kamakura: from yoritomo’s grave to tokei-ji {walking tour 23: part 2}   5 comments

Sunday, April 23: After leaving Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, I follow the map east along Yabusame-baba through charming leafy neighborhoods.  I’m feeling awfully hungry by this time, but no restaurants are in sight, so I have no choice but to keep walking.  As I walk along a street with a sprawling elementary school on the left, I find a food sign outside this place with a carp flag over the door.  The food pictures look enticing and reasonable, so I try to go in; however, the door seems to be locked even though I see a few people eating inside.  Maybe it’s being used for a private party.

a banner over a restaurant door

the walk following Yabusame-baba through a neighborhood to the Grave of Yoritomo

Finally I can see a stone torii and a staircase up the hillside.  I’ve found the grave of Minamoto Yoritomo, the first Kamakura shogun.  At one time, the stones that mark the grave overlooked the site of Yoritomo’s one-time palace on the flat land below the tomb.

In 1180, Minamoto Yoritomo raised an army in order to overthrow the Heike clan, and with Kamakura as his headquarters, he defeated the clan in 1185.  In addition, the creation of the Kamakura Shogunate in Okura established the foundations of the samurai system in Japan.

approaching the grave of Yoritomo

shrine near the grave of Yoritomo

a small shrine near the grave of Yoritomo

In 1199, at the age of 53, Minamoto Yoritomo died and was laid to rest at his own place of worship in Hokkedo, which then became a holy place as his gravesite.  Hokkedo was later abolished, but traces of its location remain around the top of this hill.

stairs to the grave of Yoritomo

It is said that the current pagoda on the site was erected by the Shimazu feudal lord, Shimazu Shigehide.

Yoritomo’s grave

Some people leave flowers and burning incense at the grave, but I’m not equipped with such offerings, and I don’t know poor Yoritomo anyway.  What I do know of him, that he had his brother’s child killed, makes me not think much of him.  However, having read James Clavell’s Shogun years ago, I do have some fascination with the shoguns of Japan.

After visiting Yoritomo’s grave, I continue east following the map, continuing through neighborhoods.

a pretty house on the walk to Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

As I continue to the east, I find the Egara Tenjin Shrine to Sugawara Michizane (under the name Tenjin), the patron of intellectual activities and scholarship.  It’s favored by students who come to pray for success in their studies.

approaching Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine is counted as one of Japan’s three great Tenjin Shrines, along with Fukuoka’s Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine and Kyoto’s Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.

It is said that on August 25, 1104, a depiction of Michizane fell to earth during a thunderstorm.   The painting still survives in the Treasury of Kamakura-gu Shrine; in it, Michizane is in court costume holding a religious symbol of authority, a shaku.  This painting was revered by the local villagers and from that time, the shrine was built and worship began.

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

The grounds of the shrine are a Registered National Historical Site, and the main shrine has been designated as a National Important Cultural Property.

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

There are hundreds of ema on racks here, with pleas for success in studies scrawled on the back..  Michizane was the most brilliant man of his age, but due to court intrigue, he was banished in 901 from Kyoto to Kyushu, where he died two years later.  Various catastrophes after his death were seen as the result of his restless spirit, and thus 45 years later, he was deified as Tenji, the Deity of Heaven.

I think Egara Tenjinsha Shrine was my second favorite today, after the fabulous Kencho-ji Zen Temple near Kita-Kamakura, which I encounter later in my walk.

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

Egara Tenjinsha Shrine

The last place I plan to visit on the east side is Kamakura-gu Shrine, but on the road there, I find a few restaurants.  I poke my head into Warashibe Cho Cha, which looks like the lunch rush just finished; the debris of eaten lunches litters the tables. The frazzled owner directs me to the bar, where I can overlook him and his wife frantically cooking away.

having lunch at Warashibe Cho Cha

I take the owner outside to his sign and point to a tempura meal, and I have to wait a good long while, maybe 40 minutes, before I’m served.  During this time, two very fit Japanese ladies in their 50s, decked out in exercise tights, pristine tops, and colorful running shoes, sally up to the bar in the two adjacent seats. One of them speaks to me in English with a British accent.  She asks if I’ve ordered already.  Then she tells me she and her friend just ran 20km from Kita-Kamakura all the way to the sea at Yuigahama Beach, where Wakamiya Oji begins. They order beers immediately, and then settle in to wait for their lunch, which they say is a special that this restaurant offers.  The one tells me she lives in London because she met and fell in love with an Englishman, marrying him and having two daughters.  She comes back to Japan periodically to help her elderly and ailing mother.  She says she can now stay a month, the longest she’s ever been able to stay, because her job as an investment banker allows her to work at home.  It’s really fun to talk to this beautiful lady, but I try not to occupy much of her time because it’s obvious her friend doesn’t speak English and so cannot be part of the conversation.

I leave the restaurant feeling quite stuffed on all the tempura; the woman, whose name I never got, told me to put radish in my soy sauce to counter all the fat used in deep-frying the tempura.  The meal is entirely too heavy as the variety of shrimp and vegetables fried in tempura batter is expansive!  Plus there’s soup and some other side dishes, all for 1,000 yen, or under $10.

After leaving the restaurant, I walk next door to Kamakura-gu Shrine, which I talk about below. On my way back past the restaurant, I stop to take a picture of it from the outside, and the owner sees me and comes out, offering to take a picture of me. So, here I am.  I think this may be the first picture I’ve had of myself since I arrived in Japan.

Kamakura-gu Shrine was built to worship the spirit of Prince Morinaga, the son of Emperor Godaigo.  Prince Morinaga helped his father to overthrow the forces of the Kamakura Shogunate.

approaching Kamakura-gu Shrine

After the fall of the Shogunate, the Emperor restored direct Imperial rule (the Kemmu Restoration) and Prince Morinaga was appointed commander-in-chief “Sei Taisyogen.”  He was later captured by Ashikaga Takaugi during a confrontation, and was killed at the young age of 28.  The cave where the prince was said to have died remains to the rear of the shrine.

Kamakura-gu Shrine

I’m not sure who the fierce-looking character with the red face is in this shrine.

Kamakura-gu Shrine

I assume this fellow below is Prince Morinaga.

Kamakura-gu Shrine

I get to see a Shinto priest walk past at Kamakura-gu Shrine, but I’m only able to capture a view from behind.

priest walking to Kamakura-gu Shrine

Back in the neighborhood, heading south this time, I pass this pretty pergola with wisteria.  As I turn the corner to head west, a man with dyed black hair, maybe my age or a bit younger, is standing out in his yard and he hollers out to ask where I’m from.  He asks if I’d like to come in for a cup of tea.  I thank him kindly but tell him I just spent an hour in the restaurant up the street and I have a long way to go before it gets dark.  He says, “Okay, okay!  Hold on then!”  He runs into his house.  He comes out with a cold beer, a cold can of coffee and a quart of mango juice and asks me which one I want.  I want the mango juice but I don’t want to carry that quart with me!  I don’t want the beer because it will make me sleepy and pee-prone, and I don’t want the coffee; I don’t normally drink coffee in the late afternoon as it will keep me up at night.

