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Showing posts from March, 2016

Cherry blossoms 2016: second report

There's a bit more colour, but we're still a few days from full bloom. I took these photos at Zōjō-ji this morning. The temple is clearly preparing for big crowds this coming weekend: they're putting up food stalls and what looks like a platform (tea ceremony? dances? AKB-forty-whatnot? who knows) around the main temple building.




Cherry blossoms 2016: first report

The first report is that ... nothing's happening yet. Or, to be more precise, very little is happening. Or to add further detail (for science, John!), very little is happening in Ueno Park.

I noticed one or two early-blooming trees that are always first, every year, but there's not much colour to be seen. The only entertainment, as a matter of fact, is watching the swan boats get into trouble. It's vastly amusing to watch a young swain trying to keep his cool in front of his coiffed, coutured, manicured inamorata while the swan boat is moving in the wrong direction, stuck in a corner, refuses to be manoeuvered and generally speaking is doing everything possible to turn the lover and the poet into a fool and a lunatic. Meanwhile young kids are merrily peddling away, completely in control.

I could watch it for hours.

I've included a few photos. This is what it looks like right now. Full bloom next week.






Plummy pleasures at Kairakuen

Japan has a thing about lists: the three views of Japan, the three major night views, thirty-six special places of scenic beauty, one hundred soundscapes (this list does not include slurping or sniffing, which means it's a fake) and the four cheapest vending machines in Dokonimomachi 4-9-4.
It also has a list of TheThree Great Gardens of Japan (日本三名園 Nihon Sanmeien) please-note-capital-letters: Kenrokuen or "garden which combines six characteristics", Korakuen or "garden of pleasure after" (that would be after visiting the four cheapest vending machines in Dokonimomachi 4-9-4) and Kairakuen or "a garden to enjoy with people".


So when an opportunity arose to visit the garden to enjoy with 701 233 septuagenarians during plum blossom season, I was understandably happy. Or, to paraphrase my students, "I am excite. It is very fun."
Off I went, and ...

Look, no kidding, the plum orchard in Kairakuen is beautiful: hundreds of trees, many different spe…

A shrine for MIA and AWOL cats

Your cat's gone missing? Went walkabout and hasn't returned? Copycatted Tao in The Incredible Journey or perhaps Kunkush aka Dias?
Fear not. Japan has a shrine for you. If you pray at Tachikawa Suitengū (立川水天宮), your errant moggy will return to you unharmed. That explains the shrine's nickname, Nekogaeshi Jinja (猫返し神社) or "Cat Returns Shrine".


It all started with jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita (山下洋輔), whose cat disappeared. Yamashita walked all over the neighbourhood in search of the animal, but no success. During his wanderings he stopped at Tachikawa Suitengū, several kilometers from his home, and prayed for his cat’s return.
The next day … guess who turned up? Since then, cat lovers visit this shrine to ask for their cats’ protection, and people who’ve lost a cat pray that their pet will come back home.


The shrine, also known as Azusami Tenjinsha (阿豆佐味天神社), is  in Tachikawa, a 20-minute walk from either Musashi-Sunagawa Station on the Seibu Haijima Line or Su…