Monday, 1 April 2013

Cherry blossoms

After a lovely sleep (which was broken off too early because Dad forgot to change his alarm from Cairns time), we headed out for a quick walk to orient ourselves. We found some beautiful little houses and businesses close by with the prettiest miniature gardens out the front - usually just a few pot plants, but incredibly colourful. We then had a very Western breakfast at the cafe attached to the hotel - toast with eggs and bacon, slathered in too much kewpie mayonnaise. It was quite delicious!


Then we met Kinjiro, who had come all the way back into the city to spend the day with us. He was a superb guide. Japan has had unseasonably warm weather which meant the cherry blossom bloomed about two weeks earlier than usual. We were panicking back in Melbourne because we thought we would miss it, but our fears were instantly allayed at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. This is a massive and beautiful park, right in the middle of one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world. It is an oasis of beauty and calm.

There were many families out today - it was beautifully sunny and is also school holidays. We took our time wandering up and down the park (it's enormous and we didn't see the whole lot), particularly through the Japanese traditional garden. We bought bento boxes for lunch, and Margaret bought some sweets that were scented like cherry blossom. We stopped to eat out lunch in the pergola overlooking the pond, filled with ducks and turtles and colourful carp.

This blog is fast becoming food porn.

It was a truly surreal experience. Because the cherry blossom has been in bloom for a while, the petals were falling constantly. It was like walking through a fine, pink snow. There wasn't even a proper breeze - the petals are lighter than air and just float to the ground very peacefully. We saw these amazing bald cypress trees that are jutting out of the ground and look like twisted hands. Or fairy castles. Or something out of Lord of the Rings.

Afterwards, we headed to a traditional Japanese handicrafts centre. The things in here were so delicate and finely crafted, with such painstaking care. They were quite expensive, but I still bought up big. It would be easy to find cheaper knock-offs at the markets, which look just as good, but buying from the handicrafts centre means I know they are genuine, and you get a little information slip with the items that tells you a bit about them. Meanwhile, Dad ran off to the Honda factory and had a lovely time. After a quick rest and a drink, we then headed off on the train again to the Tayasu Gate, one of the gates to Edo Castle. This is another beautiful place, filled with cherry blossom, and we went a bit snap-happy, as you can see on my Facebook album.

People had rented boats and were going up and down the river, surrounded by the petals on the water. By this time we were pretty tired, so we headed back to the hotel for a coffee and bid goodbye to Kinjiro, without whom this day wouldn't have been nearly as wonderful. I am truly touched by his generosity.

Now I'm sitting here resting and updating my pictures, but Dad and I are going to head off soon for dinner with Dad's friend, Keiko, and her sister. I'll write again soon!

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