He won’t take no for an answer and insists that I take one of them, so I take the coffee, which has both the effect of making me have to pee plus keeping me up all night, as I figured it would.

wisteria spotted in the neighborhood

It’s quite a long haul to retrace my steps past all the temples I just visited and return to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu.  I bypass the famous temple until I reach a two lane thoroughfare to the west where I’m supposed to walk north through a tunnel and up a huge hill until I finally reach Enno-ji.

Enno-ji is a temple that worships the Ten Judges of Hell, with Enma Daio in the center, whom one will meet in the underworld after death. Enma Daio refers to Yama from Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu mythology.  Yama was born initially as a human and later came to rule paradise after his death.  As Yama from India was introduced to China along with Buddhism, Yama became “Enma,” and due to the influence of Taoism, it later became the “Thoughts on Ten Judges of Hell,” centered around Enma Daio.

The “Thoughts on Ten Judges of Hell” later became the “Faith in Thirteen Buddhas” during the Muromachi era, and is the basis of Buddhist sermon and funeral service that goes beyond the creed of Japanese Buddhism. The Ten Judges of Hell in Enno-ji is the sculpted image of the “Thoughts on Ten Judges of Hell” that came from China during the Kamakura era.  The wooden seated statue of Enma Daio has been passed on as the work of Unkei, and is a nationally designated treasure.

Sadly, no photography is allowed of the extravagant statue of Enma Daio, so I take a photo of this unknown character just for the sake of having something to show for my visit here.

a figure at Enno-ji

Just past Enno-ji and across the road, to the east, is the fabulous Kencho-ji Zen Temple.

Entering through the San-Mon Gate is said to free you from any form of strong desire, addiction and obsession.  The founder of this temple, Rankei Doryu, said “Kencho-ji Temple is open to anyone who intends to learn Zen.  There is always a pleasant breeze that equally treats all people on the temple grounds,” meaning that Kencho-ji Temple is open to everyone, not only the disciples engaged in spiritual practice.

Kencho-ji Zen Temple – San-mon main gate

character in the San-mon main gate

This bell, Bonsho, was cast in 1255 by Mononobe Shigemitsu, a leader of the Kanto Imoji association of bell makers in Kanto.

the Bonsho, the great bronze bell

the Butsu-den (Buddha Hall)

The Butsu-den (Buddha Hall) was built in the Chinese Song style of architecture.

The path to the Buts-den is lined with juniper trees whose seeds the first abbot is said to have brought from China and planted here 750 years ago.  Today the trees are 39 feet (12 meters) tall and have a girth of 20 feet (6 meters).

large juniper trees on the temple grounds

Within the Butsu-den sits a figure of the seated wood-lacquered  Jizo, the deity who protects travelers, children and pregnant women. He holds the shakujo in one hand; it has rings that jangle to scare away insects, so they aren’t walked upon and crushed in violation of Buddhist principles to preserve all life. In his other hand, he holds the jewel that is said to make wishes come true. Behind the Jizo are 1,000 small Jizo images arranged in tiers (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City).

Jizo, the deity who protects travelers, children and pregnant women

Jizo, who protects travelers, children and pregnant women

In the past, the entire grounds of Kencho-ji Temple were for spiritual practice.  All the 388 monks and priests who lived in the temple precincts gathered here to listen to the chief priest’s sermons.  The building is currently used for Buddhist memorial services, lectures and exhibitions; ascetic monks use Seirai-an for their practice.

Reconstructed by one of the Kencho-ji sect temples in 1814, the biggest hatto building in the Kanto region currently houses the main holy statue, the statue of Senju-kannon. This thousand-armed kannon deity has the great ability to save people from all forms of ambivalence and thus enlighten them. Unryu-zu, the dragon on the ceiling, was painted by the painter Koizumi Junsaku to commemorate the 750th anniversary of Kencho-ji Temple.

the Hatto (Dharma Hall or Hall of the Law)

The hall is sometimes called the Ryuo-den, the Dragon King Hall, because of the dragon painted on the ceiling

dragon painted on the ceiling in Hatto

Inside the Hatto

Inside Hatto

monastic residences at Kencho-ji Zen Temple

Kara-mon Gate, the “four-legged” lacquered gate was built in Momoyama-era Muko-karahafu-style (the late 16th century Japanese roof architect style) and has many elaborately designed metal parts all over it.  It was built as a mausoleum for Ogo no Kata (the wife of Tokugawa Hidetata, the second shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate) at Zojo-ji Temple in Shiba, Tokyo, in 1628. It was donated to Kenjo-ji Temple.  The gate took on a new luster with a complete overhaul in 2011.

Kara-mon, the Chinese Gate of 1646 in the Song Style

Kara-mon

monastic residences

gardens at Kencho-ji Zen Temple

peonies at Kencho-ji

After leaving Kencho-ji, I continue walking north toward Kita-Kamakura.  It’s such a long way!  I have no choice but to keep walking to get to Kita-Kamakura Station or backtrack south to Kamakura Station.  I still want to see two more temples, but the light is running out and I’m not sure I’ll make it.

the long walk to Kita-Kamakura

Finally, I reach Tokei-ji Temple, founded by Kakuzan Shidoni, wife of the eighth regent, Hojo Tokimune, of the Kamakura Shogunate.  It’s nearly 4:00 by now and the temple closes at 4:30.  I expect the man at the gate will tell me I don’t have to pay, but he still happily collects my entrance fee.

In the era when wives could not cut marital ties with their husbands without a letter of divorce from the husbands, the temple, where women could seek asylum to divorce their husbands, had kept following the “Divorce Temple Act” for nearly 600 years since its foundation.  When the “Divorce Temple Act” came to an end during the Meiji period, Shakusoen Zenji re-founded the temple to make it a Zen temple of the Enkakuji school of Rinzai Sect.

Buddha at Tokei-ji Temple (The Divorce Temple)

Buddha at Tokei-ji Temple

The temple is famous for graves of many scholars and writers.

path up Mt. Shoko

graves at Tokei-ji Temple

graves at Tokei-ji Temple

moss-covered path at Tokei-ji Temple

On a platform above the cemetery is the grave of the wife of the Regent Hojo Tokimune, who founded the Engaku-ji Temple.  On this platform are also tombs of various abbesses and nuns.

small platform with tombs of abbesses and nuns

in front of the memorial hall at Tokei-ji Temple

in front of the memorial hall at Tokei-ji Temple

Since I leave Tokei-ji at the 4:30 closing time, I am doubtful that I can see the last temple on my walk, Engaku-ji Temple, near Kita-Kamakura.  I don’t even bother trying as it’s a little off the road and I’m beat. Besides, I’ve been told that there are many more temples north of Kencho-ji which I should visit during the middle of June when the hydrangeas are in bloom.  In addition, there is the Daibutsuzaka Hiking Course which leads from these temples to the Daibutsu, or the Great Buddha at Hase.  Also, south of Kamakura is Enoshima Beach, another place that is a “must-see.”

I guess I will have to plan several more trips to Kamakura in June.

On Monday when I go to class, I tell my students I walked over 16 km from Kamakura to KITI-Kamakura.  They look at me funny and then burst out laughing.  It’s not KITI-Kamakura, they tell me, it’s KITA-Kamakura.  We all have a good laugh over my mispronunciation of yet another Japanese name!

