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Almost spring

21 Feb

Today we went to 柴又 (Shibamata, Tokyo).
It’s a 下町 (traditional, downtown) area of Tokyo that I like alot. (Click here to see my post in which I explain a little about this area and have more photos.)

We also went to a nearby park and saw the 梅の花 (Plum flowers) and 寒桜 (Winter Cherry Blossoms) were in bloom.

梅の花 (Plum flowers)

寒桜 (Winter Cherry Blossoms)

It’s still cold in Tokyo…but spring’s not too far off now.

What kinds of flowers are in bloom where you live in the world?
What are the signs of winter ending and spring coming in your country?

Yokoso Japan!

14 Jun

「ようこそジャパン」 (Yokoso Japan!) means “Welcome to Japan!“, and is the Japan National Tourism Organization‘s official slogan of their campaign to attract foreign visitors to Japan.

「Yokoso Japan!」 logo

「Yokoso Japan!」 logo

Here are some of their Yokoso Japan! campaign ads.

Most of the scenes in this first one are of Tokyo (there are a few shots of Osaka, etc…but most of it is Tokyo):

These show many parts of Japan:

Do they make you want to visit this beautiful country?

靖国神社の桜祭り

8 Apr

Today my wife and I went to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is a beautiful shrine in Tokyo that is dedicated to all who have died defending Japan in battle.

Some of the WW2 veterans enshrined at 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) have been classified as war criminals by Allied courts. So, for that reason, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is a controversial place, especially with neighboring Asian countries.

To me, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is Japan’s equivalent to America’s Arlington Veterans Cemetery in Washington D.C..
Nothing wrong with honoring those who sacrificed their lives for their country. (I’ve written a few other posts about 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)…click here to read one.)

Anyways, the reason we went to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) was to see the 桜祭り (Cherry Blossom Festival) there.

The (Cherry Blossoms) in Tokyo are close to the end of their short life. They are beginning to fall to the ground. Soon they’ll be gone until next year…so, as we do every year, we’re appreciating them before they’re gone.

Whenever the wind gently blew today, the 桜の花びら (petals of the Cherry Blossom flowers) would fall to the ground. It was like a beautiful pink snowfall!

Here are some of the photos we took today (in many of them, you can see the falling 桜の花びら (petals of the Cherry Blossom flowers)):

Entrance to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)

Entrance to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)

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Can you see the falling petals in this photo?

Can you see the falling petals in this photo?

You can see the falling petals in this picture too!

You can see the falling petals in this picture too!

Sakura petals are floating in the lake.

Sakura petals are floating in the lake.

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屋台 (Festival food booths)

屋台 (Festival food booth

Entrance to the world-famous 日本武道館 (Nippon-Budokan)

Entrance to the world-famous 日本武道館 (Nippon-Budokan)

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Statue of a 19th century Japanese politician 品川弥二郎 (Shinagawa Yajirou)

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さ・く・ら・ま・つ・り

5 Apr

Today we went to a nearby 桜祭り (Cherry Blossom Festival) and enjoyed a 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) picnic that my wife and daughters made.

Our lunch was おにぎり (rice balls), 卵焼き (Japanese grilled eggs), broccoli, chicken, (strawberries), cookies, and beer*!
It was an excellent picnic lunch!

(*Of course, only my wife and I had beer. Our daughters had tea. 😉 )

Here are some photos we took:

Many people were enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

Many people were enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

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There are many turtles, ducks and carp in the pond.

There are many turtles, ducks and carp in the pond.

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Drying in the sun

Drying in the sun

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Cherry Blossom tree next to a bus stop

Cherry Blossom tree next to a bus stop

「かき氷」 (Shaved Ice) vendor

「かき氷」 (Shaved Ice) vendor

新宿御苑

3 Apr

Today my daughters each went out with their friends.
My oldest daughter went to お台場 (Odaiba, Tokyo) with her friends,  my second daughter went to the 動物園 (zoo) with her friends, and my youngest went to 東京ディズニーランド (Tokyo Disneyland) with her friends.

So, my wife and I decided to go to 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) together at 新宿御苑 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden).

新宿御苑 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden) is a very large, beautiful park with both Japanese and Western-style gardens right in the center of metropolitan Tokyo.

We had a nice picnic lunch in the gardens and went home before our daughters were due home and we all had dinner together.

Here are some of the photos we took today:

「東京体育館」 (Tokyo Metropolitan Gym) was used in '54 World Wrestling Championship and '64 Olympics

「東京体育館」 (Tokyo Metropolitan Gym) was used in '54 World Wrestling Championship and '64 Olympics

「新宿御苑の千駄ヶ谷門」 (Sendagaya Gate to Shinjuku-Gyoen)

「新宿御苑の千駄ヶ谷門」 (Sendagaya Gate to Shinjuku-Gyoen)

桜 (Cherry Blossoms)

桜 (Cherry Blossoms)

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The skyscrapers of Shinjuku can be seen from the gardens.

The skyscrapers of Shinjuku can be seen from the gardens.

