One of the often overlooked but essentially Japanese experiences is the slow train journey through the Japanese countryside in summer. One of the reasons I get to travel around so much in Japan is that I don’t mind spending hours and hours on the train, just staring out the window. A year and a half ago I took these photos while traveling through northern Gunma prefecture, between Minakami and Takasaki. It is difficult to get good photos through a moving train window but I still had to share these with you. The landscape in these photos are absolutely typical of the countryside, with the buildings, the bamboo forests, the distant mountains, village stations and much more. Just looking at these photos makes my heart ache for the next train journey through the summer Japan I love so much! Oh, and can you spot the real life house of Satsuki and Mei from the animated movie “My Neighbor Totoro” (となりのトトロ) in the sixth photo? Doesn’t it look just like in the movie? I could live here, just a couple of hundred meters past the Gokan station in Minakami-cho. Don’t miss the slow train when you visit Japan next!
Tokyo might not have a lot of greenery per capita, but we do have quite a few parks, just smaller and more intensive than most other capitals around the world. I have blogged before about the oldest public park in Tokyo and here is the oldest private park, the Korakuen (actually the full name is 小石川後楽園, Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, but most people know it by the shorter name adopted by the nearby station and fair ground). Construction of the park was begun in 1629 as the private garden of the lord Tokugawa and his clan and is very clearly influenced on the gardens of Hangzhou in China, due to the Tokugawa patronage of a Chinese scholar, Zhu Shun Shui, who had escaped China to seek refuge in Japan. The park was opened to the public in the 1930′s but was severely damaged by the fire bombings of March 1945. Due to old age of many of the trees in the park the autumn leaves display of color gets pretty spectacular and it is a favorite spot of Tokyo people to view the changing of the seasons. Here’s a few photos I took, but I will post more during the week. I hope you enjoy!