Total steps today: 24,696 (10.47 miles).  🙂

kamakura to kita-kamakura: temples, shrines & peonies {walking tour 23: part 1}   6 comments

Sunday, April 23: It’s a beautiful Sunday in Japan, so I’m off for a walk through the temples and shrines of historic Kamakura. After taking the metro from Fuchinobe to Yokohama, I switch lines to the Yokosuka Line and go six more stops to Kamakura.

On the Yokosuka line, I chat the whole time with a 20-year-old Japanese boy named Yuki (I thought that was a girl’s name; I’m always getting confused by which names are male and female in Japan!); he is on his way to a BBQ on Enoshima beach with his friends. His English is excellent, and he tells me he’s traveled to Spain, Italy and Australia.  I’ve already encountered so many internationally minded Japanese in my short time here.

Although Kamakura proper is today rather small, it is often described in history books as a former de facto capital of Japan; it was the seat of the Shogunate and of the Regency during the Kamakura period (1185-1333).  This period marks the governance by the Kamakura shogunate, officially established in 1192 by the first shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and it is known for the emergence of the samurai, the warrior caste, and for the establishment of feudalism in Japan. When the shogunate was destroyed in 1333, imperial rule under Emperor Go-Daigo was reestablished for a short time (Wikipedia: Kamakura).

Kamakura was designated as a city on November 3, 1939.

When I walk out of Kamakura Station, I veer south to see one temple before I walk north along Wakamiya Oji, the grand walkway leading to the famous and imposing Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu.  I encounter a small shrine that isn’t on my official “Walking Tour 23: Kamakura and Hase” from Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City. The shrine itself isn’t that photogenic, but the gardens and the ivy-covered buildings around it are striking against the blue sky.

This is the Daigyoji Temple.  Before the end of the Muromachi period (16th century), the chief priest of this temple, Priest Nitto, held a memorial service for the wife of Akiyama Kageyu, who had died in childbirth.  From that time, people come to worship the “Ubusume Deity,” the Goddess of Childbirth, said to protect women from suffering during childbirth.

view from temple

I find my way to Hongaku-ji Temple, built in 1436.  It sits on the site where the priest Nichiren lived after returning from exile in 1274.  He was exiled to the island of Sado in the Japan Sea for being against Zen Buddhism, which angered the pro-Zen Hojo regents, who ruled Japan from Kamakura. Later, they forgave him and allowed Nichiren to return to Kamakura.  Two centuries later, in 1407, a portion of this anti-establishment priest’s ashes were placed here, making the temple an important pilgrimage site for believers in the Nichiren sect of Buddhism.

Hongaku-ji Temple

sakura at Hongaku-ji Temple

The temple grounds also hold the grave of Masamune, a famed medieval swordsmith. Each year, the temple hosts a demonstration of sword making in Masamune’s honor, with the swordsmith decked out in the white robes of a Shinto priest.  Thus this ceremony with Shinto overtones, held on the grounds of a Buddhist temple, is a casual mixing of Japan’s two major faiths, reflecting Japanese flexibility when it comes to religious beliefs.

The ceremonial path of Wakamiya Oji is known as the Young Prince’s Way.  It was created in 1180 by Minamoto Yoritomo, the first Kamakura shogun, as an offering to the gods for the successful pregnancy of his wife, Masako.  Though the walkway starts at Yuigahama Beach, 1.4km south of Kamakura Station, I don’t start at the origin. Kamakura Station, where I get off, is near the first red torii.  From the sea to the first red torii, Wakamiya Oji is a commercial roadway; after the torii, the road narrows and splits, and is laid out on either side of a raised promenade.

The long promenade from the sea and the vermillion shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu sitting on the green hillside at the end were meant to impress any visitors to the shogun’s government of the 13th and 14th centuries.

At the red torii where the raised promenade begins, two stone koma-inu (Korean lion-dogs) stand fiercely to prevent evil from encroaching on the path.

koma-inu and vermillion torii at Wakamiya Oji

It just so happens that I find a gaggle of Western girls dressed in kimono taking turns posing in front of the first red torii.

white girls in kimono at Wakamiya Oji

vermillion torii at Wakamiya Oji

As I stroll down the promenade, I get a glimpse of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu at the end.

Wakamiya Oji

As I pass through the second vermillion torii, I come to the extremely steep half-moon Taiko-bashi bridge at Gempei Ponds.  The bridge is closed off, but it is said that success in crossing this bridge assures that a wish will be granted.

the Taiko-bashi bridge at Gempei Ponds

There are two ponds, one on either side of the Taiko-bashi bridge, but I only visit the one to the right (east). There’s a lot of complicated history about the two ponds and their symbolism in history, which you can read about here. As soon as I begin to walk around the right hand pond, the Genji-kie, the pond of the victorious Minamoto clan of Yoritomo, I am stopped and required to pay an admission fee of 500 yen.  I find, much to my surprise, that the peonies are in bloom here, and because of that, a fee must be paid.  This is a pleasant surprise as I’ve always been partial to peonies, and these are particularly charming because of the iconic Japanese umbrellas shading the flowers from the sun.

Genji-ike, or Genji Pond

Genji-ike, or Genji Pond

It’s truly peony heaven on the shores of this Kamakura pond.

Peony heaven

azaleas

white peony

umbrellas for the peonies

charming umbrellas

umbrellas and pergolas

pink peony

The island on the right holds a shrine to the Shinto deity Benten.  It’s pretty because of all the white banners and the wisteria on the pergola near the shrine.

wishes at the shrine to the Shinto deity Benten

wisteria and shrine to the Shinto deity Benten

ema at the shrine

shrine to the Shinto deity Benten

white flags

white wisteria

After walking the perimeter of the pond, I am ready to visit the famous Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, but before reaching the 61-steps leading to it, I stop to admire the wall-less, roofed Shimo Haiden, the Lower Shrine Prayer Hall, which looks much like a stage. Here, Minamoto Yoritomo, who violently hated his younger and more popular brother, Yoshitsune, forced his brother’s pregnant mistress to dance in hopes she would have a miscarriage. Shizuka Gozen, the brother’s mistress, sang of her love for Yoshitsune in defiance of Yoritomo; he was enraged and would have killed Shizuka if his wife, Masako, hadn’t prevented him from doing so. When Shizuka eventually gave birth to a son, he was immediately put to death at Yoritomo’s order.

Shimo Haiden

Shimo Haiden

Shimo Haiden

small shrine

By happenstance, I cross paths with a bride and groom walking south from the staircase.

wedding procession

wedding in progress

scholarly type

Common at every Shinto shrine are wooden sake barrels, known as sakedaru, wrapped in straw blankets and stacked and bounded together by rope on a wooden frame.  Such barrels, which are actually empty, are called kazaridaru, which means “decoration barrels.”  Shinto shrines and sake manufacturers maintain a symbiotic relationship in which the shrines conduct rites to ask the gods for the prosperity of the brewers, and the brewers donate the sake that shrines need for ceremonies and festivals.

