Tokyo, First Ten Days

Tokyo Japan is a little bit out of our comfort zone as everything is written in a foreign script and neither of us knows more than two or three words of Japanese. It is also the most populous city in the world and can be intimidatingly crowded. In addition it has been closed to foreign visitors until October 11, 2022 and the tourists are just pouring in AND the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. All of that being said, everyone we know who has been here just raves about it. They say that the people are so friendly and helpful and the food is so amazing. We have had mixed feelings about the city so far. Eating can be problematic as places that we would like to try are often fully booked but the plethora of basement food courts helps alleviate that problem and there are always some openings in these small spaces. We are feeling quite cramped in our small living space as compared to some of our other high end rentals. We are located in the heart of Korea town and the multitudes of Kpop teenie boppers on the street is stunning. We would much prefer a quieter neighborhood, but who knew?

Sandy’s Birthday Dinner at the New York Grill Restaurant in the Park Hyatt Hotel. Started with Caviar and champagne then grilled Maine Lobster for Sandy and Lamb chops for Jim.
Very Fancy dining room.
Killer views from 52nd floor
Shrines are everywhere.
We had a wonderful curry lunch at this restaurant with just one row of bar stools..
Yasukuni Jinja is a shrine established to commemorate and honor the achievements of those who dedicated their lives to their country. This statue shows family members saying goodbye to the soldiers.
More than 2,466,000 divinities are enshrined here. These are the souls of many people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation since 1853. These men and women, regardless of their rank are considered to be completely equal and worshipped as venerable deities. This is a very contoversial shrine as the Japanese constitution expressly renounces both militarism and state sponsorship of religion, also in 1978 a shrine official added the names of several class-A war criminals to the list.
Kitanomaru Gardens was once part of Edo Castle that burned down in 1973 but is now a public park and is the location of an indoor sports arena, Science Museum and National Art Museum.
This is the building where we live. Our place is on the top (7th) floor circled in green. The white lattice is a very tiny outdoor space.
Jim’s cousin Kevin was nice enough to spend the day with us and took us to neighborhoods in the east area of Tokyo which is older and quieter.
This is a blossoming plum tree. The bark of a plum tree is darker than a cherry tree.
There are a wide variety of spring flowers out everywhere.
This is a bird cafe where you can feed and interact with many species of birds.They also have cat cafes. These owls and hawks were beautiful to watch but sad to see them attached to the stands limiting their freedom to fly far as you can see in this short video.
Wild orchids on the sidewalk.
There are many beautiful Camellia trees here.
Tori Gates stand at the entrance to Shrines and represent the border between the secular world and the sacred world of the Shinto religion.
Nezu-jinja Shrine is located on the site of a famous Shogun’s birthplace.
Fancy new Japanese homes overlooking the shrine.
Charming older Japanese homes in this area.
Kevin took us to do a Sake tasting.
Mitsubishi Nihonbashi is a luxurious department store comparable to Harrods in London.
The general way to pray at a shrine is as follows
1. toss a coin into an offering box called saisenbako
2. Shake a rope to ring a bell (if there is no bell then skip this step)
3. Bow deeply twice
4. clap your hands twice to let the deity know you are there.
5. pray and make a wish
6. bow deeply once again
It is not necessary for foreigners to pray at a shrine but it is acceptable.

