Archive for the ‘Travel’ Tag

yokohama: yamate bluff   1 comment

Sunday, July 23: I have wanted to return to Yokohama to visit the Yamate Bluff for a long time.  After visiting Ofuna and the bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura, I head to Ishikawacho Station on the JR Negishi Line.  Frankly, I’m exhausted from my busy day yesterday, as well as my outings today, but I’m determined to visit at least a small bit of this place.  I probably could spend a whole day here, but alas, it’s not to be.

For most of the Edo Period (1603-1867), Japan isolated itself from the outside world.  When the period of isolation ended after the 1850s, Yokohama was one of the few port towns where foreigners were allowed to reside.  Many traders looking to find business and profits in the newly opened country moved into the hills of the Yamate area, known as “The Bluff.”  Most of the homes and buildings in this residential district for Westerners were built after the Kanto Earthquake of 1923; today, some of them are designated as historical sites.  Yamate is now mainly a hilly residential area with leafy parks, international schools and churches.  It is still a residential area for Westerners.

It’s 3:23 when I make my way up a very steep hill to Bluff No. 18, a building sitting pretty in the Yamate Italian Garden.  It was first built at the end of the Taisho period (1912-1926) as a foreigners’ residence after the Great Kanto Earthquake. After World War II and until 1991, the house served as the parish house of the Yamate Catholic Church; it was moved to its current location and restored in 1993.

Bluff No. 18: Museum of Bluff Area Housing

I have a great view of colorful Yokohama from the Bluff.

View of Yokohama from the Bluff

Bluff No. 18: Museum of Bluff Area Housing

The lifestyle in a foreigner’s home during the reconstruction period after the Great Kanto Earthquake is recreated inside the house.  Reproduced classic Yokohama-style furniture reflects the interiors of that day.

Dining room in the museum

Living room in the Museum

sailing ship in the museum

bedroom in the museum

The Diplomat’s House served as the residence of Uchida Sadatsuchi (1865-1942), a diplomat of the Meiji government, who held various important positions such as Ambassador to Turkey and Consulate General in New York. The house was originally built in the American Victorian style at Nanpeidai in the Shibuya Ward of Tokyo by the American architect James Gardiner.  It was moved to the Italian Garden and designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 1997.

The Uchidas’ Former Residence: Home of a Diplomat

The Uchidas’ Former Residence & Yamate Italian Hill Garden

The Uchidas’ Former Residence

I’m not sure what this blue building is, but it sure is pretty.

Universal Arts

There are many more historical sites in the former foreign settlement of Yamate, but I’m hot and exhausted and it’s getting late in the day.  I’m still hoping to see the Foreigner’s Cemetery, but first I have to walk down Motomachi Shopping Street, which runs parallel to the Nakamura River. The street served the needs of the first foreign residents of Yokohama, and introduced many products to Japan.

Motomachi shopping street

Nowadays it seems similar to other shopping streets in Japan but with a slightly European feel. There are a large number of high-end fashion shops, hair salons, florists, home decor and souvenir shops, as well as cafes and restaurants.

Florist on Motomachi shopping street

Florist on Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

By the time I arrive at the Foreigners’ Cemetery, it’s 4:09, and I’m kindly informed by an older gentleman at the gate that the cemetery closed at 4:00. He allows me to take a photo of two tombstones and then I have to be on my way.

The cemetery dates back to 1854, when a sailor, Robert Williams, on Commodore Perry’s flagship The Mississippi died after a fall on the ship’s second voyage to Japan. Commodore Perry, the American navy officer who forced Japan to open its ports, asked permission from the Japanese shogunal authorities to bury that sailor on a hill overlooking the water and to provide a resting place for any future Americans who died in Japan. A few months later, a couple of Russian sailors were buried as well.  In 1861, part of the grounds of Zotokuin Temple were set aside and have since become the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.  Today, a small section of the 4,200 graves can be visited, and the inscriptions often offer an interesting glimpse into the life of the interred (japan-guide.com: Yamate and Motomachi and Japan Visitor: Yamate the Bluff District Yokohama).

Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery

The worst thing about my unfortunate arrival time at the cemetery is that I had to climb a very steep hill to get here, so I’m sweaty, hot and irritable. I decide it’s time to call it a day.  It’s a shame I won’t have time to see all of Yamate Bluff, but at least I have a general idea of what it’s like.

