Back in the capital from Kyoto, the continuing holiday presented an opportunity for a stroll from Sendagi to Ueno, inspired by the splendid book Little Adventures in Tokyo by Rick Kennedy.
The wandering began here:
The route took in quite a few shrines:
As well as shrines, the neighbourhood was full of beautiful houses and gardens:
The last house has hung koinobori, the koi carp banners, for Children’s Day which is celebrated on 5 May (the day of the walk). There were lots of banners around, most dwarfed by these huge ones hanging outside the International Library of Children’s Literature in Ueno:
And having reached Ueno, the stroll ended – as all good wanderings should – with tea and cake before catching the train home.
Hanami season has arrived, stirring feelings of joy at the onset of spring and the start of a new financial and academic year, tempered with melancholy at the knowledge that, as with the sakura, all beauty is mortal. A finality which doesn’t need to be underscored too heavily at a time when there are still many thousands dead and missing in the North, most recently the three killed by last night’s large aftershock.
Last week Tokyo’s government asked for restraint at this time of national mourning, while an association of Tohoku sake brewers countered by trying to encourage Tokyo’s drinkers to indulge, enjoy life and by doing so, support the remains of their industry. It is understandable that people feel torn. There is perhaps a reluctance to hold the raucous parties for which the season is renowned while their compatriots are struggling with everyday living. Set against that, is of course, the near-impossible-to-resist joy that sakura season brings:
As I wrote in autumn, the Japanese love their trees and this regard was very much in evidence today in Ueno Park. Everyone from teetering and bundled-up toddlers to almost bent-double grandparents walked beneath the boughs, loaded and heavy with blossoms close to their mankai, or full bloom, best. The trees were truly gorgeous. A heartbreakingly beautiful sight, the gentle pink at times hardly showing against the grey sky, but still strong enough to give the soul a lift and herald the end of winter.
The view was made all the more beautiful by its fleeting nature, the delicate blossom taking a battering from the wind, falling across the paths and walkers below the trees, as well as into my palm as I took these pictures.
So hard to believe that by next week they will be gone.
All pictures by me, happy for them to be used if you like them, a credit would be lovely.
An evening spent writing, with the Stones on the stereo and a glass of whisky close at hand.
That was my plan for last Friday evening, mulled over as I headed into Tokyo for a little light shopping on a beautiful spring day off work that luckily coincided with payday. Nature had other ideas though and once they were unleashed, it would be close to 30 hours before I saw my own front door again after walking through it that morning.
Now, a week later, we sit in a basement bar with the rumble of trains above our heads, swapping tales of where we were and what we saw, things we have read and can still barely believe. We don’t have any words to castigate those who made the alternative call, knowing that their reasons were as sound as the ones that kept us here, but knowing equally that we have made the right one for us. We are glad we stayed.
Colleagues, compatriots and strangers, all have become friends. We have hugged each other, soothed ragged nerves with laughter and together we have survived. We are no longer worried or fearful for ourselves, but for those in Northern Japan who have lost everything as the snow falls, the brave-beyond-words technicians in the power plant and loved ones at home who read the papers or watch the news and believe what they show.
The picture of a terrified Japan displayed in the UK media is not one I recognise. In the last seven days I have come to love the people of this city and country more than I believed possible. Today we were in Ueno, where the Zoo has been anticipating the unveiling of two giant pandas. The event has been delayed by the earthquake but the station is all set for their debut, as well as being a blaze of sakura blooms for this weekend’s hanami (flower viewing) holiday:
There is a long road ahead to heal the people and places left so devastated by last Friday’s earthquake, but from what I have seen in the last seven days, I know it can be done. Whatever my own small part in that will be, I am ready to play it.