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The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji

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Nakamise-dōri, a pedestrian shopping street which leads directly to the temple of Sensō-ji, is always busy, but today it was packed. All eyes were cast upwards as a 60-foot dragon wound its way through the air, above the crowd. It was March 18th and Sensō-ji was celebrating the Kinryu no Mai, or Golden Dragon Dance.

The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji

Way back in the year 628, two brothers found an icon of the Boddhisattva Kannon while fishing in the Sumida River. They were non-believers and threw the icon back into the water. Soon thereafter, it appeared once more in their nets. They discarded it again, and when the relic showed up a third time, they figured that it must be some sort of sign.

They went to their chief, who listened intently to the story and decided to honor the miraculous icon by building a new temple, the first in the village which would later become Tokyo. When the figure was enshrined, Kannon herself was said to have descended from the sky in the form of a golden dragon.

It’s this legend which the annual Golden Dragon Dance seeks to recreate. We followed the weaving creature down Nakamise-Dōri and into the courtyard of the Sensō-i, where the real dance would begin. Seven younger guys holding sticks managed the dragon’s twisting, fluid motions, while an older man wielding a staff pranced in front of the beast, shouting at it. I’m still unsure whether he was supposed to be commanding, communicating with, or fighting the dragon. Regardless, it was an entertaining show.

Location on our Map

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The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji
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March 30, 2014 at 8:03 am Comment (1)

Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens

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For such a congested city, Tokyo has a surprising amount of green space. Take, for example, the area directly outside the Imperial Palace. The Kyoko Gaien (Outer Garden) once held the houses of Japan’s provincial lords, but today offers people a place to stretch out on the grass. We visited it and the nearby Hibiya Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens

This was the first day of spring warm enough to make a jacket strictly optional, and we weren’t surprised to find the parks exceptionally busy. Allowing ourselves to be carried along with the general flow of the crowd, we ended up in front of the Nijubashi Bridge, which leads into the Imperial Palace. With its stone arches reflected in the water of the moat and a storybook castle keep, called the Fushimi Yagura on the bluff behind it, this is one of Tokyo’s most popular photo opportunities.

Continuing through the Outer Gardens, we made our way along the paths, dodging toddlers, joggers and cyclists. The park is flat, crowded, and not necessarily beautiful, but it’s fun to stroll through. Marunouchi’s skyscrapers form a wall around the garden’s eastern and northern borders, and provide an inescapable reminder that, despite the lovebirds and picnickers, you’re in the middle of a massive city.

Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens

At the northern end of the garden, we sat for awhile in the Wakadura Fountain Park, commemorated to honor the 1993 marriage of Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito to Princess Masako. The fountains are pleasant, and soon we had recuperated enough energy to tackle nearby Hibiya Park. Found across the Palace’s moat, Hibiya was Japan’s first Western-style park, and today offers tennis courts, picnic areas, flower gardens and an open-air music venue. We poked around a spring festival, listened to a band, and then sat down outside near the pond for a drink, before deciding that it was time to escape the sun.

We finished the day at the Idemitsu Art Museum, found on the ninth floors of the Kokusai Building, above the Imperial Theater. In a lounge with huge windows, tea is provided free of charge, along with comfortable seats that allow patrons to look out over the Outer Palace Gardens. It was air-conditioned in here and quiet, and after a long time spent relaxing, we stood up and were about to return home… before remembering that there was art at this museum, too!

Locations on our Map: Wakadura Fountain Park | Hibiya Park | Idemitsu Art Museum

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Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
Hibiya Park & The Outer Palace Gardens
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March 28, 2014 at 2:52 am Comments (2)

Tokyo Station and Marunouchi

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When Tokyo Station opened in 1914, it served four trains. But just like the city itself, the station has grown a little. Today, the sprawling station in the middle of the city serves an almost incomprehensible 3000 trains, every single day.

Tokyo Station

The classic, red-brick western facade of Tokyo Station was designed by architect Tatsuno Kingo to evoke Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. Although it was boldly European and cutting-edge when constructed, today it looks positively quaint among the skyscrapers that surround it. But if it’s “modern” you’re looking for, just walk around to the sleek, steel-and-glass, eastern half of the station, built to accommodate Japan’s famous Shinkansen bullet trains.

