We chose to go on the first day of the Golden Week holidays (4/29) which is something we usually avoid due to the heavy crowds. What we didn't know, however, is that the first day of Golden Week is a special day of the festival which includes special performances by local community performing arts clubs. It was definitely crowded, but the feeling of celebration that filled the shrine and spread throughout the atmosphere in our neighborhood made for a really great day!
Despite a bit of light cloud cover, it was a beautiful day, and as always the azaleas looked extremely lovely and provided a gorgeous backdrop for our local shrine. Hearing the music and singing drifting from the shrine's performance stage added an extra special flavor to this year's flower viewing.
|Three veteran dancers from our local community hula dance club|
|Pre-performance practice session|
Want to see some more? Here is a link to the Picasa album! As always, thanks for visiting! For my readers who are currently in Japan, you still have some time left! The festival continues until Wednesday, 5/6!
Determined not to lose against this weird weather, I made the most of last weekend, and also set out to make the most of the cherry blossom season before and after work. I put together a collection of photos representing my best 2015 sakura moments, so I hope they convey the sweet splendor of fleeting beauty that is hanami.
This first set of photos was taken in Ueno Park and Ueno Shinobazu Pond.
|I got really lucky when this beautiful ring neck flew in and|
perched on the tree I happened to photographing!
|This group of high school grads was super popular with|
the tourists in Ueno Park; especially the teenage boys. (^_^)
Here are some pics from the Bunkyo Sakura Festival (文京さくらまつり) in Bunkyo City.
I really hope this was a nice look at this year's Cherry Blossom season. There are a few more photos in the gallery which can be viewed here.
Looking through the archives of my blog, I obviously gravitate toward exploring nature and history in Japan. These are not the only things I'm interested in, however, so for today's post I decided to feature something urban, new and modern. I chose a place I'd been wanting to check out for some time-- the Tokyo International Forum (東京国際フォーラム)!
The International Forum building opened in 1997 in Chiyoda City (千代田区), just a few steps away from Tokyo Station, and is widely accepted as being one of the country’s premier centers of culture. It was designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly Beceiro, who's also known for famous buildings such as the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, the Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. The Forum is appreciated for its sweeping steel and glass structure, as well as exquisite use of sunlight which changes the feel of the interior space throughout the day. A multipurpose facility, housing numerous halls, meeting rooms, shops, restaurants and even a ballroom, the International Forum is used for a vast variety of conventions as well as public and private events. It’s even been decided that the weightlifting events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be held here.
This building is definitely a very energizing and dynamic piece of modern architecture! The interaction of people, sunlight and even sound have a transformative effect on the space, such that the building practically seems alive! Exploring and interfacing with it was really inspiring for me, but the International Forum is not only about an active experience for visitors, it also offers the passive indulgence of "watching" the sleek, elegant and expansive space unfold before our eyes. Truly magnificent!
There are lots more photos of this gorgeous facility. I hope my readers will take a look at the rest of them in my Picasa album here.
I got my hands on two new exciting flavours of KitKat today! First, Carrot Apple Pie! This one is sort of a mystery because of the packaging, as it's clearly designed to be an Easter edition. In the top right, the text in the Easter egg says, "Your dreams are sure to come true. Get off to a good start this Easter!" Then in the lower left it's telling us to look for the "lucky" Kit Kat which is decorated with an Easter Egg-Bunny. Now, Readers, if you don't read Japanese, you'll have to trust me when I say that the first message is a bit more clever than it sounds because there's a pun in there that's lost in translation. But overall I'd say this is a pretty strange package design in a non-Christian country that pays no attention to the Easter holiday. But hey, whatever it takes to deliver a new delicious Kit Kat is fine with me.
Today's second find is a little bit lighter on the story, but is certainly a wonderful flavour! This one is the Okinawa special edition, Okinawan Purple Yam flavour. I'm sort of puzzled as to how this one made its way to Tokyo, but who am I to argue? Lucky for me!!
Today I decided to take a bike ride over to Ueno for lunch at the Japanese burger franchise, First Kitchen, although eating a burger was not the main goal. The reason for my visit was trying the new KitKat sandwich that's being offered for a limited time at First Kitchen restaurants nationwide!
I really can't say that this is a life-changing dessert experience; First Kitchen is a fast food burger chain after all. It's also probably not likely that I'll keep going back over and over again to eat it, but it certainly is delicious, and a KitKat fan like me would definitely feel a sense of loss had I let the opportunity pass. Great job First Kitchen! It's a great idea that's executed very well!
Thinking of trying one yourself? While you're there, may as well have a meal, right? First Kitchen also has another limited edition sandwich this spring-- the Chicken Nanban (チキン南蛮) burger. It was quite tasty and I definitely recommend it, I got mine with a side of buttered potato (ジャガバター) French Fries.
So even construction sites are courteous. Pretty damn kool, I think!
|photo courtesy of Miho|
The day after tomorrow is Fat Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras). Around this time of year, my Polish-American roots begin to scream out with a yearning to eat Pączki— those wonderful jam-filled polish doughnuts that make their rounds each year at this time, and have remained a favourite treat thoughout my life. Pączki happen to be one of those Western treats that are painfully rare in this part of the world, so needless to say, I was super excited to find a shop making them fresh this year! I couldn't miss this unusual opportunity, so I set out with my wife early this morning to go meet up with some friends at the Aoyama Farmers Market in the Shibuya area where, I learned, we could get our Pączki on!
|Electrician's underground access panel, Ueno Park|
On today's walk, I spent some time at the beautiful Ueno Tōshōgū Shrine (上野東照宮), built in veneration of Edo Period Shōgun, Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康). The shrine was built in year 4 of the Kanei Period (寛永4年 / 1627) and long ago was part of the expansive and very wealthy Kaneiji Temple (寛永寺) before much of the temple grounds were destroyed during the Imperial victory of the Boshin War (戊辰戦争) (1868–1869), resulting in the surviving buildings' being separated into smaller, distinct parts.
The shrine is well-known for the long pathway lined with stone lanterns leading up to the gorgeous gold-leafed facade which is flanked by clusters of beautifully ornate bronze lanterns. The shrine's annual winter and spring peony festivals (ぼたん祭) are also quite famous.
After my visit to the shrine, I spent much of the day wandering around, enjoying another famous Ueno Park pastime, people-watching. I became intrigued watching this man, a retired middle school art teacher, who was making sidewalk art by simply trailing water onto the pavement from a brush. Since he was able to speak some English, he seemed eager to meet someone with whom he could practice, so we chatted for a short while. Well I helped him to enhance his English vocabulary, he told me that his art was inspired by a form of Chinese calligraphy which employs the same technique. Due to years of practice, he is able to draw and write (in both English and Japanese) upside down so that his creations appear right-side-up from the perspective of his observers. His drawings were particularly popular with young children visiting the park with their families. He did a great job of appealing to their fascination by drawing lots of panda bears, which are a famous symbol of the park due to the bears' prominence as a cherished exhibit at the zoo.
Here he drew my zodiac symbols on the pavement for me.
Ueno Park also features a small, aging children's amusement park, which is literally overflowing with a certain magnetic and wonderfully heart-warming nostalgia, which makes it an incredibly popular hang-out for families.
This kid is too cute!
There are some more photos I didn't include here, especially of Ueno Tōshōgū Shrine. Anyone who's interested in having a look is welcome to visit my Picasa album here.