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Review 22: Tokyo Secrets

3 Oct

I was recently given two e-books to review from the author.

They are: “Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea Secrets” and “7 Secrets to the Perfect Tokyo Cherry Blossom Festival Vacation“.

"Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea Secrets"

“Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea Secrets”

"7 Secrets to the Perfect Tokyo Cherry Blossom Festival Vacation"

“7 Secrets to the Perfect Tokyo Cherry Blossom Festival Vacation”

The author has lived in Tokyo and still continues to visit often.  Both books are full of helpful tips and useful advice to see the 桜 (Cherry Blossoms) in Japan…which are beautiful but have a short life. If you’re planning a trip here to see them, it could be difficult to decide on which dates to come.
The book “7 Secrets to the Perfect Tokyo Cherry Blossom Festival Vacation” helps with that and more.

The book “Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea Secrets” offers, as the title suggests, tips for visiting the Disney amusement parks near Tokyo.
Personally, I have never felt that it was particularly difficult to go to Tokyo Disneyland, but I suppose it could be stressful for first-time overseas visitors.
This e-book would be very helpful for them, I’m sure. One point where I would give contrary advice on is purchasing tickets…Japan has “discount ticket shops” all over the place. They sell all kinds of tickets…for movies, museums, concerts, sporting events, and amusement parks at discounted prices. I always buy tickets there.

Visit Tokyo-top-guide.com to purchase these books and for other helpful tips.

Spring Blossom Fragrance Beer

16 Mar

At the start of each season in Japan, the major domestic (Japanese) beer brewers offer special beers related to the season.

I just bought Suntory’s new 発泡酒 (malt liquor beer) for this spring, called 「春咲く薫り」(“Spring Blossom Fragrance”).

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春咲く薫り(はるさくかおり)

I like it. Tastes good!

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Cherry Blossom Queens

29 May

Did you know that there are Japanese 桜 (cherry blossom) trees in Washington DC?
And that they have an annual Japanese-style cherry blossom festival when the flowers bloom in the spring?

And did you know that those trees were a gift to America from Japan about sixty years ago?

Well…did you know that both Japan and America crown a Cherry Blossom Queen every year?
It isn’t a beauty contest type of competition. Each state in America and each prefecture in Japan enters a young woman into the competition based on community service that she has done.

And then the country’s Cherry Blossom Queen is chosen by a random draw.

Every year the U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen comes to Japan and meets the Japanese Prime Minister along with the current Japanese Cherry Blossom Queen.

Last year, the 2012 U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen was an African-American woman for the first time.
She made headlines in Japan!

The 2013 U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen, Mary Anne Morgan, just came to Tokyo and met Japanese Prime Minister Abe and 2013 Japanese Cherry Blossom Queen, Chiori Kobayashi yesterday.

Hanami

24 Mar

Yesterday, we went to 上野公園 (Ueno Park) for 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing). 桜 (Cherry Blossom) season has just begun. Having a picnic under the trees in bloom is a popular pasttime in Japan. Ueno Park is a very popular place for Cherry Blossom Viewing in Tokyo … so it was very crowded yesterday when we went. Here are some photos I took:

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100 year old Japanese trees in America

25 Mar

Did you know that there are 3,000 Japanese さくら (Sakura (Cherry Blossom)) trees in Washington DC, America?

Japanese Sakura in Washington, DC (photo from Yahoo! News)

Did you know that those trees were a gift of friendship to America from Japan? And that the first two trees were planted near the White House by the then American “First Lady” and wife of the Japanese Ambassador to America?

I knew all of that already and I also knew that there are Japanese-style 花見 (“Cherry Blossom Viewing” parties) in Washington DC every spring when the flowers are in bloom.

But I didn’t know that Japan gave the trees to America in March 1912. One hundred years ago this month.
And I also didn’t know that the first two trees (the ones planted by the wives of the then U.S. President and Japanese Ambassador) are still standing in the same spot the were planted in Washington DC in 1912.