The Japanese believe that sake acts as a symbolic unification of Gods and people, according to The Japan Times: Sake barrels at shrines.

sake barrels, or kazaridaru  (decoration barrels)

sake barrels

Finally, I reach the staircase, but before climbing, I admire the huge ginkgo tree that was supposedly planted 1,000 years ago; it blew down in 2010.  There is an intriguing story about the tree and the blood vengeance so common during that period: here the 3rd Minamoto shogun, Sanetomo, was assassinated by his nephew, Kugyo, who had hidden himself behind the tree. Thus, it is also called Hiding Ginkgo.

61 steps to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Ema at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

the ginkgo tree that was

Finally, I climb the steps to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, the Hachiman shrine to the deity of the city of Kamakura.  When founded in 1063, it sat beside the sea, and honored the Shinto god of war.  The shrine to Hachiman also celebrates both the Emperor Ojin, who is said to have reigned from 270-319, and his mother, the Empress Jingu.  A long and complicated history is attached to this shrine, which you can read about here.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

At the top of the steps I take a picture of the shrine from the center point, but I’m admonished by the guard that I’m only allowed to take pictures from the side.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

I always love to inspect the ema I find at each shrine.  Each has its own colorful character.

Ema at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

After leaving Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu, I climb steps up a small hill through a tunnel of torii gates to the Maruyama Inari Shrine, dedicated to the Shinto deity of commerce; it attracts worshipers desiring success in business affairs.

Maruyama Inari Shrine

Maruyama Inari Shrine

torii at Maruyama Inari Shrine

Maruyama Inari Shrine

Walking back past the staircase, I head east to visit several shrines a little more off the beaten track.  Before I do, I pass this shrine, but I don’t know what it is.

Shrine near Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu

Near the shrine is a chōzuya or temizuya, a Shinto water ablution pavilion for a ceremonial purification rite known as temizu.  These are used by worshippers for washing their left hands, right hands, mouth and finally the handle of the water ladle to purify themselves before approaching the main Shinto shrine. This symbolic purification is normal before worship and all manned shrines have this facility, as well as many Buddhist temples and some new religious houses of worship. The temizuya is usually an open area where clear water fills one or various stone basins. Wooden dippers are usually available to worshippers. (Wikipedia: Chōzuya)

a purification fountain

leaving the shrine area for Yabusame-baba

I leave the shrine complex to follow the path down Yabusame-baba, through cozy Japanese neighborhoods, toward the grave of Yoritomo.

yokohama: points north {walking tour 20: part 2)   16 comments

Saturday, April 15:  Heading inland from Yamashita Park, I come to Port Opening Square, which commemorates the the 1854 treaty between the U.S. and Japan at what was at that time a small village on Yokohama Bay.  The square has fountains, flowers and trees and a memorial to U.S.-Japanese Friendship.

Monument to U.S. – Japanese Friendship

Monument to U.S. – Japanese Friendship

Yokohama Kaigan Kyokai, on the border of Port Opening Square, was founded on March 10, 1872, as the first Protestant church for the Japanese in this country.

Yokohama Kaigan Kyokai

Continuing inland on Minato-odori, I pass the Yokohama Archives of History, established on June 2, 1981, at the historic site where Japan and the U.S. signed the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854; it exhibits historical materials from the Edo period to the Taisho-Showa era.

Yokohama Archives of History

All along Kaigan-dori, I find miniature garden dioramas under the auspices of the “Spring Flower Festa.”  I can’t read any of the Japanese, so I can’t tell what each one represents.

Kanagawa Prefectural Office (The King) is one of the Three Towers, a group of historical towers at the Port of Yokohama. They have been given the nicknames The King, The Queen and The Jack.

Kanagawa Prefectural Office

As I approach Yokohama Park, I hear crowds roaring and yelling before I can even see the Stadium, which opened in 1978, holds 30,000 people, and is used primarily for baseball. It’s noisy and I don’t really feel like walking through the park with that stadium in it.  By this time my legs are killing me, so when I find a Starbucks on the corner across from the park, I sit at the window bar and enjoy a slice of orange cake and a peach smoothie drink.  After a bit of a rest, I am greeted by some pretty tulips dancing in the wind on the border of the park.

tulips at Yokohama Park

tulips at Yokohama Park

tulips at Yokohama Park

After leaving Yokohama Park, I walk parallel to the harbor (quite far inland) for several blocks, and then turn toward the harbor again on Basha-michi.  This is a very long stretch, with the road eventually turning into Bankokubashi-dori, and I wonder if I’ll ever get back to the harbor.  Finally, after what seems an eternity, I reach Shinko Pier, and my book of trusty walks informs me I’ve “left the first part of the tour, which covers the old center of Yokohama, the Kannai (Inside the Checkpoint) sector, in which foreigners were at first restricted to this transplanted foreign community within Japan” (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City).

At the western end of Shinko Pier is the huge steel Ferris wheel I spotted from as far away as the south end of Yamashita Park.  It’s part of the Yokohama Cosmo World Amusement Park; the wheel takes 15 minutes to complete a full circle.

Ferris Wheel at Yokohama Cosmo World Amusement Park

Yokohama’s Ferris Wheel

Past Cosmo World, I cross a bridge and can immediately see the 32-floor sail-shaped Yokohama Grand Intercontinental Hotel.  Between the Ferris wheel and the hotel, Yokohama’s skyline is whimsical and welcoming.

The Yokohama Grand Intercontinental Hotel

Waterway around Shinko Pier

a children’s area, which seems to be part of Cosmo World, is at the base of Yokohama’s Queen’s Square

I make my way through the National Convention Hall complex, a sprawling building of no particular interest, to Seaside Park (Rinko Park), which looks out over Yokohama Harbor from the north side.  At this point, I’ve seen Yokohama Harbor from south to north. Beside the Convention Hall is the Yokohama Grand Intercontinental.  Rinko Park is a little scruffy and has just a smattering of folks sitting on the concrete steps lining the harbor side walkway or picnicking on the grass.

Yokohama Grand Intercontinental

From here, I get a good view of the 1989 Yokohama Bay Bridge, a suspension bridge that extends 860 metres (2,821 feet) from shore to shore.

View of Yokohama Bay Bridge from Rinko Park

view north from Rinko Park

I leave the rather unimpressive Rinko Park and head inland, passing the Convention Hall to my left and walking several blocks past modern but characterless apartment buildings.

walking inland north of the National Convention Hall

residences?

I reach the inviting wide pedestrian walkway, with fountains and sculptures, bordered by the Yokohama Museum of Art and Landmark Tower on one side, and a huge modern shopping complex on the other.

Landmark Tower at the Minato Mirai 21 Complex

I don’t have time to visit the Yokohama Museum of Art today, but at least I know where it is for a rainy day.  This 1989 museum is the second largest art museum in Japan.  Its permanent collection includes paintings by Cezanne, Magritte, Dali, and Japanese artists, as well as paintings related to Yokohama. It was designed by Kenzō Tange, a Japanese architect, and winner of the 1987 Pritzker Prize for architecture.

Landmark Tower and the Yokohama Museum of Art

Yokohama Museum of Art

The 70-story Landmark Tower is supposedly Yokohama’s best known sight.  Designed by American architect Hugh Stebbins, it has a 5-story-high central atrium, with offices and the Royal Park Hotel above.  Over 200 shops and restaurants are also inside.

sculptural detail and Landmark Tower

Landmark Tower

Fancy sculpture at Landmark Tower

I continue my walk through this huge complex, with a glimpse of the Ferris wheel from a different angle.

