On the beautiful Sunday morning walk through the northwestern end of Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward I visited Akagi Shrine, in the famous Kagurazaka district. I have blogged about this beautiful and very modern looking shrine before, but this is the first time I have seen it covered in snow. I have also visited it just before dawn on the New Year’s Day of 2013, and I have several posts about the fabulous Akagi Shrine festival held in September every year (here, here, here, here and a gorgeous shrine dancer here).
This branch shrine here in Kagurazaka is a tributary of the three main Akagi Shrines in Gunma Prefecture’s Akagiyama. It was originally constructed in 1300 in modern day Ushigome, just a short distance from where it was transferred to in 1555. The original 1300 building burned down in 1842 and the reconstructed shrine was again destroyed in the bombing raids of 1945. It was rebuilt again in 1951, as a kindergarten which was closed in 2009 and the task or redesigning the shrine minus the kindergarten but with attached apartments and a cafe gallery went to the famous architect Kengo Kuma in 2010. The level of the shrine was raised drastically in the 2010 rebuilding and now it has a set of very impressive stone stairs leading up the smaller shrine building. Underneath this are storage areas, garages and offices. Even before 2010 the shrine was located right on top of Kagurazaka hill but now it stands even higher.
As I walked up the steep stairs I could already see people busy shoveling snow from the shrine grounds, and people were again busy in the street leading up the front of the shrine. The white of the snow, the red of the shrine and the blue of the skies made it a wonderfully beautiful sight!
Last weekend Tokyo saw a fairly massive snowfall, the largest in 45 years it seems. It is not unusual for Tokyo to get one or two days of snow where it actually stays on the ground, but usually not in amounts to make the traffic situation difficult. Whereas the northern prefectures of Japan where they get several yards of snowfall each winter are famous for their skilled snowplow drivers here in central Tokyo we do not have a single dedicated snowplow. There seems to be one machine on hand in the far western part of Tokyo, in Okutama, where they get more snow on the narrow mountain roads.
Instead of relying on city snowplows, the people of central Tokyo have to take the matter into their own hands, and starting Saturday morning when the snow really kicked in, all the way to Sunday evening I could see people outside shoveling snow, scraping roads and clearing streets, all by hand or whatever kind of tools the could find. Some people had proper shovels whereas others used metal dustpans. I saw one older man with a hammer attacking the ice in the street in front of his house while his wife carried the blocks of ice away. By noon on Sunday when I took these photos most streets had been sufficiently cleared for foot traffic. The sidewalk in front of a building is considered the responsibility of the building owner so house owners, shopkeepers, shop staff, even monks were out to clear the sidewalks and in some cases whole streets together. There’s nothing like a little natural adversity to bring out the best in people!
Despite the hard work of clearing streets it doesn’t mean that people don’t want to have a little fun though. I saw lots of snow sculptures, snowmen and even snow shrines, like the one in my photo dedicated to the grandiose Japanese talk show celebrity Matsuko Deluxe, built in front of a little hair salon.
I took these photos as I walked from Edogawabashi Station up towards Akagi Shrine in Kagurazaka and the maze of little streets in between. More photos of Akagi Shrine shrouded in snow to come!
Few tourists miss out on Shinjuku, the heart of Tokyo and possibly the shopping capital of Tokyo. There are also all kinds of restaurants and entertainment, especially here in the eastern part of Shinjuku. I took these photos as the last of the sunlight was fading out and the lights and signs comes on. The New Year’s holidays have started, and it is unusually long this year, giving office workers all over the country a much needed break.
Walking around in the heart of Tokyo, the district called Shinjuku, I took these photos of the night views and Christmas decorations. The name Shinjuku (which means New Station got its name in 1634 when the building of the Edo Castle moat forced several temples and villages to shift westwards, and there was room for a new way-station on one of the main the national roads, the Koshu Kaido. The new way-station lay close to the Daimyo villa of Naito, so the area was known as Naito-Shinjuku until 1920 when it was merged with Tokyo. The old Daimyo residence is now the famous Shinjuku Gyoen park. Today Shinjuku is the place of the busiest train station in the world and the Tokyo Government buildings which makes it the capital of the capital of Japan. It is also the most popular place with tourists, maybe not as much by choice as by necessity.
With these photos I wish you all a Merry Christmas! I trust you have all had either your Christmas fried chicken, Christmas Cake or at least had a nice date with an attractive member of your preferred gender!