I make my way back to Motomachi Shopping Street and the train station through the largest park in Yamate, the Harbor View Park, which is named after the view that the park affords onto the water and the Yokohama Bay Bridge.

view of Yokohama from Harbor View Park

view of Yokohama from Harbor View Park

view of Yokohama from Harbor View Park

view of Yokohama from Harbor View Park

windmill in Harbor View Park

Harbor View Park

Harbor View Park

On Motomachi Shopping Street, I stop in for a rest and an iced coffee at a cute little cafe.  Then I get on the train and return home to Fuchinobe to prepare for my last day of class tomorrow. I can’t believe my time in Japan is almost over. 😦

Total steps today: 15,884 (6.73 miles)

kamakura: hokokuji temple, the bamboo temple   6 comments

Sunday, July 23:  After leaving Ofuna, I take the train to Kamakura Station on my way to Hokokuji Temple.  Also known as Take-dera (bamboo temple), it is famous for the beautiful bamboo grove behind the main hall.

The temple is quite far from the station, so I take a crowded bus there.  At the temple gate, a young couple in yukata coming out of the temple seem a bit chagrined when I snap a photo of them.

Hokokuji Temple Gate

It’s been spitting rain a bit as I’ve walked to the temple, but the rain hasn’t eased the heat at all. I’m tempted to walk up the stairs of a mossy hill, but I follow the main path instead.

stairway through moss-covered rocks

Along the main path is a pretty rock garden.  I always love these gardens that have been meticulously and artistically raked by the monks.

rock garden at Hokokuji

Hokokuji Temple rock garden

Hokokuji Temple rock garden

Zen rocks

The sound of water flowing from a bamboo spout makes for a peaceful and serene atmosphere, a perfect escape from the hubbub of Kamakura city.

a water spout to a pond

I find one small grove of bamboo along the main path to the temple, but this isn’t the main bamboo garden.

a small grove of bamboo

Hokokuji Temple belongs to the Zen Kenchoji Temple of the Rinzai Sect. It was established by the priest Tengan Eko in 1334 — a time of great turbulence and unrest in Japan — to commemorate Ashikaga Ietoki, grandfather of Takauji, first of the Ashikaga shoguns. The principal image enshrined in the main hall is Shaka-nyorai-zazo (sitting Shakyamuni), which is designated as a cultural property by Kamakura city.  The temple has many other treasures designated as important cultural properties, such as statues  of Butsujo-zenji (the posthumous title of Tengan Eko) and Kasho-Sonjazo, a disciple of Buddha.

The main hall of Hokokuji Temple originally had a thatched roof. However, it was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.

The main building of Hokokuji Temple

Today, only the bell tower has a quaint-looking thatched roof.

Bell Tower at Hokokuji Temple

Near the Bell Tower is a circle of moss-covered Jizo statues.

Jizo statues

There is a small stone garden with mossy stones that has a serene Zen atmosphere.

rock garden at Hokokuji Temple

rock garden at Hokokuji Temple

Hokokuji Temple

A yagura is a cave to accommodate tombs; these at Hokokuji reportedly hold the ashes of the Ashikaga family, including Ietoki, who died by seppuku (ritual suicide).

Tombs of Ashikagas

green blossoms

Behind the main hall, there once was an annex in which Butsujo-zenji, the posthumous title of the priest who founded this temple, used to have Buddhist training and write poems.  His Toki-Shu, a manuscript of Chinese poems, and his wooden stamp are now preserved in the Kamakura Museum; they are specified as important cultural properties by the Japanese government.

The site of the annex is where the bamboo grove is now.  About 2000 thick moso bamboo reach densely to the sky in the garden. Moso bamboo is a temperate species of giant timber bamboo native to China and Taiwan and naturalized elsewhere. This bamboo can reach heights of up to 28 m (92 ft) (Wikipedia: Phyllostachys edulis).

garden backed by bamboo

The bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

path through the bamboo

moss-covered sages

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

After wandering around the bamboo grove for a while, I make my way back to the main road where I can catch the bus.  A long line of people is already queued up, and I wonder if I’ll even get on the bus with such a long line.  Luckily I see a restaurant next to the bus stop.  As it’s after 1:30, I’m hungry, hot and thirsty, so I order a cool orange Hi-C and a shrimp tempura set meal.  It’s the perfect escape from the heat and the crowds.

a cool Hi-C

shrimp tempura set meal

After lunch, I take the bus back to Kamakura Station, where I head to Yokohama.  There, I plan to visit Yamate Bluff, a famous foreigner’s residential area.

Information in this post comes from the Hokokuji Temple pamphlet, JintoJapan: The Official Guide: Hokoku-ji Temple, and  All About Japan – Hokokuji: The Bamboo Temple of Kamakura.

the ofuna kannon-ji temple   7 comments

Sunday, July 23: Every time I’ve taken the train down to Kamakura, I’ve passed by an interesting white statue on a hillside near the Ofuna station.  Today, I head down to Kamakura for one last visit before leaving the Tokyo area.  On the way, I get off the train at Ofuna and make my way across a busy intersection and to the hill, where I climb up to see the statue face-to-face.

