Tokyobling's Blog

The Sannou Matsuri

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 13, 2014

This week Tokyo is celebrating one of the main festivals of the metropolitan area, the grand Sannou Matsuri based on the Hie Shrine in the center of Tokyo. The festival is not a “people’s” festival as such, it focuses more on the ritual and religious aspects of the festivals hence tend to be cleaner, quieter and not as noisy as the more common plebeian festivals. The main event of the Sannou Maturi is a very long, very protracted procession taking place on a large area of central Tokyo, including Hibiya and Shimbashi. You can read more about this festival by clicking the tags!

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Hibiya Park in the Spring

Posted in Animals, Nature, Places by tokyobling on March 24, 2014

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.

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Kuozei – Hibiya Park Food Fair

Posted in Places by tokyobling on March 22, 2014

If you are in Tokyo over the weekend I recommend a visit to the Kuozei, food fair in Hibiya Park. Over 100 booths representing 25 prefectures in Japan showing traditional as well as new food specialities. The biggest participant is Hokkaido, with the majority of booths, crabs, steaks and ramen and much more. The food fair goes on from 10 to 18 today and tomorrow.

One of my favorites was the Unagiimo booth from Shizuoka Prefecture, which was new to me, combining unagipie and sweet potato. The cakes and the pudding was great and I loved their character, Unamo, half eel, half potato. The unagiimo is potatos grown using the fertilizer made from left overs from the massive eel as food processing industry in Shizuoka prefecture. Rather than throwing it away, the left overs are recycled in the potato fields. A worthwhile project, a cute character and some very nice desserts – what is not to like?

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Hibiya Park Bonodori Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on August 10, 2013

Tonight is the second and final day of the bonodori festival in Tokyo’s central Hibiya Park. It is the biggest bonodori festival in Tokyo and the organizers expect 20 000 dancers and tourists every day. Apart from the dancing that takes place around the massive fountain in the middle of the park there is also live enka singing and plenty of food and drinks. I visited last night and took these photos. The sheer size of the festival makes it a difficult event to photography but I did my best! I also took part in the charity lottery event, for 300 yen you get a ticket and a tenugui (the green handkerchief you can see in some of the photos). The ticket is a relatively easy win, about 125 prizes for 1000 tickets! Alas, I didn’t win anything this year. If you are interested in taking part in the lottery I recommend buy a ticket the first thing you do when you arrive, they sell out early. Even if you lose the money goes to charity so it’s a win-win for everyone. Besides 300 yen for a custom tenugui is pretty cheap as souvenirs go! As usual the dancing is accompanied by live taiko drummers. Even though today and tonight looks like near record levels of heat (the weather symbol this morning was not a sun – it was clothes tumbler, and I have been in cooler saunas that the outside hear this morning) it is always great to get out and about on the weekends here in Tokyo. Enjoy!

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