02 June 2012

Japan III - Toyko

Monday 7th May saw us on a tour of some of the better known districts of Tokyo, starting of with the Koishikawa -Korakuen gardens just north of the central area of the city, first begun in 1629 as a private garden for one of the samurai shoguns.  The link will show many more pics of the garden but if you look at my first photo, notice how the group of trees on the mound looks in complete harmony...no accident.  The trees on the right side lean to the right and there's a sweep of foliage falling to the left.  Not a particularly good example but the pic in Japan I shows it to much better effect.  However, the little bridge...

...shown above is in perfect harmony.  If you can catch it just right, the reflection of the arch in the water forms a perfect circle...again, no accident.

One of the things that Alyson wanted to do on the trip was to compile a 'Goshuin chou'  book of temple stamps.  She bought the book at the Sensoji temple in Asakusa and for the princely sum of 300 JPN...

...a member of staff (usually a monk) will produce a beautiful, hand brushed name of the temple, complete with it's own vermilion stamp.  When it's finished, the book will unfold in a concertina fashion to reveal a unique record of all the temples visited.

While on the subject of stamps, I should mention that the Japanese love their stamps...if anything can be stamped, it'll get a bright red stamp and in fact it's commonplace to see racks of individual stamps carved onto the end of a piece of bamboo, roughly about the size of a finger...and some produced on more exotic materials were very expensive.  Think in terms of 40,000JPY!

On our walk round Tokyo that day, we came out of a side street and turned a corner and the vehicle above was the very last thing I expected to see.  In fact I did see another one in Nagano later on.

Towards the end of the day, our guide Tom pointed out a feature on the building in the pic shown above. As I mentioned earlier, many Tokyoites live cheek by jowl in small flats (or apartments) in high rise blocks where pets aren't allowed.  The Japanese though, in common with most folks, like their pussy cats but can't have them at home.

The solution is simple...if you can't have a cat at home, go someplace where they are allowed!  If you look closely at the pic, around three quarters of the way up are images of cats...it's a cat cafe, where you can go for your morning cappuccino and get swamped by your furry friends.

The last pic on this post shows the crossing in Ginza outside the Mitsukoshi store, which is the Japanese equivalent to Harrods, with prices to match.  Fancy paying 12,000JPY for a small tray of white strawberries?...look no further!

However, it's not the store, but the crossing that I want to draw you attention to, because this is the interactive part of this post.  You're strongly advised to pull the blinds and curtains, lest the men in white coats come for you and drag you away kicking and screaming...

I mentioned that the Japanese are obedient and as can be seen from the pic, people are crossing with the vehicles waiting patently for a gap.  All major pedestrian crossings though, are light controlled and the Japanese (especially in Tokyo) simply will not cross the road if the light is at 'red'.  It doesn't matter if it's 3am in the morning and there's no traffic for a mile either side...if the light is at 'red' they'll wait till it turns green.

So, one saunters across the road whilst the lights are green accompanied by....

...Mario music!

Every city and almost every town has it's own version of a little jingle that's used to indicate that it's safe to cross, with different variations on the following themes:

'Beep, boop...beep, boop' ...

followed by a...... 'Tweeeeeooooooo, tweeeeeooooooo'  or sometimes it was a...

... 'beeb, boop, beep de-boop' again followed by  couple of 'tweeeeeoooooos, tweeeeeeoooooo's'

Some places go for a completely novel approach though, so that in Nagano, an electronic Mario version of this song was used and Okiyamha opted or this little dity.

Barking, completely barking mad, but fascinating at the same time, though this isn't the only place where Mario music can be heard.  To find out more, you'll need to stay tuned for the next exciting instalment!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great to hear about your Japanese adventures Rob, brings back lots of memories seeing the pictures and hearing about the different places.

The swordmaking must have been very special to experience at first hand.

All best, PaulM