I couldn’t find much information online about the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple, but I find when I arrive that the temple plays a role in promoting world peace, especially following the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  I’m moved by the temple’s serenity and its message of hope.

Construction of the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple began in 1929 with local volunteers expressing a prayer for peace, but by 1934, only the profile of the statue was complete.  Due to the social conditions and material shortages, construction was put on hold before completion.

at the entrance to the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

fruit drying at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

After the war, Rosen Takashina, the chief abbot of the Soto School, and others took charge of establishing the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple Association. With donations generously given by a large number of supporters, the current white-robed statue depicting the Guanyin Bodhisattva (approximately 25m tall and 19m wide) was finally completed in 1960 and the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple of the Soto School was established in 1981.

lanterns lining the walkway at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

In addition to the striking Guanyin Bodhisattva, there are also statues for child-raising and to ward off evil.

statue at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

In addition, there is a monument to victims of the atomic bomb and a stone toro-style lamp named the Genbaku-no-hi, or “fire of the atom bomb,” which signifies prayers for eternal peace.

A plaque at the memorial says: “The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima brought death to hundreds of thousands of citizens. The flame taken from that conflagration, burning in ‘deep seated pain in memory’ of those who were killed, has been kept burning at Hoshino-mura Village in Fukuoka Prefecture.  This flame was lit from that flame and is placed here as a symbol of our yearning for lasting peace. To commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 6 and 9, 1945. Kanagawa Association of A-bomb Sufferers, July 29, 1990.”

Atomic Bomb memorial & Genbaku-no-hi

Atomic Bomb flame – Genbaku-no-hi

Atomic Bomb memorial

origami cranes for peace

origami cranes for peace

Jizo statue at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

ema at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

Guanyin Bodhisattva

lanterns along the walkway

Guanyin Bodhisattva

Guanyin Bodhisattva

origami cranes

Jizo statues

altar in the shrine

I love this statue and am so glad I finally get to see it up close instead of from the train window as I whiz past.

Guanyin Bodhisattva

Guanyin Bodhisattva

water pavilion

ema at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

Guanyin Bodhisattva as seen from the walkway

Guanyin Bodhisattva as seen from afar

Guanyin Bodhisattva on the hill in Ofuna

Guanyin Bodhisattva on the hill in Ofuna

I have another busy day planned today.  I’m desperate to squeeze every last thing out of the Tokyo area that I can!  After leaving Ofuna, I’m heading to the Kamakura Bamboo temple, Hokoku-ji Temple.  After that, I’ll stop in at Yokohama to visit the Yamate Bluff. 🙂

 

 

tokyo: mori art museum, tokyo city view, and the aldgate british pub   13 comments

Saturday, July 22:  I arrive at Azabu-juban Station and I know I need to walk quite some distance, but I have no idea in what direction to go.  Instead of wasting a lot of time, I take a taxi, and it’s a good thing I do.  It’s quite a long ride to the Mori Art Museum. I’m rushed for time since I need to meet Graham at 5:00, and it’s 3:30 when I arrive at the museum.  I need to finish seeing everything by 4:30, at which time I need to catch a train to Shibuya.  The Mori Art Museum is on the 53rd floor, so I head upstairs, where I find a monstrous mammoth hanging over the entrance.

Entrance to the Mori Art Museum

The special exhibit at the museum is SUNSHOWER: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now. The exhibit runs from July 5 – October 23, 2017. According to the museum’s website:  With its total population counting around 600 million, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-faith Southeast Asia has nurtured a truly dynamic and diverse culture. Contemporary art from the emerging economic powerhouse of Southeast Asia is currently earning widespread international attention. The “sunshower” – rain falling from clear skies – is an intriguing yet frequently seen meteorological phenomenon in Southeast Asia, and serves as a metaphor for the vicissitudes of the region. This exhibition, the largest-ever in scale, seeks to explore the many practices of contemporary art in Southeast Asia since 1980s from 9 different perspectives. It aims to showcase its inconceivable dynamism of Southeast Asia that is somewhat nostalgic yet extraordinarily new (Mori Art Museum: About the Exhibition).

I only have the names of some of the installations and pieces, and only some of the artists, because I simply don’t have enough time to note all the details.  I’m in a rush, so I take pictures and move along.  This is the first museum I’ve visited in Japan where photography is allowed.

metal rods

montage of signs

sign montage

dwelling

Below is a “large-scale collage of overwhelming density that fixes its gaze on what is made, what is destroyed, and what is preserved in Malaysia, thereby questioning the ways of the nation-state” (SUNSHOWER: Highlights).

