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  • Writer's pictureNigel W. Ruddock

Japanese Spring 2019

Tuesday (火曜日) 26th March - Tokyo Imperial Gardens

My first full day in Japan, and I’ve already taken the train into Tokyo from Yokohama (about 30 mins). I'm at Tokyo Station (東京駅 Tōkyō-eki).

A word on this place before I move on. It was opened in 1914 and designed by Tatsuno Kingo.Badly damaged by B-29 fire bombing in 1945, the station was quickly rebuilt, but it seems there was no time nor inclination to respect the original. However, in 2014 an extensive successful restoration was completed in time for its centenary. Two prime ministers have been assassinated here,: not a happy thought.

A view from across the plaza. From here it is a short walk over the.moat to the Imperial Palace Gardens. The strange white light makes the building look almost like a model.

Looking up into one of the elegant domes. I’m meeting up with Scott Shaw today, who is the organist and Director of Music at Rikkyo University, and a keen photo journalist.– The sun is out, so we head off on a stroll around the Imperial Palace Gardens.

There isn't actually much of the original castle to be seen, because most of it has succumbed to either fire, earthquake or war. The Moat and walls remain, however. The gardens are beautiful, and are one of Tokyo's great "green lungs". We noticed that the entrance driveway to the private imperial house had been relaid. This is no doubt in preparation for the new Emperor's installation. In a Japanese/English diary you will find the word "Coronation" being used. I hate to think of what the Kanji character is for this. The big event is on May 1, and will herald in the new era, the "Reiwa" Era.

The Sakura (Cherry blossom) is just least in the Tokyo area....

Now this is a BIG THING here. There is even a cherry blossom forecast broadcast daily on the news, along with a tracking system of when and where the flowers are coming out.

More on this later in my blog, but for now some more pictures.....

(Photo: Scott Shaw)

As Japan stretches from the cold Hokkaido in the north (bordering Russia) and the warm Islands of Okinawa in the south (across the water from South Korea), the blooming season progresses over several weeks.

Everyone is out photographing like mad.....

We walked past an early "Hanami" party – that is, getting friends or colleagues together and having a picnic under the trees. This group looked very much like a work outing...plenty of alcohol in evidence....

(Photo Scott Shaw)

We move on to an Izakaya (a sort of pub/restaurant where you can order almost anything) in the Ginza district. Here Sashimi (raw fish) in soya sauce, Gyoza (dumplings), Yakatori (fried chicken on a stick)…are all on the menu....washed down with plenty of beer and Schochu (しょうちゅう) – sorry my keyboard will not write this properly – in this case I mean a potato schnapps. I feel quite unsteady on the packed commuter train back to Yokohama. Thanks heavens there are lots of handles to hold onto in the carriage...and the signage is pretty clear. The stations are all so clean you could almost eat your lunch off the floor.

Now even though the train was not the most modern one, it had one super benefit – heated seats! (it was actually still quite chilly outside). No need to panic if you can't read Kanji characters - the sign board switches over to English periodically. This is common on the train network. However, if you start taking buses....well, more of that later....

You can learn new vocabulary on trains, because the announcements are always the same. So by the time we had had “…we will shortly be stopping at”…about 10 times I had managed to suss out that “Mamonaku” (まもなく) meant, yes, “shortly/soon”. And of course, as I have mentioned in previous blogs. there is no telephoning on trains here. It is wonderful. So trains are a kind of quiet sanctuary after a days work. Mind you, if you are unfortunate enough to land in the rush hour you'll be packed in like a sardine in a can. A little stroll around Yokohama ended my day.

Night scene, Yokohama

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