So, this year’s 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) in Washington DC is special because it’s the one-hundredth anniversary of the gift of the trees from Japan.

The さくら (Cherry Blossoms) are already in bloom in Washington DC because of unusually warm weather in America now.

Another event to help mark the occasion took place in New York City earlier this month.
2012 March 1-6 was called “Japan Week” in NYC.

I don’t know much about this event but from looking at their website, it appears that visitors could experience a lot of Japanese culture that week in New York.

A woman playing the "Koto" (Japanese harp-like instrument) at "Japan Week" in NYC.

Tokyo Marathon and spring beer

26 Feb

The 2012 Tokyo Marathon was held today.

Twenty-nine year old Michael Kipyego of Kenya, Africa came in first place with a time of 2 hrs 07.37 seconds.
藤原新 (Arata Fujiwara) came in second just a few hundredths of a seconds later.

Arata Fujiwara of Japan and Michael Kipyego of Kenya show their silver and gold medals, respectively.

I don’t enjoy running…or even jogging, for that matter. So I can’t imagine running a 42 kilometer (26.22 miles) marathon!

Do you like to run or jog? Have you ever run a marathon? The Tokyo Marathon?

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Now that it’s getting closer to the end of winter and 花見 (“Cherry Blossom Viewing”) season will be here before long, many Japanese brewers have begun selling beers in cans decorated with 桜 (Cherry Blossoms).

Mother Nature wants to be sure we haven’t forgotten who’s boss

11 Apr

花見 (“Cherry Blossom Viewing“) is a centuries-old Japanese tradition. Every spring, Japanese people have a picnic with friends and family under the 桜 (Cherry Blossom) trees.

Japanese people have always loved the pink Sakura (Cherry Blossoms), as can be seen in many things in Japan such as haiku poems, ukiyoe (woodblock prints), paintings, Sakura-flavored snacks, tea and 日本酒 (Japanese sake rice-wine).

I wrote a post last year explaining a bit about Japan’s love of 桜 (Sakura flowers) and 花見 (“Cherry-Blossom Viewing”).

Basically, the Sakura are beautiful and fragile and they are in bloom for only a short time before they fall to the ground in a way that looks like beautiful, gentle pink snowfall…it’s called 「桜吹雪」 (“Sakura-fubuki” (Sakura snowfall)).
They symbolize the beauty, fragility and brevity of life itself.

But this year, due to the disaster last month, the Japanese government has asked people to use 自粛 (self-restraint) this “Cherry Blossom Viewing” season.

Does it seem odd to you that the government would ask that of people in Japan?
I have heard that many people from other countries were surprised to learn that the Japanese government would request people to refrain from Cherry Blossom Viewing or at least to do it quietly and reverently this year.

But in Japan we have no problem with such a request. In fact, even if the government hadn’t asked, most people in Japan probably would have done so anyways.
In many cases 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) leads people to drink excessively and sometimes become a bit loud. But this year, so soon after the huge disaster in the 東北地方 (Tohoku Region) and with so many up there still trying to recover from it, no one is in the mood to celebrate.
Many people are electing to skip Cherry Blossom Viewing this year, and those who are doing it this year are doing so quietly and with more reflection.

Today my wife and I went to a temple with a small lunch to enjoy a quiet 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing).
Here are some photos that I took:

Some junior high school students walking to school. The school year has just begun in Japan.

Can you see the Sakura petals falling in 桜吹雪 ("Sakura snowfall")?

Many Sakura petals on the ground.

Back of 大仏 (Buddah)

Not long after we returned home, our house shook pretty hard from a big aftershock that was a 振動 5 (Level 5 of the Japanese earthquake scale (with goes to “7”))! It was a 振動 6 (level 6 (out of 7)) at it’s epi-center in the Sendai area! It was then that I realized today is the one-month anniversary of the 2011 March 11 Sendai Earthquake!