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Since I’ve traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, I am captivated by these photos of Asian dwellings.

I’m not really sure of the significance of this exhibit of building tools.

I’m sorry I can’t give any details about these fascinating collages made from newspapers and magazines.

This installation, called “Words and Possible Movement” is by Jompet Kuswidananto (2013).

Words and Possible Movement – Jompet Kuswidananto 2013 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

I saw something like these mesh shapes in the Renwick Gallery in Washington.

shapes

amorphous shapes

ping-pong table

According to SUNSHOWER: Highlights: “More than 1,000 wind chimes jangle in the gallery space.  These colorful plastic decorations speak of the festive nature of Southeast Asia and a global economy supported by mass production, as they deliver a palpable vibration from which we sense signs of change.”

Stormy Weather by Felix Bacolor of The Philippines 2009 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Stormy Weather by Felix Bacolor of The Philippines 2009 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Stormy Weather by Felix Bacolor of The Philippines 2009 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Stormy Weather by Felix Bacolor of The Philippines 2009 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

It’s a shame I have to be in such a rush, but I’m worried about meeting Graham on time.  Neither of us have phones that work in Japan, so it will be impossible to contact each other if we are running late. It turns out after I rush through the exhibit, it’s 4:04.  I debate whether I should do it, but I decide I can just squeeze in a visit to the Tokyo City View Observation Deck, which is on the 52nd floor.  I’m so glad I do as these are the finest, and only, views I experience while I’m in Tokyo.

Here are the views to the east.  Tokyo Tower is the red and white tower.

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

The observation deck seems to have a helicopter landing pad.

Tokyo City View Observation Deck

The views to the west are more hazy, as I’m facing into the sun on a hot summer day.

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

It’s about time for me to leave, so I take one last shot to the east and then I head downstairs.

Tokyo City View

I ask at the museum desk about the fastest way to get to the train station and the woman tells me I should catch a bus to Shibuya that takes a half-hour. I do this, and am panicking when the bus becomes stuck in a slow-moving traffic jam.  Finally, I’m let out at Shibuya Station and I am walking across Shibuya Crossing with all the crowds at 5:02, only a few minutes late!

Shibuya Crossing

Graham got to our meeting spot early, so he is starting to wonder if I’m lost, but we finally find each other and head through the streets to the Aldgate Traditional British Pub.

Shibuya

Shibuya

Shibuya

The Aldgate Traditional British Pub

At the pub, we enjoy a meal of fish and chips, draft beers, and lots of laughs, as always. Graham was supposed to bring his partner, Ako, with him this evening, but she backed out at the last-minute because she didn’t feel good. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to meet her.  Graham wanted to reschedule our meeting for next weekend, but as I’ll be in Nikko next weekend, we couldn’t find a time that would work.

When we leave the pub in the dark, we’re accosted by the bright lights of Shibuya.

I had never managed to see the Hachiko statue in all the times I’ve been to Shibuya, and quite by accident, I stumble upon the famous statue.  If you don’t already know the story, you can find it here.

Hachiko Statue

It’s been a long but productive day, topped off by an enjoyable evening with my good friend Graham.  I’ll certainly miss him when I go home. 🙂

Total steps today: 17,653 (7.48 miles)

tokyo: harmonica yokocho & koishikawa korakuen gardens   2 comments

Saturday, July 22:  Today, I have quite an ambitious schedule.  This is my last weekend before classes end, although my contract with Westgate goes through the Tuesday after next, to August 1. Next weekend, before I move out of my apartment on that Tuesday, I’ll go north of Tokyo to stay two nights in Nikko.  Thus, today and tomorrow are the last days to see everything I want to see in the Tokyo area.

My goal for today is to visit the shopping arcade Harmonica Yokocho, then go to Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens.  From there, I’ll go to the Mori Art Museum and then I’m supposed to meet Graham for drinks at the Aldgate British Pub near Shibuya. None of these places are next to each other, so I’ll be on the metro and walking quite a bit.

Harmonica Yokocho in Kichijōji is one of the few shopping arcades left in the face of rampant development. Built as a flea market in the early postwar years, so many stores were crammed into the arcade that it was nicknamed “harmonica” because these stores were like harmonica reeds.  Today, as many as 98 stores are open for business. Many are restaurants where a person can enjoy lunch or dinner, and souvenir, or omiyage, shops (Tokyoing: Harmonica Yokocho).

In addition, the alleys are lined with grocery and clothing stores, along with specialty shops for goodies like yokan (sweet bean jelly), pork cutlet and taiyaki (fish-shaped pancakes filled with anko bean paste) (Justgola.com: Harmonica Alley).

