These are some photos from M’s camera that we took way back in April but completely forgot about in all the excitement. A part of the Imperial Palace was open for the first time in 70-odd years so we went along to have a look, saw the queues, and went to the East Garden instead, which was probably just as nice anyway.
There were some gorgeous cherry blossoms out in full bloom:
As well as many other kinds of wildflowers. It’s a great place for a lunch.
From Shinjuku, I walked all the way across Tokyo to the Imperial Palace near Tokyo Station. It’s quite a nice walk, basically a straight line and not nearly as far as you might think. Central Tokyo is actually more long and narrow and you can get from one side to the other in about an hour’s walk. The Imperial Palace is the site of the former Edo Castle, once the biggest in the world, of which the moat, some of the stone walls and guard houses still remain. It is now the official residence of the Imperial family and comprises a huge park and gardens in the very centre of Tokyo, although only the outer gardens are accessible to the public. At one stage during the bubble years of the 1980s, the real estate value of the Palace grounds was put at more than all of California.
It was the heaviest snowfall in 45 years on Saturday so on Sunday I went to check out the Japanese garden in Shinjuku Park (along with all the other old guys with huge cameras!). After all the snow it was a beautifully warm day with clear blue skies:
The park itself is huge, with Japanese, French and English gardens:
Some kind of blossoms near the entrance:
The Japanese garden:
Snowman, called 雪だるま(yukidaruma) in Japan after their resemblance to Daruma dolls:
It was nice and sunny on the weekend so we went down to Kamakura, the rival capital of Japan to Kyoto during the 12th and 13th centuries. It’s an interesting place for an aimless wander, full of little back streets, old houses and cafes. These are some shots from around town.
An old house:
Travelling in style:
A traditional sweets shop:
I’m not sure what these flowers are but they have an interesting shape:
This was a short day-hike we did back in May but hadn’t got round to looking at the pictures. The course traverses three peaks (三山 means ‘three mountains’) in the Okutama range west of Tokyo and there are some nice views (well, from two of them anyway). It’s not a very difficult hike – basically a walk through the woods – but hey it’s not concrete (mostly) and it’s quite pleasant. The official course goes from Ikusabata Station to Mitake Station but we went the other way – rather than start with a long slog up a concrete slope we ended by coming down it. It’s much nicer to plunge straight up the mountain when you are still fresh and can really enjoy it.
This is the start from Mitake Station:
The course then quickly rises and continues through the forest:
Mountains have always been considered sacred places in Japan and you often small shrines dedicated to them:
The view from the second peak (the first one didn’t have much of a view at all):
Today was one of those beautiful, clear, sunny Autumn days that you get here so we decided to go out for lunch to Mt Takao and enjoy some of the Autumn leaves. It was actually still a bit early for the full Autumn colours but it was probably for the best – the crowds were bad enough as it was!
This is the ropeway station. The queue was about 1-hour long so we decided not to bother:
Still, there were some nice early flashes of colour:
Some jizo statues near the station (had the ISO up a little too high here):
Leaves on a pond:
Down by the river:
We had a delicious lunch of tempura and soba noodles at this restaurant. One of the tempura was made with dried persimmon which we’d never seen before. If you look closely the restaurant has been built around a tree that protudes from the roof:
We had a bit of an adventure at the weekend. We wanted to go for a hike up Mt Shoto but we missed one train connection just as the doors were closing which meant we also missed the bus connection – the one bus per hour! We decided then to keep going down the same line to Otsuki station which had a short three-hour hike on the map.
We should’ve had some idea something was up by both the “You want to go where?” look the tourist office lady gave us and the fact that we couldn’t find the start of the trail! Lost before we’d started. This was a small temple that was not the start:
We found the start of the trail which, after a short flight of steps, turned into a 60° climb pulling ourselves up with ropes:
Some mushrooms along the trail:
This was not the smartest thing to be doing in 33° heat and humidity but we managed to reach the top of that peak where, if you look closely, you can see Mt Fuji:
That was the first of the three peaks and was relatively straightforward. Generally after the initial climb you can walk along the ridge line with only some up and down:
There was some quite nice hiking in places – well I’m sure it would be enjoyable in Autumn anyway:
But it soon became clear that the city council, figuring no-one in their right mind would go hiking in the middle of summer, didn’t bother to maintain the paths and just let them grow for those months. It was like a jungle! The paths were criss-crossed with spider webs, we literally had to slash our way through overgrowth in some places, we lost the path a couple of times. We were like a pair of Dr Livingstones! Eventually, we made it down the mountain only to find the last stairs so completely overgrown we couldn’t even see the path. Here are some iPhone snaps.
This is the ‘path’:
At some point what goes up must come down – then get lost, then go back up again, find the path and come down:
Somewhere in here there were stairs:
Moral of the story: don’t go hiking in Summer (and if you do wear long pants)!!