Across from the station’s classic facade, is the neighborhood of Marunouchi. Meaning “Between the Moats,” Marunouchi literally occupies the area which lies between the two artificial moats that once protected the Imperial Palace. In the days of the Shogun, this was home to the more trusted and important lords, but with the rise of the Meiji Empire, the space was given over to business interests. Today, it’s one skyscraper after the other, each with its own shopping complex and set of restaurants.

During our time in Tokyo, we toured most of these skyscrapers, usually on the hunt for lunch. Each has a wide variety of restaurants, which almost always offer some sort of lunchtime special. Our favorite was the Kitte Building, which opened in 2013. Here, you can find a number of excellent places to eat (don’t pass up the okonomiyaki at Restaurant Nana), a dazzling line-up of shops can suck up hours of time, and the sixth-floor garden provides one of the best views of Tokyo Station.

Locations on our Map: Tokyo Station West Entrance | Kitte Building

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March 25, 2014 at 9:19 am Comments (4)

The Streets of Ryogoku

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We had been introduced to Ryogoku while visiting the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and were intrigued enough to return the very next day. The neighborhood’s dominant theme is sumo. Besides the National Sumo Stadium (the Ryogoku Kokugikan), the streets are littered with statues of famous Yokozunas (the highest rank a wrestler can achieve), complete with molds of their terrifying hand-prints.

For lunch, we sat down at Chanko Tomoegata, a restaurant which was founded by a popular wrestler after his retirement. As the name suggests, the main dish here is chanko: a heavy stew eaten by sumo wrestlers looking to bulk up. Floating inside the thick broth are protein-heavy ingredients like tofu, fish balls, daikon radish, and chicken.

With our bellies bursting, we stomped over to the Eko-In Temple. Past the gates, a shrine was busy with people bearing incense and flowers. The photographs left by mourners clued us in that this is a place to remember lost pets. Statues of a dog and a cat guarded the entrance, and outside people had left offerings of bird seed and doggie treats.

Sad, but nearly as melancholy is the shrine across the path, which is dedicated to unborn children. Rows of Buddha figures lined up around the shrine were adorned with red bibs and bonnets, which would never be worn by the children for whom they were intended. After an obviously crestfallen couple entered, we beat a hasty retreat. Normal cemeteries, we can handle, but shrines to dead pets and unborn children are a serious mood-dampener.

In need of a distraction, we went inside a nearby fireworks museum. In July, Ryogoku becomes the scene of a popular fireworks festival. We’d be missing that, but just seeing the huge firecrackers in this free museum helped cheer us up.

Also in Ryogoku, we found the former residence of Lord Kira. One of the more popular stories of Shogun-era Japan is that of the 47 Ronin and their quest for vengeance against the arrogant lord. Until now, I hadn’t been aware that this is a tale based on fact. Though the home is gone today, a small shrine memorializes the location where the villainous Kira was confronted and assassinated by the ronin. The fountain in which his decapitated head was subsequently washed has also been preserved.

Locations on our Map: Chanko Tomoegata | Eko-In Temple | Fireworks Museum | Lord Kira’s Residence

Our Apartment In Tokyo

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March 24, 2014 at 8:37 am Comments (2)

The Edo-Tokyo Museum

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After noticing the white hulk of the Edo-Tokyo Museum from atop the SkyTree, we wondered how even the world’s biggest city could justify such a monstrous history museum. But when exhibits include full-scale reconstructions of theaters, houses and even a publishing house, the extra room comes in handy.

Edo Museum Tokyo

We had recently briefed ourselves on Tokyo’s history, and felt prepared for the museum, which is adjacent to the National Sumo Stadium in Ryogoku. The saga of how an insignificant fishing village evolved into the megacity of Tokyo is a fascinating one, and the museum doesn’t skip any of it. If you’re the kind of person who feels compelled to read every scrap of information you come across, prepare for a long day in the Edo-Tokyo Museum.

From the days of Edo and its samurai, shoguns and daimyos, through the rapid modernization of the Meiji Era, the city’s dizzying expansion, the catastrophes of fire, earthquake and war, and up into the modern day, the museum is absolutely comprehensive. For newbies like us, it was exceptionally instructive, but even those most knowledgeable about the city would surely learn something new.

