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Showing posts from May, 2014

Atago Jinja's silly samurai and his brave steed

Well I'll be goldarned! It's another shrine post! I'm writing this because …
1) You're probably thinking I've fallen into a black hole or converted to a religion that forbids shrine visits. The former is highly likely; the latter will not happen in this life, universe or beingness. Or the next eleven.
2) I've been roped into participating in a Google+ promotion called #fivedayquest. You're supposed to post a photo from your day for the next five days, tag a friend to join you and mention the person who invited you. That's why, when I had to do errands today, I went on foot instead of by train, despite considerable distances involved, and took my camera with me. I walked from Hiroo to Shinbashi, then to Tokyo Tower, then back to Shinbashi. My original intention was to take photos of Tokyo Tower and Zōjō-ji, but then I thought … been there, done that, wrote and copy-edited the slogan on the T-shirt.
So I stood on a street corner, scowled at women with pa…

Beer smut to celebrate an Oktoberfest in May

Tokyo has an Oktoberfest in May.
Well, of course it does.
Why would you NOT have an October festival in May? It would be very boring to have an October festival in October. Predictable. Pedestrian. Dreadfully dull.
So, late May, when the weather in Tokyo is as perfect as it gets – let's not be coy: May and October are the only months when Tokyo is relatively livable – that's when the tankards and stein glasses are raised, and beer lovers, err, love.

I never go. Umeshu, yes. Champagne, ooh yes yes YES. Beer, meh.
This morning I went to Hibiya Park, the site of Tokyo's Oktoberfest (read more here and here), to take photos of one of the city's giant ginkgos in his summer finery. When I spotted the beer tents, I remembered what Dru had told me a while ago: "No, we can't do a handover on the 17th, unless you want to join me in a drunken stupor at Hibiya Park."
Handover? Never mind that now. All shall be revealed in the fullness of time. Let's focus on the subjec…

Roses along the Toden Arakawa Line

This morning I walked to Minowabashi Station, the final stop on the Toden Arakawa Line. Then I walked a bit more, and then I turned around, and then I walked back. It was one of those mornings spent ambling at a leisurely pace, thoroughly enchanted by my surroundings: old Tokyo, rough-around-the-edges but hearts-of-solid-gold people, a riot of roses that fill the air with the sweetest fragrance imaginable.

The Toden Arakawa Line is one of two streetcar lines in Tokyo. It runs for 12 km from Waseda to Minowabashi, a journey that takes about 50 minutes. (The other one is the Tōkyū Setagaya Line in western Tokyo.) I'm entranced by streetcars: they meander through backwater neighbourhoods, amble past kitchen windows, trundle through gardens, stop for pedestrians; and they do it at such a leisurely pace that a human could probably outrun it.
It's more bus than train. The drivers wait for old-timers to inch along the platform, they slow down for kids crossing the line at intersection…

Wisteria, the flower of early summer

I love the wisteria that scatter At the brush of a cuckoo's wing; I pluck the petals off and tuck them in my sleeves – If they stain, they stain.
I love wisteria, too: the languid flowers, the tranquil colour, the sweet fragrance. It's the perfect flower for early summer: dreamy, soft and subtle, redolent with promise.

This year I didn't get a chance to visit the truly famous wisteria, but I've written about some of them before:
the 1200-year-old wisteria at Fujino Ushijima the 200-year-old youngster at Hisaizu Jinja the giant at Ashikaga
Due to a crazy work schedule that I've mentioned ad tedium, I had to limit myself to humble locals, but I could still take a few photos that I'll happily share with you.

First, some wisteria (藤 fuji in Japanese) folklore, taken from Sumiko Enbutsu's book A Flower Lover's Guide to Tokyo:  Wisteria was planted (in ancient Kyoto) in the inner palace where the emperor's consorts and ladies-in-waiting lived. Fujiwara …