The Ferris Wheel from the Landmark Tower side

I pass the Nippon Maru training ship docked in an 1896 ships’ basin of stone.  Built in 1930, the Nippon Maru was a sailing vessel used to train naval students.  It circled the globe 46 times before it was decommissioned in 1984.

Nippon Maru training ship

Nippon Maru training ship

Hard Rock Cafe

After passing the Hard Rock Cafe, I realize I need to walk through Landmark Tower to get to Sakuragicho Station. At the basement level, I walk past shops and restaurants and bakeries until I finally emerge on the other side, on a pedestrian walkway over the Metropolitan Expressway K1 Yokohama Route.

Yokohama overpass

My plan is to cross through Sakuragicho Station (two stops  northwest of where I got off this morning) to continue the rest of the walk to Kangai (Beyond the Checkpoint), which is the original area for Japanese citizens when Yokohama was founded.

view heading toward Sakuragicho Station

As I cross into this area, I can see remnants of the old Yokohama, with its food stalls and red lanterns.  If I continue the walk, I should see two parks, a temple, a shrine, and shopping areas.  I walk for almost one kilometer, but it’s getting darker bit by bit, and I keep thinking I should get back on metro and go two stops south to where I started the walk, at Ishikawacho Station near Chinatown.  After all, I did promise the shopkeeper at Amina Collection that I’d return to buy a few things. 🙂

Noge District

I’m getting awfully tired by this time, and have walked 20,000+ steps, or over 9 miles.  This part of town looks confusing, as it’s not laid out on a grid pattern like the more modern part of Yokohama. To be honest, I have no idea which direction I should go to find the Nogeyama Fudoson Temple, the first place on my walk, and  I’m too tired to figure it out.  I decide instead to cut this part of the walk short.  After all, I can easily continue another day, as I live less than an hour from Yokohama.

Noge District

Noge District

I return to Amina Collection at Chinatown (how I have the energy for this, I have no idea, but when shopping calls, I must listen!), where I buy a blue kimono jacket with orange flowers, a lavender blouse with aqua embroidery on the sleeves, and a royal blue cotton top with bell sleeves.  The two tops are “one size fits all” and are rather billowy.  The shopkeeper, the same thin hippie-ish Japanese girl with the turban and the maize-colored skirt, is still there, and she helps me with the purchase.  She can speak and understand English, so she talks nonstop.  However, her pronunciation is so abysmal that I can only decipher a few words here and there.  She’s very nice and encourages me to go to the tax-free office to get reimbursed for the tax I paid, but it’s in the opposite direction to metro, and I am just too exhausted to bother.

I take the train back to Sakuragicho Station, where I have to change to the JR Yokohama green line.  I’m not positive I’m on the right train when I get on, so I ask a man sitting directly across from me: “Machida?”  There are two lines at that station, one to Tokyo and one in the direction of Machida; this one is nearly empty and we sit at the station for quite a while as the train originates here.  The man across from me, who introduces himself as Kaz, can speak English very well, and he asks me where I’m from and what I am doing in Japan.  Since he is speaking across the train to me, he asks if he can come sit next to me. He is all dressed in proper business attire; white shirt, tie, black suit; he informs me he has spent the day at the National Convention Hall at a medical products convention.  I tell him I had walked past the convention hall earlier in my walk and I show him the map of today’s walk; I admit I’m exhausted as I walked about 10 miles.  He says he sells medical imaging technology and tells me about technologies at the conference such as cryo-ablation (freezing of tumors) and RFA (Radio Frequency Ablation, or burning of tumors).  He says both treatments result in the tumor dissolving, due to the normal body temperature and the treatment.  We talk the entire time back to Fuchinobe, about all kinds of things.  He sheepishly tells me at one point, with exasperation but humor, that talking to me all this time has exhausted him; he’s not used to thinking and speaking so much in English, although he seems quite natural at it.  He has clients all over the world in many Western and Asian countries, so he is actually used to speaking in English.

We both admit when we part ways that the 1-hour train ride back from Yokohama seemed much shorter because of our conversation; I know has been enjoyable for both of us.

When I finally arrive back to Fuchinobe, I grab a bite to eat at a basement restaurant that serves sushi and beer and chicken grilled on sticks, and then I ride by bicycle home, exhausted and yet exhilarated by the entire day’s adventure. 🙂

Total steps today: 23,784 (10.08 miles).

 

 

yokohama: chinatown and yamashita park {walking tour 20: part 1}   23 comments

Saturday, April 15:  This morning, I head for Yokohama at around 10 a.m., taking the JR Yokohama Green Line to Sakuragicho Station, then changing to the Negishi Line for Ishikawacho Station. When I ride my bike to park at Fuchinobe Station, I find an attendant there charging 100 yen to park: I guess it’s only free on Sundays.  Oh well, 100 yen is hardly going to bankrupt me.

It is easy to find the beginning of Walking Tour 20 (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City) at Chinatown’s Nishimon-dori (West Gate Street), as it’s right outside the station and there are signs pointing the direction.  The 11:15 start to my walk is later than I intended.  Little do I know I’ll end up walking over 10 miles today, from the south of Yokohama to the north, all along Yokohama Bay and in and out on a circuitous route through the city streets.

The West Gate of Chinatown

Yokohama’s Chinatown, or Chūkagai, is the largest of three Chinatowns in Japan, followed by Nagasaki and Kobe.  It was set aside by the Japanese government in 1863 and now has about 3-4,000 residents, mostly descendants of Chinese from Guangzhou who came as servants of Western merchants or as traders.  Some acted as treasurers to Western firms, while others came as craftsmen who could make clothing and other essentials needed by foreigners. When war broke out between China and Japan in 1937, the growth of Chinatown came to a standstill, but it started thriving again in 1955, when a large goodwill gate was built and Chinatown was officially recognized by Japan.

Yokohama’s Chinatown

Almost immediately, I’m enticed into a three-story shop called Amina Collection.  It has cute clothing, accessories and home decor mainly imported from India and Nepal.  Why it’s in Chinatown, I don’t know; the shopkeeper, who has her hair wrapped in a large turban and wears a maize-colored flowing skirt, tells me her corporation owns many similar shops in Japan.  What I really love are the incense aromas and the whimsical and enchanting music piped in through the shop.  I ask the shopkeeper if they sell the CD with the music playlist, but unfortunately for me, she says the owner downloaded the playlist to an MP3.  I also find some cute tops and kimono toppers (the kind of kimono cover-ups sold in America, not traditional Japanese kimono).  Since I’m just starting my walk and don’t want to buy anything yet, I tell the shopkeeper I’ll return later.  At this time, I think the walk will bring me full circle back to Ishikawacho Station, where I can easily return to shop before heading home.

I continue into Chinatown, overwhelmed by crimson and yellow signs, fierce dragons twisting and turning on buildings and signs, shops with Chinese lanterns and masks, huge restaurant boards with pictures of enticing dishes, and touts in front of each restaurant beckoning tourists in.  It is getting to be lunchtime, but my stomach takes a turn at the thought of eating Chinese food.  When I was in China, I was sick almost constantly from the food, but I think maybe in Japan the Chinese food will be fine.  After all, the Chinese restauranteurs must cook to Japanese tastes, just like they cook to American tastes in the USA.