Harmonica Yokocho

The arcade is very colorful — with flower shops, red lanterns, plastic food displays, vibrant signs, vending machines, bars, street art and quirky statues.

Of course, as I’ve arrived at 11:40 a.m., I immediately begin to check out all the restaurants in Harmonica Yokocho for a lunchtime spot.

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

food displays at Harmonica Yokocho

restaurant at Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

Harmonica Yokocho

I enjoy all the odd and even risqué sights as I stroll around Harmonica Yokocho. 🙂

At about 12:15, I come across a Thai restaurant in a basement, Krung Siam, where I stop to enjoy the air-conditioning and a shrimp pad thai.

After lunch, I leave Harmonica Yokocho and head for the train station. From Kichijōji Station, I have to travel about 25 minutes on two different lines to reach Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens.  I take the Chuo-Sobu line to Nakano Station, switch to the Tozai Line and go to Iidabashi Station.  Then I have to walk some distance to the garden, crossing over an elevated walkway over a huge intersection.  I finally get to the garden at 1:45, an hour after leaving Krung Siam.

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden was originally built by Yorifusa, the founder of the Mito branch of the Tokugawa clan, as a second residence. In 1629, it became his main residence.  Later, it was completed as a garden during the reign of the second clan ruler, Mitsukuni.  Its style is kaiyu-style (circuit style) with ponds and man-made hills around the pond.

When Mitsukuni set about constructing the garden, he incorporated some concepts of the Chinese Confucian scholar Shushunsui of the Ming dynasty, including a garden reproduction of Seiko Lake in China, a “Full Moon Bridge” and other features with cultural origins in China (Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association: Koishikawa Korakuen Garden).

The name “Korakuen” was derived from a Chinese text “Gakuyo-ki,” meaning “Worry before all worries in the world, and enjoy after all enjoyments of the world.” Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens is designated as the Special Place of Scenic Beauty and Special Historic Site of the country by the Cultural Assets Preservation Act.  This double designation is quite rare in Japan (from the garden’s English pamphlet).

The central pond in the park is called Dai-Sensui.

Dai-Sensui at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

bridge near the lotus pond

Lotus pond at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Lotus pond at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Oigawa is a river named after a river that ran through Kyoto, Arashiyama region.

Oigawa

Seiko-no-tsutsumi bank was made to resemble the bank of Lake Seiko (Xi Hu) in Hangzhou (present-day Zhejiang province) in China.

Seiko-no-tsutsumi

Seiko-no-tsutsumi

This rock was called Byobu-iwa, or picture screen rock, because it rose vertically like a picture screen. It is said the 3rd shogun, Iemitsu, often visited this place and sat on the stone by the river.

Byobu-iwa

This vermillion bridge is one of the special features of the garden.

Tsuten-kyo

Tsuten-kyo

Tsuten-kyo

As I hop across the stepping-stones in the river to get pictures of the bridge, a swarm of mosquitoes alights on my ankles in full attack mode.  I hop off the rocks and am scratching furiously for the rest of my time in the garden.  Between my profuse sweating in the sticky heat, and the mosquito bites, this is quite a miserable visit.

Tokujin-do is the oldest building in the garden. When Mitsukuni, an earnest Confucianist, was 18 years old, he was deeply moved by reading Shiki (Record of Great Historians) “Biographies of Boyi and Shuqi.”  Wooden figures of Boyi and Shuqi used to be enshrined in this small temple.

Tokujin-do

door of Tokujin-do

Maro-ya created the cozy atmosphere of a tea house; it was rebuilt in 1966 after being burned down in the air raids.

Maro-ya

Engetsu-kyo (Full Moon Bridge) was named so because of the reflected shape of the bridge on the water surface that appeared like a full moon.

steps over Engetsu-kyo (Full Moon Bridge)

Engetsu-kyo (Full Moon Bridge)

Walking up a hill past the Full Moon Bridge, I have sweeping views of the Inada, or Paddy Field.  It was created by Mitsukuni with the motive of teaching the hardship of farming to the wife of his heir, Tsunaeda.  Today, primary school children in the local Bunkyo ward participate in rice-planting in May and harvesting in autumn.

view of Inada (Paddy field)

When Mitsukuni, the 2nd lord of the Mito-Tokugawa family, met the third shogun, Iemitsu, he was given a statue of a patron saint of literature. Later, he built a small shrine called Hakke-do to enshrine the statue in. The shrine was burned down in a big fire after the Great Earthquake of 1923.  All that remains are the Hakke-do traces.

Hakke-do traces

The Ume Grove blooms with 30 different types of plum blossoms in early February.

