Although the Tokyo official sakura season is still not declared there are a few early bloomers here and there around the capital. I walked through Hibiya Park which is about as downtown as you can get in central Tokyo and found that spring was already coming along nicely probably a week or two earlier than the rest of the city. Cherry trees were blooming, lots of other flowers as well, and the wildlife was coming back to the ponds and wetlands in the park. I saw newts, lizards, turtles and even a couple of egrets hunting for food!
What today is Hibiya park started out as the private gardens of several different feudal lords. When the Emperor took control of the country in the 1860s, the old feudal lords were ordered to leave the capital and the area around Hibiya park was mostly abandoned. In 1871 the military moved in and placed barracks and gunpowder storage in the old gardens. The military eventually left and the government started planning a new kind of park in the location of the old parade grounds. Before the end of the century the new Japanese government had sent out hundreds of young scholars around the world to study hard and bring home the latest in all art and sciences, on of these men was Honda Seiroku who had studied landscaping in Germany and was placed on the design committee of one of the first western style parks in the country. Hibiya Park was officially declared open in 1903.
The park has seen quite a lot of the modern history of Japan, it has been the base of a military mutiny, riots and demonstrations, it has been turned into a refugee shelter and temporary burial ground after earthquakes and during the war all of the flower beds were turned over to growing potatoes and the metal in the park railing and statues were confiscated for military use. After the war some of the buildings were occupied by the US Navy as headquarters. Today it is surrounded by the head offices of several banks and newspapers as well as three government ministries. When people in Japan think about park, it is usually the Hibiya Park that comes to mind!
One of the more interesting buildings in the park is the old park management office built in 1910 in the German Bungalow style. Right next to it is a more recent restaurant building in a slightly similar manner.
Feeding birds seems to be an almost universal pastime for the elderly of all nations on Earth. Here is a gentleman that I met in Yokohama who was kind enough to allow my photography as he was feeding the local gulls one fine afternoon in the sun. When I get to be his age I hope I can return the favor and do my share of bird feeding as well!
A just over two months ago I was taking a walk along Tokyo’s Sumida River and sat down to eat some bread in the warm spring sun. It didn’t take long before I was surrounded with some fabulously healthy looking birds. I think a healthy city has healthy looking birds! I know this is nothing special to do with Tokyo, but it’s great fun and good practice to go out and “shoot” some bird portraits every now and then. Some of these birds were so close I could have touched them! I know a lot of people don’t like pigeons so I only include one pigeon photo, but personally I love them.
Please forgive me for posting even more photos of the birds of prey that Kamakura and Enoshima are so famous for! They’re just to photogenic! I brought out my 500m lens for last weeks trip to Kamakura and couldn’t stop myself from taking more snaps of these magnificent birds! Sadly though, there were quite a few people who hadn’t bothered reading the warning signs and more than one bento box (lunch box) exploded in scraps of rice and meat as these birds dive bombed hapless families and hungry couples left and right. These photos might not be as spectacular as the ones I took a couple of years ago, but they’ll do for this time!