North Gate

Restaurant in Chinatown

Though the large multi-ingredient dishes look mouth-watering, I figure maybe I can stick to something like steamed dumplings that aren’t cooked in oil. My hunger gets the best of me, and I drop into a tiny joint where I order three shrimp steamed dumplings with a Pepsi.  It costs nearly $10 for that tiny meal, which is meant to sustain me all day.  After I leave the restaurant, my stomach immediately cramps up and I wonder if it’s because of the food or just my fear of eating Chinese again.

Those stomach cramps are to stay with me the rest of the day, yet I end up walking over 10 miles. 🙂

Yokohama’s Chinatown

a pagoda in Chinatown

East Gate

After lunch, I’m in search of the Kantei-Byo.  The original temple, known as the Kuan-Ti Mao Temple, suffered many disasters.  It was built in 1887, destroyed by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, and suffered damages during the 1945 Allies air attack. In 1981, it was struck by lighting and caught fire. It burned down again in 1987, and finally, was reconstructed in 1990 as Kantei-Byo despite the political differences of the Taiwan and Beijing Chinese.

According to Japan Travel, Kantei-Byo is dedicated to the famous Chinese warrior “Kanwu,” who excelled in the areas of power, courage, justice, and loyalty, as well as business. For all these reasons, the people of Chinatown follow Kanwu as their “God of Business.”  However, another source, my book Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City, says the new shrine is dedicated to Sangokushi; to him, the Chinese can pray for good fortune and good business.  Oh well, whomever a person prays too, he’s sure to be successful in business. 🙂

I finally find the temple, with a huge Coke Zero truck parked in front.  The light doesn’t favor this view, so I go immediately into the temple courtyard.

Kantei-Byo

Kantei-Byo

Two golden dragons greet me on the wall of the temple.

Dragons at Kantei-Byo

I love the wonderful details under the eaves of Chinese temples.

Kantei-Byo

The visitors to the temple light incense sticks and bow and pray to the gods within.

incense burner at Kantei-Byo

Here’s the view from the temple to the outside gate. Much better than the outside-to-inside shot with the Coke Zero truck.

Kantei-Byo

I find colorful and intricate architectural details and relief carvings under the temple’s eaves.

Inside the temple is gorgeous, but they want 100 yen to go inside and I’m not allowed to take pictures.  If I were allowed to take pictures, I’d gladly pay the entrance fee, but as I can see the altar from outside, that’s enough for me.

Kantei-Byo

incense at Kantei-Byo

Kantei-Byo

Just outside the temple, I find another in the line of Amina shops and I go inside to try on more cute tops. The two salesgirls look so cute, I can’t help but try on tops in the shop that are similar.  They look terrible on me, sadly.  I guess when you’re super tiny, you can get away with wearing anything!

Outside the shop, I encounter these two characters, one of them next to a wide-mouth panda entrance.

a cool character near the East Gate

creature with wide-mouthed panda

Another Chinatown gate

Finally, I make my way out of Chinatown and head to the waterfront.  First, I encounter the memorial commemorating the Reverend James Curtis Hepburn, a medical Protestant missionary who created the first Japanese-English dictionary in 1867 and Romanized the Japanese characters.  He often treated Japanese and Chinese patients for free in his house if they couldn’t afford payment.  The memorial marks his and his wife’s work from 1859-1892.

Hepburn Memorial Marker

The south end of Yamashita Park extends 2/3 mile from the Yamashita Pier to the Osanbashi Pier.  To cover the flood control pumping station at the south end, a raised platform has an ornamental water cascade that extends from the upper level to street level.

south end of Yamashita Park

At street level, the ornamental water cascade ends in a pretty pool.

ornamental water cascade at Yamashita Park

From Yamashita Park, I can see Yokohama Harbor.  Today is the perfect day for a walk, with temperatures in the high 60s and a brisk wind.  How I love windy days when the temperature is right.

view of Yokohama Harbor from Yamashita Park

Looking inland, I can see the buildings fronting the park. The Marine Tower was belatedly constructed in 1961 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Yokohama’s founding in 1859.  There is an observation deck at the 100-meter level, but I don’t go up today.  At 106 meters is a lighthouse lamp visible over the bay for 24 miles; it is the biggest inland lighthouse in the world.

Marine Tower

General MacArthur stayed at the Hotel New Grand on the evening of August 30, 1945 to begin his stint as the commander of the occupying American forces in Japan.  Also from the hotel, he boarded the USS Missouri battleship on September 2, 1945 to accept the Japanese surrender, thus ending World War II.

Hotel New Grand

A fancy rose and flower garden in the park invites a stroll.

gardens at Yamashita Park

Along the harborside walkway, I can see the north part of Yokohama.

view of northern Yokohama and Yokohama Harbor

Off a small pier south of Osanbashi Pier, the Hikawa-maru, a luxury ocean liner built in Yokohama in 1930 is permanently moored.  It made 238 crossings between Japan and the U.S. West Coast from 1930-1960.  It is now retired from service.

The Hikawa-Maru

Yamashita Park and the Hotel New Grand

The Guardian of the Waters statue was a gift from sister city San Diego to Yokohama and its people.

Guardian of the Waters

Guardian of the Waters

YOKOHAMA 2017

tulip mania at Yamashita Park

tulips at Yamashita Park

Looking south along the waterside walkway, I can see the 1989 Yokohama Bay Bridge.

Yokohama Bay Bridge and view of the North Dock

a ship in port

As I approach the north end of Yamashita Park, I have a better view of Yokohama with its iconic Ferris wheel.

looking to the north

The Osanbashi Pier is at the north end of Yamashita Park.  From here, I’ll be heading inland.

Osanbashi Pier

Here are a few notes on how I get to places in the Tokyo area without access to GPS:

Westgate provides teachers with a phone, but we’re only allowed to use it to make calls to a pre-programmed list of numbers.  We are not allowed to use it to call anyone who is not programmed into the phone.  We can accept calls, but we can’t make them.  Besides, it is an old-fashioned flip-phone and not a smart phone with fancy features like GPS.

I have my iPhone from the U.S., but so far I haven’t had the need to get a pre-paid SIM card for my phone.  As long as I have access to wi-fi, at home and at work, I can use the phone for data or messaging.  I was advised that I can Google directions to a destination by just entering in the beginning station (in my case Fuchinobe) and the end station, and I can get directions as to when to switch trains, how many stops between stations, etc.  I can even get a timetable.

The problem of course is that I don’t get GPS when I’m out and about.  My phone is worthless at these times.  So, before leaving my house, I look up the information and take screen shots of the train route.  Below is a version of how I made today’s trip.  I have another screen shot that expands the 12 stops so I can know exactly which stops I’ll be passing, so I can be on the lookout for my particular stop. So far this method is working pretty well for me. 🙂

 

my metro directions screen-shot from Google Maps

 

the shinjuku skyscraper district and a vermillion shrine {walking tour 17: part 2}   20 comments

Sunday, April 9:  After leaving Shinjuku Gyoen and taking the metro back to Shinjuku Station, I walk out the west side of the station to see the Skyscraper District.  Shinjuku is the world’s busiest train station, handling over 3.6 million passengers a day. With over 200 exits and numerous platforms spread out over a large area, it serves as an essential transit hub for the Tokyo rail and subway network as well as rail links throughout the greater Kanto region.  Department stores cover nearly all sides, according to the Shinjuku Station website.