Ume Grove

Wisteria trellises

As is typical with gardens in Tokyo, modern-day buildings surround the garden.  Here, Tokyo Dome reminds one that the garden is in the midst of urban Tokyo.

pond in the garden

Engetsu-kyo (Full Moon Bridge)

wisteria trellises

Kuhachi-ya is a model of a “Sake house” found in the countryside during the Edo period.  The original structure was destroyed by air raid in 1945 and was rebuilt in 1959.

Kuhachi-ya

stone lantern

pond in the garden

some glimpses of autumn in July 🙂

By 2:40, I’m heading back over the elevated walkway to the train station, where I’ll go to Azabu-juban Station to visit the Mori Art Museum.

elevated walkway on the way to Iidabashi Station

elevated walkway on the way to Iidabashi Station

elevated walkway on the way to Iidabashi Station

I debate whether I even have time to visit the Mori Art Museum, as I’m supposed to meet Graham at Shibuya Station at 5:00 to go to the Aldgate British Pub for beers and dinner.  I’ll have to rush!

 

shinjuku: kabukichō, hanazono-jinja, and golden gai — topped off by a gelato at isetan :-)   3 comments

Sunday, July 16:  After Yukie and I leave Omoide Yokocho, we head toward Kabukichō, walking through an underpass.  On the walls is a large colorful and whimsical mural painted by schoolchildren.

Street art on the way to Kabukicho

Yukie with street art on the way to Kabukicho

Street art on the way to Kabukicho

Street art on the way to Kabukicho

We walk through the boisterous Shinjuku area a little after noon.  We’re both getting hungry; Yukie has in mind a particular okonomiyaki restaurant where we plan to eat savory pancakes.

on the way to Kabukicho

on the way to Kabukichō

Kabukichō is Tokyo’s notorious entertainment district, established in 1948 as part of the World War II reconstruction effort. Originally a swamp, a duck sanctuary, and then a residential area, Kabukichō has transformed since it was destroyed during the war to a world-famous red-light district housing over three thousand bars, nightclubs, love hotels, massage parlors, hostess clubs, peep shows, cabarets and the like.  Tourists can be seen in Kabukichō even during daytime (Wikipedia: Kabukichō, Tokyo).

Kabukicho

Often called the “Sleepless Town” (眠らない街), the district’s name comes from late 1940s plans to build a kabuki theater. Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a classical Japanese dance-drama, known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. Although the theater was never built, the name stuck (Wikipedia: Kabukichō, Tokyo).

Kabukichō

The place is somewhat deserted on this hot summer day, but I can imagine it is quite lively at night.

Kabukichō

Kabukichō

Kabukichō

We finally find our lunchtime spot in Kabukichō and enjoy our okonomiyaki in a dark, cool atmosphere. Okonomiyaki, found throughout most of Japan, is made of a batter of flour, grated Chinese yam, water or dashi (a Japanese cooking stock), eggs and shredded cabbage; in addition, it often contains other ingredients such as green onion, meat (generally thin pork belly, often mistaken for bacon), octopus, squid, shrimp, vegetables, konjac (yam cake), mochi (Japanese rice cake), or cheese. Okonomiyaki is sometimes compared to an omelette or pancake and may be referred to as a “Japanese pizza”(Wikipedia: Okonomiyaki).

I enjoy a shrimp pancake and Yukie gets pork. It’s too dark inside to get any decent pictures of them, but they are filling and delicious.

Lunchtime

After lunch, we continue our walk around Kabukichō.  It’s so loud here, with abrasive music blaring out of the various establishments. Plus we are dripping in sweat from the sweltering city air.

Kabukichō

Kabukichō

Kabukichō

Kabukichō

I can imagine it must be very lively here at night with all the sex shops, bars, neon lights and robot restaurants.

Robot bar in Kabukichō

Robot bar in Kabukichō

Kabukichō

Kabukichō

Kabukichō

We dip into the Hanazono-jinja Shrine, which I’ve visited before (the shinjuku skyscraper district and a vermillion shrine {walking tour 17: part 2}).   It houses the guardian deity of Shinjuku.  Every Sunday, the Aozora-Kotto-Ichi (antique open air flea market) is held on the grounds.