Bonsai store, beautiful but startlingly expensive.
Japanese girls in traditional kimono dress after college graduation.
Tokyo train Station in Chiyoda opened 109 years ago design based on the train station in Amsterdam.
Beautiful hand carved door from local wood probably cypress.
Imperial Hotel lobby. This building originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright who had a fascination with Japan ( the only country outside of America where he lived and worked) survived the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and also withstood the American bombing of the city during WW2 but its foundation was damaged and it was demolished in 1976 and rebuilt keeping the original facade. We had a drink in the bar here which is the original bar. Very dark, low and depressing. Typical Frank Loyd Wright. Kevin was so disappointed as he was so looking forward to going there.
Imperial Palace Gardens.
Cherry tree in full bloom.
Lovely assortment of various bamboo species in the Imperial Gardens.
Probably Japanese Plum trees.
Spent a lovely morning and early lunch with our Colorado friends before they departed for home.
Sean’s lunch of Udon noodles at their favorite Tokyo restaurant. They hope to be back again someday for the skiing. This trip was for Melissa to run the Tokyo Marathon.
Saying goodby as they are headed to the train with all of their travel gear on their back.
We waited in line for two hours early one morning to get into a tour of the Imperial Palace Grounds.
Interesting view of Tokyo’s modern skyline from the ancient Imperial Palace.
This is the Imperial Palace where the Japanese Emperor entertains Foreign Dignitaries. Sculpture in the fore ground is a lightning rod.
You cannot see where the Emperor and family live.
This is called the eyeglass bridge as the reflection in the water of the two arches appear to resemble eyeglasses.
Cherry Blossom
Full size Bonsai Trees
More Camellias
Weeping Cherry Tree
Another view of the “eye glass” bridge. This is reputedly one of the iconic images of Japan.
Ancient water fountain in Hibiya Park.
Typical Japanese street alleyway. The wires are hanging everywhere.
Close up of beautiful cherry blossoms.
Primroses. These are one of the first spring blooms and the ones that we use to put in our window box sneakers for the Boston Marathon.
Kevin invited us to his school, Tamagawa University where he teaches art. This private school founded in 1929 is located in Machida, Tokyo and teaches grades K-16.
The campus has beautiful grounds.
This is the atrium of one of the buildings.
Kevin’s classroom.
Kevin invited us to join his family and a colleague’s family for dinner at a friends sushi restaurant.
The food was specially prepared for us by the chef and it was so fresh and delicious.
We so enjoyed meeting the parents of Kevin’s colleague, his mother was from Viet Nam and his father a Chinese chief.
Except for one patron at the counter we took up the entire restaurant.
Very tasty and plentiful
We went to the Tokyo Tower which is a communication and observation tower. At a height of 332.9 meters it is the second tallest structure in Japan. It took several elevators to get to the top.
This is one of the views from the top deck looking down on the shrine we went to next.
Zojo-ji Temple in Shiba Park
These are called Omikuji (sacred lot or messages). You drop 100 yen in a box, while praying for your wish, shake a box politely a few times then pull out a stick which directs you to a drawer to take out a sheet of paper (Omikuji) that has your fortune on it. If you draw a good fortune then keep it, if you draw a bad fortune then no worry just leave it behind by attaching it to this post. There are so many customs and etiquette in this country that we are enjoying learning about. It is a fascinating and respectful culture and the people are beyond polite and go out of their way to help you even with the language barrier. They are so proficient with using vocal google translate . Perfect strangers will stop and help any tourist they see in need giving of their own time to help.
Buddhists regard incense as a “divine odor” and its smell is meant to evoke the presence of Buddhist divinities.
Here is Jim calling to the Buddha Gods. However we could not be more blessed than we are living this life.
Read below explanation to see what this symbolizes. They were located at the Buddhist Temple and Shrine.
Early cherry tree blossoms surrounding the Temple and Shrine.
This was our first glimpse of an array of Cherry Blossoms along a main Street.
Beautiful weeping Cherry tree
Massive Cypress wood doors to the Japanese Shrines.
Magnificent Blossoms are reaching their peak in Tokyo and we cannot stop taking pictures of them.
Our Friends from London, Sigi and Paul, connected us to their BA flight attendant Japanese friend Michiko who is an ardent traveller like us. She has a home base in Japan but travels extensively around the world. She graciously accepted the friend to friend invite to us (Sigi to Michiko to us) and we spent an amazing day where she gave us a wonderful full day tour in Tokyo and later another day helping us get a beautiful strand of Mikimoto pearls for wholesale price.
After meeting us at the train station our first stop was lunch. She chose a wonderful Cambodian Restaurant. The food was delicious and the conversation flowed like we knew one another more than just minutes.
After lunch Michiko took us to Wadabori Park located along the Zenpukuji River in Suginami.
During Cherry Blossom time in Japan people go to the park and picnic under the trees. This is called a hanami which translates to flower viewing.
Michiko was prepared with mats for us to sit on and enjoy our hanami in this lovely residential park.
We wandered through a shopping mall in Suginami and did some grocery shopping for fresh produce. It was such a lovely day and Michiko connected us with friends of hers from Canada who are here at their home in Japan and we are planning to meet and spend the day with them. We are so grateful for the friends and family that we have here as they have made such a difference in our experience here. We thought we could book tours once we got here but everything is all booked up including restaurants. Japan is a desirable destination and best advice for anyone who plans to visit is to book well in advance. Well that wraps up our first 10 days. Stay tuned for more.

8 responses to “Tokyo, First Ten Days”

  1. […] many special bins are available during sakura(cherry blossom) season. We have already had one small hanami with Michiko which we posted previously. We are also planning on visiting Kevin, Ai, Lilly and Keitaro. Kevin is […]

  2. Thanks for sharing this fantastic adventure! Such a beautiful place!

  3. So many very beautiful flowers, shrines and parks. Love the genteelness of this culture. Amazing friendships lead to new friendships. So glad you found the quiet beauty iut of your room flat. Japan holds a special place in my child heart. So grateful you can experience this country. Hugs Kathleen

    1. We are really enjoying the experience.

  4. As always, looks like you are making the most of your time in a new country. Impressed at your ability to make new friends everywhere you go and explore so much in a city and culture so different from your norm.

  5. If you wander again in the Imperial Palace Gardens and happen to come across the Empress, know that she is a graduate of Belmont High School! Her father was a diplomat stationed at the Boston consulate for years. She went on to Harvard as an undergrad. I loved your spring flower photos! And the pearls…stunning!

    1. That is great information, so interesting.

  6. Wonderful, picturesque and informative read of your first 10 days in Tokyo…so fortunate to have those personal connections!!

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