I’m so confused, I’m not really sure where to exit, but I just see a random west exit and emerge from the depths.  This is my view when I first exit.

the view west of Shinjuku Station

Below is one exit, but not the one from which I came. It’s still raining like the devil.

One of Shinjuku’s 200 exits

Rainy day in Shinjuku

It’s such a drab day, I have to stop to take a picture of a colorful florist.

One of my colleagues had on a cute outfit at work the other day and she said she bought it at Uni Qlo.  I find one here in Shinjuku, so of course I have to go in to explore.  Sadly, I come out empty-handed.

Shopping street in Shinjuku

JUMBO

I have a hard time getting oriented.  There are roads going out into all directions and walkways over the roads.  I wander around and it’s raining so hard, I can’t even get my map out to find my bearings.  I wander around randomly for a while until I find someplace to eat.

Shinjuku Sompo building

streets of Shinjuku

Paloma

Skyscraper District of Shinjuku

There are several restaurants around the area, including one conveyor belt sushi restaurant that is packed with people.  I decide on 3rd Burger.

I’m not too happy with my lunch, as the hamburger “with vegetables” is rather chewy.  However, it is a pleasant place to find relief from the rain and to study my map, rather than continue to wander around haphazardly.

Road construction in Shinjuku

The most noteworthy skyscraper I see first is the Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Head Office Building, corporate headquarters for Sompo Japan Insurance.  At 200 metres (656 ft), the building is the 28th tallest building in Tokyo and the 33rd tallest in Japan.  Inside this building is the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art. It’s named for the Japanese artist who is known for his paintings of young women.  It sounds appealing, and I try to go in but sadly find it is closed today.  It would have been a great way to stay dry for an hour or two.

Sompo Japan Building

The 54-story Shinjuku Center Building has a free observation deck on its 53rd floor, but I don’t bother going up since I won’t be able to see anything anyway.  It serves as the headquarters of the Taisei Corporation and is the workplace for 10,000 people, with 25,000 visitors.  It was featured in the 1984 film, The Return of Godzilla.

Shinjuku Center Building

The most fabulous building in my eyes is the 50-story, 204-meter (669 feet), Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower. The building is home to three educational institutions: Tokyo Mode Gakuen (fashion vocational school), HAL Tokyo (special technology and design college), and Shuto Ikō (medical college). Completed in October 2008, the tower is the second-tallest educational building in the world and is the 17th-tallest building in Tokyo.

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower

Shinjuku Sompo building

Shinjuku Center Building

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower

I’m surprised to find the LOVE sculpture that originates in Philadelphia.

LOVE at Shinjuku

While walking around in Shinjuku, a gust of wind catches my umbrella and turns it inside out, breaking one of the ribs.  One of the metal pieces is sticking out dangerously, and I can’t help but think it might poke my eye out. As I head to the Family Mart to buy a new one, it stops raining. I put my umbrella in the umbrella stand and go inside the Family Mart to check out what’s available.  Since I already spent an outrageous sum of 2,800 yen (~$26) to buy my umbrella at Tokyu Hands, I’m not keen to spend another 1,280 (~$12) today if I no longer need to.  I only brought a certain amount of money to hold me until pay-day on April 26, and I need to make my money last. I forego the new umbrella and leave my broken one in the rack.  I would have just trashed it, but as Tokyo has such strict rules about what you can put in the trash, I wasn’t sure of how to dispose of it.

Shinjuku

karaoke at Shinjuku

Shinjuku

Busy crossing at Shinjuku

I return to Shinjuku Station to walk over to the east side of the station.  As soon as I exit the station on the east side, two nice Japanese ladies standing near an information area ask me where I’m going.  I tell them I’m in search of Hanazono Shrine. They kindly direct me, and as I make my way there, it starts to rain again.  It’s a light drizzle at first, so I think I might be okay.

eastern portion of Shinjuku

Shopping street east of Shinjuku Station

However, as soon as I get to the Hanazono-jinja Shrine, it starts to pour.  I’m going to get drenched without an umbrella.  I remember seeing another Family Mart near the shrine, so I backtrack and buy the 1,280 yen umbrella, which is much sturdier than my expensive Tokyu Hands one.  I walk back to the shrine, still brilliantly vermillion even in the rain.  It houses the guardian deity of Shinjuku.

Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono-jinji Shrine dates back to before the founding of the city of Edo, the former name of Tokyo and seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate,which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868.  The shrine sits on the site of a garden that belonged to the Hanazono branch of the Tokugawa clan, which is why the name of this Inari Shrine is also that of a daimyō family; these were powerful Japanese feudal lords who, until their decline in the early Meiji period, ruled most of Japan from their vast, hereditary land holdings.  Inari is responsible for many things, one of which is the welfare of merchants.  This leads many local shopkeepers to pray here for financial success.

Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono Shrine

vermillion torii at Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono Shrine

large torii gate at the entrance to Hanazono Shrine

It’s feeling pretty desolate here at Hanazono, as even the vendors from the Sunday flea market are almost packed up. It’s 3:00 p.m. now, and I am tired of the day and of the rain, so I head back to Shinjuku Station to make my way home.  Before I descend, I see this colorfully painted metal utility box.  It makes me smile before I weave through the crowds at Shinjuku to get back on the train.

a utilitarian metal box turned to art

This time, I take the Rapid Express Odakyu line for Machida, and then to Fuchinobe, where I ride my bicycle home in the rain. Upon returning home, I enjoy a glass of wine and actually cook myself a meal of salmon with some prepared asparagus and a vegetable rice patty.  I’ve been watching the newest season of Grace & Frankie; soon after I settle in to watch, I drift off to sleep, exhausted from the day.

Steps on this walk: 19,560 (8.29 miles).  I didn’t do the entire walk today as I wasn’t that interested in all the skyscrapers and was feeling defeated by the rain. 😦

 

cherry blossoms in the rain at shinjuku gyoen {walking tour 17: part 1}   12 comments

Sunday, April 9:  After being stuck in my apartment all day Saturday because of rain, I am itching to get out to explore Tokyo on Sunday.  My goal during my short time here is to visit a new place at least once every weekend, and maybe twice if the weather permits and I’m not too exhausted.

The forecast for Sunday shows a morning of cloudy skies with the rain holding off until noon.  I wake up early Sunday, look out my window to see no rain, and immediately eat breakfast and take a shower.  By the time I am ready to leave my house at 8 a.m. it has started raining.  Bah!  I know the cherry blossoms are peaking this weekend, so I need to go today or I’ll miss them.  I prepare myself to brave the weather, armed with umbrella and walking shoes.  I ride my bicycle – holding my umbrella over my head – to the bicycle parking lot near the train station.

My goal today is to do Walking Tour 17 from my book, Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City: Shinjuku: A District of Skyscrapers, City Hall, a Central Shopping Area, the Red Light District, and am Imperial Garden.  Since it is “supposed” to rain later (even though it is already raining!), I figure I’d better do Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden first, to be guaranteed I’ll see the cherry blossoms.  So, doing the walk in reverse, I take the train to Shinjuku and then transfer to the Marunouchi Subway line to Shinjuku Gyoenmae Station.