Hanazono-jinja Shrine

Hanazono-jinja Shrine

Hanazono-jinja Shrine

Hanazono-jinja Shrine

ema at Hanazono-jinja Shrine

At the flea market, I buy a kokeshi doll for 1,200 yen (($11.15). These dolls are handmade from wood, have a simple trunk and an enlarged head with a few thin, painted lines to define the face. The body has a floral design painted in red, black, and sometimes yellow, and covered with a layer of wax. One characteristic of kokeshi dolls is their lack of arms or legs (Wikipedia: kokeshi). I’m so excited to finally buy one of these adorable dolls. 🙂

We finally decide to take a stroll through Golden Gai, an area of six narrow alleys connected by even narrower passageways.  Typically, the buildings are just a few feet wide and are built so close to the ones next door that they nearly touch. Most are two-story, having a small bar at street level and either another bar or a tiny flat upstairs, reached by a steep set of stairs. None of the bars are very large; some are so small that they can only fit five or so customers at one time.  The buildings are generally ramshackle, and the alleys are dimly lit, giving the area a very scruffy appearance. However, Golden Gai is not a cheap place to drink, and the clientele that it attracts is generally well off (Wikipedia: Golden Gai).

Golden Gai

Golden Gai

Golden Gai

Golden Gai

Golden Gai

Golden Gai

As we walk through the nearly deserted alleyways, we’re surprised by a lion bicycling quickly down the alley.  He or she is certainly a colorful character.

lion on a bicycle at Golden Gai

bicycling lion at Golden Gai

We leave Golden Gai and Yukie suggests that we should visit Isetan Department Store’s basement for a gelato.  What amazing places these department store food courts are! Everything is so painstakingly and artistically presented.  If I had endless time and money, and a bottomless stomach, I could walk around for hours on end, sampling everything in sight. 🙂

Isetan Department Store

Sweets at Isetan Department Store

Isetan Department Store

sweets at Isetan Department Store

macaroons at Isetan Department Store

We finally find our gelato place, and we squeeze in to a crowded seating area to enjoy the cool air and the frozen treat.

gelato at Isetan Department Store

What a fun way to end our time together.  After our gelato, we walk around looking at the gorgeous scarves and clothing in the store.  The store is much too expensive for my taste, but later, Yukie admits to returning for one of the scarves.  We both love scarves and have huge collections.  What fun for me to find someone like Yukie who shares my love of travel, photography, food and textiles.  🙂

Total steps today: 11,957 (5.07 miles)

 

a shinjuku kind of day: yoshida hiroshi at the seji togo memorial sompo japan nipponka museum of art & a stroll through omoide yokocho   9 comments

Sunday, July 16:  Today I am finally meeting my Japanese friend Yukie from Instagram!  We’ve followed each other for a number of years, but I think it must have been when I posted pictures of my trip to Portugal in 2013 that she found me, or I found her.  Ever since I arrived in Japan, she’s been direct messaging me on Instagram to check in with me, to see what my plans are each weekend, to find out what I think of the places I visit, to suggest places I should see, to tell me things about herself.   Her messages to me have been helpful, super friendly and caring.  They have made me feel like I belong, that I have a friend here, that I’m not alone in this sprawling and unfamiliar world.

Yukie goes by the name of @mondechiara on Instagram.  I highly recommend you check out her photos. She’s an enthusiastic lover of art and travel, and she holds a special place in her heart for Portugal. On her Instagram page, she posts pictures of Portuguese laundry (which she adores!), Lisbon streetcars, building facades and azulejos, rooftops and balconies, street art and coastlines.  She also posts pictures of her cats, as well as pictures of Kamakura (with plenty of hydrangeas) and the greater Tokyo area. She has a 14-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter and works full-time in Tokyo.  Though she works hard, she always finds time to attend her children’s extracurricular events, to go out to tea or dinner with friends, to visit art galleries, or to go on photo outings.

Not only has she been a friend to me, but she is an inspiration as well. 🙂

She suggested we meet in Shinjuku to visit the Yoshida Hiroshi exhibit at the Seji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponka Museum of Art.  She had recommended the exhibit to me some time back.  When I sent her a list of all the things I wanted to see in Tokyo before I left, she chose the exhibit (which I’d included on my list) as the place she’d like us to visit together.

I meet her at 10:00 at the Shinjuku Station West Ground Gate.  She normally doesn’t post pictures of herself on Instagram, so I’m not sure how I’ll find her, but we somehow recognize each other by the looks of anticipation on our faces!  We walk to the museum and join the queue to get in; of course, as is the case with most Japanese museums, no photography is allowed.  I’m disappointed about this because the exhibit is fabulous.

At least, we are able to take pictures of Shinjuku from the 42nd floor museum windows.

view of Shinjuku from the Seji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponka Museum of Art

Out the window of the museum, we also get a view of the Rainbow Bridge, Roppongi Hills, Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, and Shinjuku Station.

view of Shinjuku from the Seji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponka Museum of Art

Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950) was a leading landscape painter during the Meiji and Showa eras. Born in Kurume, Fukoka Prefecture, he studied Western-style painting at a private school in Tokyo.