ツバキ (Camellia)

ツバキ (Camellia)

There were many people enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) today.

There were many people enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) today.

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ボケ (Flowering Quince)

ボケ (Flowering Quince)

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Japanese garden

Japanese garden

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(Click here if you want to see the official 新宿御苑の花見 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden‘s Cherry Blossom Viewing) page.)

My wife and I also stopped by 上野 (Ueno, Tokyo) to see the (Cherry Blossoms) there. It was very crowded there (as expected).

The crowd at Ueno.

The crowd at Ueno.

花見 in USA?

9 Mar

A number of years ago, Japan gave America 桜の木 (Cherry blossom trees) as a symbol of friendship.

They’re planted in Washington DC.

(Cherry blossoms) are very popular in Japan. They are a symbol of Spring in Japan.
Japanese love them not only for their beauty…but also their fragility. They only stay in bloom for a week or so…and then gently fall to the ground like a beautiful pink snowfall. They’re like a symbol of the beauty and shortness of life.

Every Spring, Japanese people sit under the 桜の木 (Cherry blossom trees) to have a picnic together and enjoy the view.
It’s called 「花見」 (Hanami)…or “Cherry Blossom Viewing”.

I was surprised that America has Japanese-style 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) festivals every Spring in Washington DC under the 桜の木 (Cherry blossom trees) from Japan.

Are these festivals popular in America like they are in Japan? Have you ever been?

At this year’s 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) festival in Washington DC on March 28, Jero will be performing.

Jero is a 27-year old Enka singer.

Enka is a traditional Japanese blues type music that is popular mostly with older Japanese people.

So, it’s surprising that Jero is a young Enka singer. But more surprising is that he’s a black American. And he sings Enka while dressed in hip-hop fashion (Enka singers usually wear 着物 (kimono).

ジェロ (Jero)

ジェロ (Jero)

I wrote a post about Jero before. Click here to read it.

Ueno Hanami

3 Apr

One of the most popular places to go for 花見 (Cherry-Blossom Viewing) in Tokyo is Ueno.

Close up of Sakura in Ueno.

We decided to go there yesterday before the end of Sakura season came (which is soon…when Sakura bloom, they don’t stay long).

Here is a video of the Sakura trees and the crowd appreciating the view:

And here’s another video of the Sakura petals falling in the breeze like snow falling:

We were lucky because while we were there we happened to catch a お稚児さん(O-chigo-san) procession.

This is a parade of Buddist monks and local children dressed up in special kimono and make-up to bless the opening of a new temple.

(My kids actually did this once a number of years ago).

Here’s a video we took of the O-chigo-san in Ueno yesterday (The monks who are wearing what appear to be baskets on their heads are hiding their unshaven heads before Buddah. This looks odd even to most Japanese people)

Anyways, here it is:

花見

30 Mar

Today we went to a park not far from our house for 花見 (“Cherry Blossom Viewing”).

Cherry Blossom Viewing has been a Japanese tradition for centuries. The Cherry Blossom (or 桜 (“Sakura”) as it’s known in Japanese) is as Japanese as Apple Pie is American.

Every Spring, when the Sakura bloom, Japanese people have picnics under the Sakura trees (as I mentioned in the “Sakura” post below).

We had sandwiches, takoyaki, fried squid, and beer (of course, the kids had juice) under the trees. They were very beautiful. I took a few pictures and attached some to this post.

Before we got to the park, we passed a gas station and noticed a Buddist priest pumping gas into his car.

This caught my attention, not only because you don’t often see Buddist priests at gas stations, but also because “Self-serve” gas stations are new to Tokyo. They all used to be “full-serve”…with four or five attendants pumping your gas, checking your oil and tires, and washing your wind shield. Then helping direct you back into traffic.

So I took this picture:

Buddist priest puming gas.

At the Sakura festival, there was a stage that had some people doing a tradional Japanese festival dance. I took a short video of it and uploaded it to YouTube.

It’s the first time I’ve ever uploaded a video to YouTube.

Are you able to watch the video? Let me know.

Here are some of the photos I took:

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Sakura

29 Mar

桜 (Sakura) or “Cherry blossoms” are in blossom now in the Tokyo area.

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Sakura are very important to the Japanese. They are a beautiful but fragile flower that is only in bloom for a short period every year (the warmer the climate, the earlier they bloom. Sakura in Okinawa blossom in January…but not til about June in Hokkaido (northern Japan)). For this reason, Sakura represents the fragility and beauty of life, that must be appreciated before it’s over.

When the Sakura are in blossom in Japan, people go to 花見 (Hanami) or “Cherry Blossom viewing”. At a Hanami, people put a sheet down under the trees and have a picnic together and appreciate the view.

Years ago, Japan gave Sakura trees to a number of American cities as a sign of friendship. And in places like Washington DC and Philadelphia now they have “Hanami” parties like in Japan.

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Anyways…

the school year is now over in Japan. Here, the school year (and the fiscal business year) is from April to March.

So, in April, my kids will all start a new school-year.