Our afternoon started off with a visit to the historic Hama-rikyu gardens, an Edo era garden. There are no koi (Japanese carp) in this pond because it is adjacent to the sea so salt water enters in with the tides and Koi are fresh water fish. This garden was much more impressive than the Imperial Palace East Garden we visited in the morning.
The Japanese Black Pine are prominently displayed throughout the gardens. Derek, our son, is involved with Bonsai which is the art of keeping large trees in miniature form through root and branch trimming. He has a number of these Japanese Black Pines which is one of the most sought after tree species for bonsai. It was nice to see so many old specimens in their native Japan, including a 300 year old Japanese Black Pine.
The contrast of old Japan versus modern Japan is vividly seen here. The peaceful gardens are surrounded by modern skyscrapers overlooking these historic gardens. Tokyo is a city of 12 million people which constitutes about 10% of Japan’s population.
Next on the agenda was a 40 minute boat ride from the port of Tokyo up to Asakusa. From here we walked to the Asakusa Kannon Temple, one of the finest Buddhist temples in Japan. There were thousands of people on the temple grounds and the surrounding shopping areas.
The 5-storey pagoda is impressive and the main temple is equally as beautiful, especially the area of worship.
Next stop on our trip is the Chiba Peninsula to photograph sharks. This is the main reason for our trip to Japan and we are looking forward to photographing a number of shark and ray species that are endemic to central Japan.
To make the most of our limited time in Tokyo, we did the Tokyo Grand Full Day Tour offered by Japan Gray Line . It was a fantastic way to learn about Tokyo & some of Japan’s history. We were picked up at our hotel at 7:50 am & dropped off at 6:45 pm so was a long & eventful day. Here are some of the morning highlights.
The Shinto religion is one of Japan’s major religions along with Buddhism. We spent time at the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine which is dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. Two traditional Japanese weddings were taking place while we walked the grounds and we were able to snap a few photos of each. The first wedding appears to be much more traditional and the wedding dress is simply spectacular. The bride was wearing a white wedding kimono called “uchikake” with a white headdress.
The bride in the second wedding looks less traditional and the wedding procession was unique for us to observe. We found both of these Japanese weddings fascinating.
The grounds of the Meiji Shrine contain many gates and buildings. The buildings are surrounded by over 100,000 planted trees making this a very picturesque site.
We then went to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace, the home of the Emperor & Empress of Japan. Unfortunately, they were unavailable to have tea with us – perhaps next time! It is a 250 acre fortress surrounded by a moat. To get into the garden, you to through two gates and then past the old samurai warrior guard hut.
Here are a few photos of the extensive gardens:
We were treated with a traditional Japanese lunch. Although we were unsure of what some things were it was all very tasty. Here is Tricia waiting patiently for me to finish taking pictures so she can dig in with her newly acquired chopstick skills.
Our next post will cover what we saw and experienced in the afternoon.
After a 13 hour flight from Toronto to Tokyo it was nice to finally arrive! We took the Narita Express Train from the airport to the Shinagawa Station in Tokyo which took about one hour and was extremely convenient. However, it was quite the challenge to get to our hotel from the station due to both the language barrier and the fact that we had 7 bags of camera & scuba equipment. Although our hotel was only 350m from the train station, it took us over 1/2 an hour to navigate through the very crowded station and a busy street. We took these two pictures the following day during the quiet time so it doesn’t illustrate how busy it was!
Today we explored the area around the Shinagawa Prince Hotel where we are staying. Our first impressions of Tokyo is how miniature many things are including our hotel room. The door is only 6′ tall and the table, desk & chairs are all small compared to Canada. On some of the side streets where we walked the houses are very narrow and parking space is at a premium. Many of the cars & trucks are tiny. In fact, we’re not sure how this driver even gets in and out of his truck!
Nestled in the neighbourhood was the Tozenji Temple which is a Buddhist Temple and was built in the 1800’s. These photos show part of the temple grounds. From our perspective, it was unique to see something historic adjacent to modern buildings.
Tomorrow we are doing a full day bus tour of Tokyo, including the Meiji Shrine and the Imperial Palace where the Emperor & Empress reside.