You enter the museum by crossing a wooden replica of the original Nihombashi Bridge, which marked the Zero-Mile of Tokyo and was once the center of the city life. Beyond that are dioramas which replicate life in Edo. Like everything else in this museum, they’re big. Let’s just say binoculars are included so that you can take in all the detail. Further on, you can peer inside life-size replicas of eighteenth-century homes, and even a full-scale reconstruction of the Choya Newspaper Publishing Company’s headquarters.

The museum continues through the days of the Meiji Empire, the industrial revolution, and into the modern era. It was all fascinating, but I became fatigued somewhere around 1930. However, I wasn’t too tired to overlook one strange omission. Throughout the museum, there had been excellent English translations of every exhibit. Up until a particular story from World War II…

After bombing Pearl Harbor, Japan floated 9000 weaponized balloons over the Pacific Ocean, into the USA and Canada. One of the balloons succeeded in its deadly mission, killing five children and a pregnant woman in Oregon. This early form of terrorism is a captivating piece of history, which I hadn’t yet known about, but it was almost the only exhibit in the museum which lacked an explanatory panel in English.

Despite that “oversight,” we enjoyed our time in the museum, and came away with a much deeper understanding of Tokyo. It’s big and time-consuming, but for those looking to learn about the city’s history, the Edo-Tokyo Museum is the place to go.

Location on our Map
Edo-Tokyo Museum – Website

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Edo Museum Tokyo
Edo Museum Tokyo
Edo Museum Tokyo
Edo Museum Tokyo
Edo Museum Tokyo
Edo Museum Tokyo
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Edo Museum Tokyo
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March 24, 2014 at 7:42 am Comments (0)

The Earthquake Memorial Park and Kyu Yasuda Garden

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On September 1st, 1923, Tokyo was struck by the most devastating earthquake in its history. Seventy percent of the city’s housing was destroyed and over 140,000 people lost their lives during the quake, as well as in the subsequent fires which raged uncontrollably through the streets.

Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum

In Yokoami, we visited a memorial park dedicated to the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. The location of the park is not an accident: this is the former grounds of an army clothing depot where 38,000 people who had sought shelter were annihilated in a sudden fire tornado. A museum on the grounds of the somber but attractive park leads visitors through the stories of both the earthquake and the other great twentieth-century Tokyo disaster, the 1945 American air raids.

Striking just before noon, the Kantō earthquake arrived when most of Tokyo’s households were cooking lunch, and the fires which sparked from the stoves caused even more deaths than the quake itself. But the earthquake and fires were unfortunately not the only bringers of death. As desperate people tend to do, Tokyoites went searching for a scapegoat. Wrath was focused on resident Koreans, who were blamed for the fires and subsequent looting. In the killing spree which ensued, up to 10,000 Koreans were massacred. The park includes a tribute to the lives lost in this especially dark chapter of the earthquake’s story.

Within the museum, it’s hard to remain unmoved by the photographs of the catastrophe. I was touched by the humanitarian assistance provided by the USA, and the posters asking American citizens to help Japan in her hour of need. But even the most brotherly and compassionate of relationships can quickly descend into violence. Just 22 years after Kantō, my country would be visiting its own horrors upon Tokyo. In the closing stages of WWII, over 100,000 people died during an indiscriminate firebombing campaign, meant to terrorize and cripple Japan’s capital.

We were a little shaken after spending so much time with tragic tales of death and sorrow. Luckily, the Kyu-Yasuda Garden is found adjacent to the Earthquake Memorial Park. This verdant park boasts walking paths shaded by a forest of trees, a tidal pond fed by the bordering Sumida River, pedestrian bridges and ample places to sit, enjoy the scenery and reflect on the fragility of human life.

Location of the Earthquake Memorial Park on our Map

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Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
Kyu Yasuda Garden Earthquake Museum
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March 24, 2014 at 2:58 am Comment (1)

A Concise History of Tokyo

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Old Tokyo Photo

Unlike many of the places we’ve visited, Tokyo doesn’t have a history which stretches far into the past. In fact, before the close of the nineteenth century, Tokyo didn’t even exist; it was known instead as Edo. But the rapid ascension from village to “World’s Biggest City” has been as catastrophic as it has been meteoric. Growing pains are always the hardest for those who mature too quickly.