This expansive retrospective exhibition commemorates the artist’s life and work, featuring over 200 carefully-selected watercolors, oil paintings, and woodblock prints ranging from early in his career until his later years.

Hiroshi Yoshida’s uncompromising attitude led his colleagues to dub him the “demon of painting.”  He traveled to the United States in 1899 where he held several exhibitions and won acclaim for his watercolor painting technique and the high quality of his work. He later traveled around Europe and the United States, where he presented oil paintings and woodblock prints of various landscapes around the world and Japan, according to the museum’s website.

Since we can’t take pictures, I buy a couple of postcards of the artist’s woodblock prints, which I’ve photographed below.  The first one, of the wisteria over Kameido Bridge, is a great keepsake, as I visited Kameido Tenjin Shrine on May 7: the wisteria festival at kameido tenjin.  The main difference is that the drum bridge is not red in the woodblock print.  The bridges are now painted a cheerful red color, but they must not have been painted so in 1927.

Postcard by Yoshida Hiroshi – Kameido Bridge, 1927

Yoshida painted a myriad of landscapes capturing natural beauty and is known for being particularly fond of capturing mountain peaks in his works; he even made a point of climbing the Japanese Alps every year. There is a rich expressiveness present throughout his works, underpinned by his careful attention to nature and assured technique, which has captivated people both in Japan and around the world.  The artist has left an indelible impression on the history of contemporary Japanese painting, according to the exhibit write-up.

Sailing Boats – Morning, 1926
From the series The Inland Sea by Yoshida Hiroshi

Hirosaki Castle, 1935
From the series Eight Scenes of Cherry Blossoms –
Japanese woodblock print

Mt. Rainier, 1925
From the series The United States
Woodblock Print

Yukie and I are both in awe of the artist’s amazing talent, so much so that we spend a long time enjoying the exhibit and then linger for quite some time in the museum shop.  Not only do we buy postcards, but we both buy different exhibit catalogs  I spend 3,240 yen ($30) on mine. 🙂

Two hours after meeting and visiting the museum, we take a walk through Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho, a shopping area near Shinjuku’s West Gate that rose up after World War II’s devastation. Before the war, stalls sold clothes, shoes, and personal products such as soaps.  In addition, 30 to 40 booths sheltered with reed screens sold oden (various foods cooked in Japanese style broth), boiled potatoes, boiled red beans, tempura, tsukudani (seaweed boiled in soy sauce), and used books, but all were destroyed by fire.  After the disaster, “Lucky Street,” a black market consisting of stalls divided by boards, appeared.  People who had suffered the upheaval of war gathered in Shinjuku, and started to run their own businesses (Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho: History).

Omoide Yokocho

Around 1947, flour for making ramen noodles, Imagawa-yaki (Japanese sweets made from flour and red bean curd), and udon were controlled goods, and thus were severely restricted by the government. People thus created businesses using uncontrolled goods, so they used entrails of cows and pigs brought by occupation troops.  These “Motsu-yaki” shops, stalls selling roasted giblets with beef and pork, soon became prosperous (Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho: History).  The fact that many bars today serve skewered chicken and roasted giblets is a remnant of this past. Apart from bars, the alley also has many set-meal diners and second-hand ticket shops (Go Tokyo: Yokocho Alleys)

Omoide Yokocho

In the 1960s, Metro extension plans and terminal buildings were rebuilt due to redevelopment.  Some 300 shops from Koshu-Way to Oume-Way were deemed as illegal occupants and forced to leave, and shops from the current “Palette Building,” also as known as Shinjuku West Gate Hall, to Oume-Way were able to survive.  Since then and until now, Omoide Yokocho, “Corner of Memories,” at Shinjuku West gate has continued to develop, offering a taste of bygone times and reasonable prices. (Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho: History)

Omoide Yokocho

Omoide Yokocho

Here is Yukie in front of a wall of colorful stickers at Omoide Yokocho. 🙂

Yukie at Omoide Yokocho

Omoide Yokocho

Omoide Yokocho

Did I mention that, once again, it is sweltering hot here in Tokyo on this July day?  I told Yukie I was going to explore the area around Kabukicho after our visit to the museum, and that of course I’d love to have her come along, but that she shouldn’t feel obligated. I’m happy she decides to come along. When we arranged our meeting, she told me she wanted to take me to an okonomiyaki restaurant.  I have been hesitant to try okonomiyaki because it is often made with squid; as I hate squid I haven’t trusted my ability to order it without that tough chewy creature. Now, as we head toward Kabukicho and the restaurant, I’m looking forward to finally trying the famous savory pancakes.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: