Spring has sprung in Tokyo, Japan.
It started about two weeks ago with allergy season. I won’t describe my own symptoms, because that will end everything for everyone before we even get started. But for two days, it was bad.
And then it was over. For others, hay fever season ran for over a week. Miserable men and women stumbled
throughout Tokyo – puffy eyes, runny noses, white masks encapsulating half of their face.
Of course, it wasn’t always like this in Tokyo. The story of allergy season is directly linked to government ineptitude, which is always a fun story to tell.
After World War II, the Japanese government decided the oaks and maples and other trees did not pull their weight, economically speaking. So in true bureaucratic insipidity, the government razed all of the native trees and planted Japanese cedar trees, which were deemed to hold more value. The wood and seeds were more utilitarian.
Unfortunately, everybody, and I mean everybody, were allergic as hell to the cedar pollen.
You could almost compare it to germ warfare, only its your own moronic government dosing you with insidious allergens.
Anyway, after cutting out alcohol and red meat and loading up on raw cabbage, sashimi and water for a week, I was right as rain. Just in time for hanami season. “Hanami” literally means to “look at flowers.”
In particular, the latter half of March and the beginning of April is when the sakura, or cherry blossoms, are in full bloom. This year they came about a week early. Today, March 21, the official first day of spring, was also the first day the cherry blossoms were in bloom.
Not only that but today was a national holiday. It is Vernal Equinox Day in Japan, and everybody had the day off from work (including Lisa). It is a day meant for “the admiration of nature and the love of living things.”
That’s what Lisa and I intended to do. We were going to go to Shinjuku Gyoen (park) which is known for its sakura viewing. However, it closes at 4 p.m. For most people, this isn’t an issue. But for Lisa and I, on our vacation days, we don’t get out of bed before 1 p.m.
Today was such a day. Still, we had three hours, right? Wrong.
We made pancakes. We did laundry. We did dishes. We (I) screwed around on the internet. Shit takes time.
By the time we left the house, it was 4 p.m. Too late to get to Shinjuku Gyoen.
Instead, we went to Yodobashi Camera and bought a new Nikon Coolpix P520 camera. It’s a pretty good camera for amateurs like us.
New camera in hand, we headed off to Rikugien Gardens near Komagome station. This was a very pleasant
surprise. The garden stayed open until 9 p.m. and they illuminated their weeping cherry blossoms with floodlights. Because the cherry blossoms were blooming early, they opened the display two days earlier than they originally expected.
The exposition was breathtaking.
Instead of wasting your time with words, here are the pictures we took.
But first, Tuesday afternoon I did a little exploring on my own. There is a walking path near our house that leads to Meiji Jingu Shrine. One day while following my googles map app, I noticed that just off the trail was the Japanese Sword Museum.
I like swords. So I on Tuesday, after doing some work in Azabu-bujan, I took the train to Hatsudai Station.
The sword museum was pretty badass. It was only one room, but there were about 30 swords, mostly katanas, forged in the samurai era. The earliest were made in the 12th and 13th century, with others ranging up to the 19th century.
They still gleamed and held a deadly edge. With only a 600 yen entrance fee, this hideaway is worth the trip.
The museum is a 40-minute scenic walk from our apartment. This was the day prior to the cherry blossoms blossoming, but there were a still few buds popping. I took these picture with my iPhone.
Without further monkeying around, here are the pics: