Shinjuku-gyoen

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:

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 1

Some kind of blossoms near the entrance:

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 2

The Japanese garden:

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 3

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 4

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 5

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 6

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 7

Snowman, called 雪だるま(yukidaruma) in Japan after their resemblance to Daruma dolls:

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 8

Getting away from it all:

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Looking out towards Aoyama:

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 9

TOASI - Shinjuku-gyoen 10

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Yushima Tenjin

We went to Yushima Tenjin shrine near Ueno in Tokyo on the weekend for their annual plum-blossom festival. It’s been so unusually cold in Japan this year that even though the festival is supposed to finish at the end of this week the blossoms are only about 40% open. The shrine was originally established in 458AD and is now dedicated to a 神 (kami – god/spirit) of learning so often school children come before entrance examinations.

As usual, there are lots of food stalls in front of the shrine:

Yushima Tenjin - Main Hall 1

The main hall:

Yushima Tenjin - Main Hall 2

Before the exams, children (or often the parents!) come to give an offering for success. People write their wishes on small wooden boards, called ema, which are later burnt:

Yushima Tenjin - Ema 1

There’s also a tradition that if you make 1000 paper cranes then your wishes will come true. Here you can see long colourful strings of cranes:

Yushima Tenjin - Ema 2

There was also a stage set up with performances of traditional music:

Yushima Tenjin - Festival Girl 1

The taiko drumming requires a lot of concentration:

Yushima Tenjin - Festival Girl 2

There was also traditional dance:

Yushima Tenjin - Festival Girl 3

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the festivities:

Yushima Tenjin - Pigeon

The highlight was display of plum blossoms, even if it was still a bit early:

Yushima Tenjin - Ume with Shrine

There is a small garden in the shrine which is quite pleasant (if of course crowded!) to stroll around with a cup of hot amazake:

Yushima Tenjin - Ume with Waterfall 1

Yushima Tenjin - Ume with Rock

Yushima Tenjin - Ume with Bridge

Yushima Tenjin - Ume with Dots

Yushima Tenjin - Ume with Black