3000 BC Humanity arrives late to the Kantô Plain. At this point, the Egyptians had already established a civilization around the Nile.
628 AD Fishermen brothers discover a Buddhist icon in the waters of the Sumida River, and the Sensō-ji Temple is established in what would eventually become Tokyo.
12th Century Clan leader Edo Shigenaga establishes his castle on the shore, bequeathing the town his name.
1590 Shortly before establishing the shogunate which would rule Japan for 268 years, Tokugawa Ieyasu chooses Edo as his home, irrevocably changing the destiny of the heretofore unimportant fishing village.
1657 Rumored to have started with the burning of a cursed kimono, the great Meireki Fire burns most of Edo to the ground and kills over 100,000 people.
1707 Covering Edo in volcanic ash, but no lava, Mount Fuji erupts. It’s since lain dormant for over 300 years, but remains an active volcano.
1853 Commodore Matthew Perry (not the guy from Friends) lands in Edo Bay and forces a previously isolationist Japan to open its borders to American capitalism, under threat of war.
1868 The era of the Japanese Shogun comes to an end with the rise of the Meiji Empire. Edo is renamed Tokyo, meaning “Eastern Capital,” and the emperor moves into the city’s Imperial Palace
1923 Striking at noon, when the stoves of the city were ablaze for lunch, the Great Kantō Earthquake ignites fires across Tokyo, destroying most of its housing and killing a significant percentage of its populace. Oh yeah, and sets off a tsunami.
1945 The Pacific War isn’t a rousing success for Japan. In its waning stages, the USA drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then fire-bombs Tokyo to within an inch of its life. Debates can (and have) been waged on whether the American submission technique was a necessary evil, but what can’t be questioned is its horrible toll on innocent Japanese life.
1964 Japan’s postwar healing comes full-circle with Tokyo’s hosting of the Summer Olympics. The games are a source of pride for Japanese citizens, and Tokyo’s infrastructure is rapidly modernized. It’s a much-needed success story in this city which has known so much tragedy.
1995 Ten members of the fanatical Aum Shinrikyo cult unleash a sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subways. Thirteen die and thousands are injured in the worst assault on Japan since World War II.
2011 The completion of the Tokyo SkyTree brings the world’s tallest tower to the world’s biggest city, and solidifies Tokyo’s place in the architectural vanguard. Days before the tower reaches its final height, the Tōhoku earthquake ravages Japan.
2014 and Beyond It takes a single glance at the cranes and construction around Tokyo to understand that Japan’s capital isn’t done growing yet. The Olympics are slated to return in 2020, which will give the world an excuse to turn its attention towards its largest city. As though another excuse were needed.

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March 21, 2014 at 6:47 am Comment (1)

The Fisher Village of Tsukishima

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Ever since the artificial island of Tsukishima was created in the middle of the Tokyo Bay in 1892, its western coast has been home to city fishermen and their families. Completely ringed in by canals, it feels nothing like the rest of Tokyo, with quiet lanes instead of busy boulevards, two-story houses instead of steel skyscrapers, and a sleepy sense of small-town tranquility instead of the exhausting bustle of perpetual commerce.

Fisher Village of Tsukishima

To access the fishermen’s quarters of Tsukishima, we had to cross a canal by foot over a bright red bridge, a fitting way to enter such a picturesque neighborhood. Immediately, we found ourselves at the Sumiyoshi Shrine, dedicated to the gods of the sea. We joined a steady procession of locals on their way in, and watched as each performed the same rituals: washing their hands at the entrance fountain, standing in prayer before one or more of the shrines, throwing in coins as a tribute, and then clapping their hands twice after bowing. Though the Shintō religion of the Japanese was still a mystery to us, it looked to be an appealingly simple style of worship.

Leaving the shrine, we wandered around Tsukishima’s languorous streets, peeking into shops selling candies and pickled vegetables, and watching a master chopstick-maker ply his trade. A local celebrity, Urusigei Nakajima produces heavy, perfectly-balanced octagonal chopsticks of rosewood and ebony. They’re not cheap, but he claims they’ll last a lifetime if cared for properly.

For lunch, we enjoyed an excellent meal of noodles and dumplings at a popular Chinese restaurant near the bridge where we had originally entered. As we were leaving, the hostess clued us in to a local secret, pointing out a large tree which seemed to sprout from the roofs of the neighborhood’s tightly-packed houses. Squeezing our way down a shoulder-width alley, we found a tiny Buddhist shrine at the trunk of the tree, with an eighteenth-century Jizo image carved onto a smooth black stone. A plaque explained that the Jizo are protectors of children, delivering prosperity and health to their worshipers.