To get to Shinjuku, I take the Yokohama Line to Machida, where I transfer to the Odakyu line to Shinjuku.  From Machida, there is a Rapid Express line, an Express line and a Local.  The local of course stops at every stop.  When I see the Rapid Express train is already packed at this early morning hour, I decide to try the Express; on that train, I get a seat and it isn’t that crowded.  However, it is quite a bit slower than the Rapid Express, about 45 minutes compared to 26 minutes. Still, it’s nice to have a seat and not be packed into the Rapid Express train.

When I arrive at Shinjuku Gyoen and pay the 200 yen admission fee, I find an open area where everyone is posing with the few blooming cherry blossoms.  I stop here and take a few close-up shots.  Little do I know what other wonders the garden will hold.

Arrival at Shinjuku Gyoen Garden

The rain is that annoying drizzle that makes it difficult to keep the camera lens dry.  It’s a struggle to hold both the umbrella and the camera and, at the same time, to keep wiping the rain off the camera lens.  I also hope to stay dry myself.   It’s quite a dark and dreary day, making many of the pictures look dull and blurry.  I wish I could have visited this garden on a sunny day; it was beautiful in the rain but I’m sure it would have been spectacular on a blue-sky day.

Despite all these challenges, I am pleased with some of my close-up blossom pictures, as well as those of people standing on bridges under their umbrellas, and the cherry blossoms juxtaposed against the tea house.  I also like the views from the Kyu Goryo-tei Pavilion, and the drooping branches of cherry blossoms over ponds, and the areas where there is both a canopy and a carpet of blossoms.  Most of my landscape shots are horrible, but I put some here so you can get a general feel for this gorgeous garden.

lusciousness

cherry blossoms with yellow blooms

dangling blooms

The garden was built on the site of the private mansion of Lord Naito, a daimyo (feudal lord) of the Edo era.  Completed in 1906 as an imperial garden, it was re-designated as a national garden after the Second World War; at that time, it was opened to the public. The garden has two parts: the northern portion is laid out as a Western garden combining French and English styles.  The southern portion is a Japanese Traditional Garden, with paths, artificial hills, islands in ponds, bridges and stone lanterns.  It is considered to be one of the most important gardens from the Meiji era.

I go on a little detour through a Mother-Child garden.

The Mother and Child garden

I like the cypress area, with its cypress knees and cypress trees.

Cypress area

cypress

more delicacies

I walk on a wooded path for a while until I see signs for the Japanese garden.

the gnarled path

The Japanese Traditional Garden is my favorite by far, with the pink and white sakura interspersed with weeping willows, pruned trees and bushes, trained bonsai, rocks, ponds, and arched bridges.  It feels so organic and natural, even though I’m sure it has been meticulously shaped.

It is such a shame it’s rainy and my photos are so unsatisfactory.

an arched bridge and weeping willows

I attempt many times to take photos of the umbrellas on the bridge, but it’s frustrating because of the poor light and drizzle.

a bridge too far

umbrellas on a bridge

I spend time admiring the pretty little tea house surrounded by sakura.

tea house under pink

a Japanese tea house at Shinjuku Gyoen

Walking around the many ponds is a wonderful treat.

I love wandering out and about in the Japanese garden.

a pretty little scene

another stone lantern

The Kyu Goryo-tei Pavilion is a Chinese-style pavilion which commemorates Emperor Hirohito’s wedding in 1927. From the pavilion are fantastic views of the Japanese gardens.

view from the Kyu Goryo-tei Pavilion

view from the Kyu Goryo-tei Pavilion

view from the Kyu Goryo-tei Pavilion

I wander over the garden’s 150 acres from around 9 am, when I arrive, until 11:30, and I’m sure I miss some parts of the garden.

another sakura-lined pond in the Japanese garden

I adore the sakura dangling their blossoms over the pond, mimicking the bowing of the Japanese people.

blossoms leaning into the pond

lounging blossoms

sakura!

textured scene

Finally, I find an open woodsy area with both a canopy and carpet of cherry blossoms.

canopy and carpet

soft and sharp

mystical forest

blossoms all around

It’s about time to move on to the second part of my walk, to the west side of Shinjuku station, where the shopping district and skyscrapers of western Tokyo reside.  I’m also tired and getting hungry.  I’m sure the skyscraper district will have some interesting places to eat.

The northern part of the garden, which combines an English and French style, is not of much interest to me.  Maybe it’s better at other times of year, but at least for this weekend, it’s all about the cherry blossoms.

gnarly trees in a row

The English Garden

The English Garden

a line of spiky trees

I leave the garden and head back to the train station, where I’ll catch the train back to Shinjuku.  On the way, I see this pair of vending machines, in sakura colors of pink and red.

jubilant twins

aoyama gakuin university   5 comments

Wednesday, April 12: I’ve almost finished my first full week of teaching with Westgate Corporation at Aoyama Gakuin University Sagamihara Campus.  My employer is actually Westgate, and they hire us out to the university.  The university’s program is a two-year program within the School of Global Studies and Collaboration; I teach second year students who will be going on a study abroad in the fall semester to either Malaysia or Thailand.  We’re supposed to help them improve their English skills for their study abroad program; this program is meant to enhance their understanding of different cultures.

Here are some pictures of the campus.

Aoyama Gakuin University Sagimahara Campus

According to the university website, the university was founded in 1949, offering an education in line with “the founding spirit” based on the Christian faith. The aim is to nurture individuals with a strong sense of social responsibility and morality to contribute to ever-changing society. The university is also strongly committed to language education and international exchange to promote international understanding.

Aoyama Gakuin University Sagimahara Campus

Though the university was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church, and there is a chapel on campus, neither students nor faculty are actually required to be of the Christian faith.  However, we can hear church music and bells on campus, and students have a special chapel time set aside each day.

the chapel on campus

Our teacher office is in the building on the right in the photo below, and the huge cafeteria is on the left.  Bento boxes are offered by kiosks, prepared meals are sold in the 7-11 on-site, and hot meals are sold in the sprawling cafeteria.  There are displays of the food, and machines that list the price and the dish in Japanese (machines on one wall name them in English, thank goodness).  You push a button on the machine, put in your Yen, and then collect a ticket.  At the back, you take your ticket to one of the serving stations depending on what you ordered: a station for udon, ramen, soba, fish or chicken dinner, etc.  You then stand in line, hand your ticket to the ladies behind the counter, and they serve you up!

Aoyama Gakuin University Sagimahara Campus

the chapel

the chapel

the chapel

I have three classes of 18-20 students, 56 students altogether.  I teach all three classes for 90 minutes each on Monday, Thursday and Friday; on Tuesday and Wednesday, the three classes are spread out over two days, giving us some planning time.  I plan four classes a week (repeating the lesson for each of my three classes).  I work 9:30-6;30 on M-W-F and 8:40-5:40 on Tu-Th.

If it seems confusing, you’re right, it is.  I have to keep referring to my schedule to see when I work and where I go to teach and which classes I have.  But, that is always the nature of teaching.

So far my students are a pleasure and seem eager to improve their English for their upcoming study abroad.

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