This week I’m going to continue from where I left off, the Imperial Palace in Japan! For anyone that didn’t read about the beginning of my trip to Japan, here is a link.
Leaving, heads slightly limp with disappointment, we began our walk away from the sprawling lawns of the Imperial Palace. Soon we found ourselves walking into a small local park no more than two blocks away from the Palace. The park had all the normal pieces you would expect; basketball courts, playgrounds, walking paths. However, what struck me the most was the level of organized landscaping throughout the park. Plants were labeled, (which quenched my curiosity) allowing people to become more in touch with the trees and flowers life. A name gives something far more value and the labels were such a simple way to educate people and hopefully invoke a greater respect for the environment. Plant life aside, this particular park had a gift from America, a Liberty Bell! We walked through the park enjoying a beautiful day, used squatty potties (they are as interesting as they sound) and took in the sights of “normal” life in Japan. Seems like a mundane half an hour to spend in Tokyo doesn’t it? It was perfect! We found our way out of the park and discovered the cherry on top. A fountain surrounded by Pansies and a beautiful paver patio. I thought to myself, “Maybe missing out on the Imperial Garden wasn’t the worst thing to happen”.
After grabbing some snacks and eating them “Gaijin style” as we walked down the street, we made it to our next stop, Tokyo Tower. Here we were treated with spectacular views, got lost in a tourist trap and might have trespassed on private grounds. We got the FULL tourist experience. After being told to hit myself with a floppy massage banana in the tourist trap, we headed for a temple right next to the tower. Along the way we found a small slim park with a beautiful Japanese Maple grove. The branching structure of each tree was unique and beautiful, a great example of how they can add winter interest to your landscaping. A beautiful waterfall and a creek ran through the center of the park and followed the path from one end to the other. As we walked, my eyes flitted from one sight to the next. The space felt so natural and untouched! It was a beautiful place to seemingly get away, but was so near to one of the most touristy spots in Tokyo.
Arriving at the temple the first sight you are greeted with are rows of Jizo adorned in red caps, clothes and flowers. Each of the Jizo represents a soul lost too soon and the space had an immediate sobering affect. Entering the main grounds of the Zojoji temple, the smell of incense was in the air and the chanting of a Buddhist ritual rang in my ears. We made our rounds through the small quaint garden, down the rows of Jizo and into the temple. It was an incredible cultural experience, even for the short time we spent. Simple, yet completely fulfilling. Leaving I noticed a large Cedar tree with a large plaque beneath it. It was such a grand, beautiful specimen and upon reading the plaque I found out it was yet another gift from an American! A great find and the perfect send off from a truly special site.
Leaving the temple we stopped and grabbed some fast food at Mos Burger (you have to try all types of food when traveling) and headed to a park to sit and eat. We ended up at Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden, my favorite park of the entire trip. Rolling hills, a large pond that reflected the landscaping and a twisting path that followed around the entire garden made this the most stunning spot I saw in Japan. The plant life on display in the dead of winter was something to behold and proves that flowers are not the foundation to the perfect landscape. Plants where protected for winter with special wraps or ropes to support branches, and the entirety of the space was kept in nearly perfect condition. I more or less stumbled around the park, dragging my jaw on the ground and doubled back a few times, making sure I didn’t miss a single piece of the garden. It was probably the best $1.50 I spent in a long time! We sadly didn’t have all day to spend here and headed to the train station en-route for Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinjuku’s sights and Winter Illuminations.
Our next stops were shopping based locations. Harajuku is a twisted knot of shop-lined alleys that bring out some unique costume-clad individuals. A fun place, but not one with much in the way of landscaping! Much the same can be said for the Shibuya, whose famed crosswalk is truly something to behold, and Shinjuku. However, when you visit in the winter you can find beautiful light shows called Winter Illuminations in or very near to them. These beautiful illuminations take thousands and thousands of lights and make a walk around town simply breathtaking and romantic. This was a part of the trip that I did not anticipate, but can say was probably one of my favorite things to see!
Next week we leave Tokyo and head to the town of Murayama where I got to see more of the Japanese countryside and how people in the snowy regions of the country protect their plants!