

Shinchi (Divine Pond)

Seinsentei Teahouse

carp in Shinchi (Divine Pond)

I continue my walk along the Chidorigafuchi Water Park, the pond that existed before the Imperial Palace was built and was included in the moat structure of the palace grounds. It’s called a “water park” not only because of the moat, but also because people can rent paddle boats here for a “leisurely activity.” The path is lined with cherry trees, which sadly are no longer in bloom.

This must be a bit like our Embassy Row in Washington, because I pass the Embassy of India on my right.

Embassy of India

red building along the Chidorigafuchi Water Park

path along the Chidorigafuchi Water Park

Eventually, I come to the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, where I walk in briefly.

cemetery

A hexagonal pavilion with a light green roof has served since 1959 as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a sacred spot memorializing the 90,000 unknown dead of Japan’s wars. Every August 15, the anniversary of the end of WWII, the emperor pays respects here to those who died, regardless of their religion (unlike Yasukuni Shrine, which is Shinto), according to Tokyo: 29 Walks.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

After quite a bit more walking, I pass the British Embassy before starting to look for the metro to make my way home.

British Embassy

After arriving back in Fuchinobe, I stop at a lively restaurant near the metro station.  I’ve eaten here before and the food is good, so I sit at the bar and order some sushi.  I’m told, however, that I must wait an hour before I can have sushi.  I guess the sushi isn’t served until 6:30 or so, because it’s 5:30 now.

sushi restaurant in Fuchinobe

There’s a lot of hustle and bustle at this restaurant, with servers calling out orders in sing-song voices and running to and fro.

a wild and crazy place

Next to me at the bar is a single Japanese woman, drinking a beer and smoking up a storm. I haven’t encountered many smokers in restaurants here yet, but I’ve heard smoking is quite common in bars here.

I end up ordering a tofu soup with tiny shrimp that I slurp up, shells and all, accompanied by a draft beer.  It’s not my favorite dish; I would have preferred the sushi.  Either way, the beer is a nice top off to a busy day.  When I’m finished, I “write” with my finger on my palm and say “Bill?”  The next thing I know, the server is bringing two beers, one for me and one for my smoking companion.  I say,”Oh, no, no!  I’m sorry I didn’t order a beer, I said ‘bill!'”  As the letters “r” and “l” are often confused in Japanese, I should have known better than to say “bill,” which they mistake for “beer.” Luckily, they take the beer away.  I reiterate: “check” and the matter is settled! 🙂

Steps today: 18,850 (7.99 miles)

9 responses to “otemachi, the imperial palace east garden & a shrine to warriors {walking tour 2}

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  1. Another lovely walk, Cathy. That iris garden will be worth a return visit when they’re flowering.

  2. Beautiful walk, but ugh! The smoke. You haven’t been able to smoke in public buildings for 11 years now in Scotland and I don’t know how I’d cope with eating next to a smoker. I don’t remember it being a problem in the US either?

    • This was my first encounter with a smoker in Japan; I was surprised it was allowed in a restaurant. You’re right that in the US, most places no longer allow smoking in restaurants or bars. It doesn’t bother me as much as it does many people. Maybe because I grew up with a mother who smoked. 🙂

  3. How lovely to see your wonderful photographs and hear of your ventures. So wonderful, Japan!! What do you think of it really. I found so many IT available at such inexpensive
    prices. There is a terrific IT store near my friend which I would have liked to have had more time to see.

  4. The iris garden is going to look lovely in a few weeks.

    • Yes, I’m sure it will look nice, Elaine, but it’s unlikely I’ll go back to see it. Every time I go into Tokyo from where I am, it takes an hour and a half by train. I have too many other places to see to revisit places I’ve already been. 😉

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