Locations on our Tokyo Map: Sumiyoshi Shrine | Chinese Restaurant | Hidden Jizo Shrine

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Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
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Fisher Village of Tsukishima
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Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
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Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
Fisher Village of Tsukishima
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March 20, 2014 at 8:06 am Comment (1)

The Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens

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A green oasis floating atop the murky waters of Tokyo Bay, the Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens will transport you to the days of the Shogun, as long as you manage to keep your eyes focused on the duck ponds and cherry trees, instead of the impenetrable row of skyscrapers on the horizon.

Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens

In 1654, the swamp which had occupied this space was filled in to create the private residence of the Shogun’s brother, Matsudaira Tsunashige. With its multiple tidal ponds, the land would become the duck-hunting grounds of the ruling class, and was eventually opened to the public as a park in 1946. Throughout its history, Hamarikyo has managed to avoid the urban expansion that’s transformed the rest of Tokyo.

We visited on a chilly morning in March, too early for cherry blossoms, but just in time for the fragrant yellow blooms of the rapeseed field. With wooden bridges spanning the small ponds, ducks bobbing sleepily on the water, and quaint tea houses serving matcha (powdered green tea) to weary walkers, it’s hard not to enjoy the gardens. Even the ill-fitting backdrop of Shiodome’s gargantuan steel skyscrapers somehow underline the beauty of Hamarikyo.

Location on our Map

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Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
Hamarikyu Detached Palace Gardens
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March 20, 2014 at 6:20 am Comments (4)

The Tsukiji Fish Market

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With over 60,000 employees and billions of dollars in yearly commerce, Tsukiji is the biggest fish market in the world. The action begins every morning at 3am, as shipments of fresh and frozen fish from around the world arrive over land and sea.

Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo

Tokyo’s principal market had traditionally been held in the more central Nihombashi neighborhood, but after the devastating Kantō earthquake of 1923, it was moved to Tsujiki, closer to the port and to the railway lines of Shiodome. A semicircular hall was built to host the wholesalers and auctioneers and, for the next hundred years, Tsukiji was where Tokyo’s restaurants went for their fresh fish. In 2016, the market is slated to move to Toyosu, even farther from the city center, where it will sit beside a new entertainment complex.

The first thing you notice when entering Tsukiji is its size. This isn’t a market in the way one might normally think of a market; it’s better described as an entire neighborhood dedicated to selling wholesale produce: not just fish, but fruits and vegetables. After the size, the next thing you’ll notice, at least if you value your life, is the insane amount of traffic. When I wasn’t watching a giant tuna being cut open, I was dodging a motorized cart.

You could walk for hours in Tsukiji and never pass the same stall twice. The amount of fish is unbelievable, and every species I’d ever heard of makes an appearance, from flounder to blowfish. You’ll see decapitated eels floating in pans of their own blood, shrimps writhing around on beds of sawdust, and octopi suctioning for dear life onto their tanks.

Tsukiji is probably the only market I’ve ever visited that actively discourages shopping. This is a place for wholesale transactions, with fresh fish sold exclusively to restaurants and those buying in bulk. Visitors are tolerated, but grudgingly. The workers are performing a tense and time-sensitive job, and the last thing they want to do is answer a bunch of questions or remind guests to keep their hands off the merchandise. Before we even entered, we were handed a multi-language flier regarding “proper behavior,” which boils down to “stay out of the way.”

It’s not for the squeamish, but visiting Tsukiji was an experience like none I’ve ever had. Being surrounded by commerce at its most intense, people at their most frantic, and millions of dying fish at their moment of truth was not entirely pleasant, but totally amazing.

Location on our Map

Recently, guests have been prohibited from the early morning tuna auctions; we had to wait until 9am before the market area opened to the general public. Check out the Tsukiji Market’s website for the latest information.

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Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
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Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
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March 20, 2014 at 3:26 am Comments (2)

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The Golden Dragon Dance of Senso-Ji Nakamise-dōri, a pedestrian shopping street which leads directly to the temple of Sensō-ji, is always busy, but today it was packed. All eyes were cast upwards as a 60-foot dragon wound its way through the air, above the crowd. It was March 18th and Sensō-ji was celebrating the Kinryu no Mai, or Golden Dragon Dance.
For 91 Days