Like any city on a Friday night, Tokyo was full of groups of young office workers off to enjoy themselves. But here they are so smiling and happy looking! Perhaps it was because the cherry blossoms at night look so good along the river near the Bentei bridge. After a long day of flights and a bit of hassle getting our special SIM card to work, it was great to stroll and absorb the atmosphere.
We picked a restaurant at random and it was a great first experience of eating in Tokyo. A branch of Akasaka Imahan famous for sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu.
We tried the sukiyaki. Thin slices of wagu beef – some fillet cooked at the table and dipped in raw egg, served with pickles, then wonderful vegetables. The starters were works of art themed on cherry blossom and our waitress so belpful in explaining what to eat with what.
Jet lag hit us next morning and we missed breakfast at our hotel, so we headed on the metro to Ameyokocho Market for some street food lunch before going joining the throngs in Ueno park for Sakura or cherry blossom viewing. Everywhere we looked families were picnicking with their shoes off neatly on the ground. We spotted a few ladies on traditional kimonos and some who were receiving instruction before a show. Babies were being photographed especially if it was their first cherry blossom season. Dogs too featured widely. There are rules – do not touch the blossoms, do not drop litter and a large fat cherry blossom mascot helps enforce them!
The National Museum is at the top of the park, full of wonderful Japanese treasures, but we were lucky enough to arrive just as a demonstration of wood block printing was about to begin. Before our eyes, a woman creating the famous The Great Wave by Hokusai. When she finished it , it was passed round for us all to handle just as people would have done when they were produced in the Edo period. We were then able to go and see more Ukiyo-e prints which were on display in the museum, many with a cherry blossom theme. The kimonos on display are works of art and hour and hours of stitching.
When we left it was getting dark and the blossoms looked very different with the lanterns lit. After last night’s top notch meal, our random choice was more street food – well timed as the rain came on so we headed back to our hotel in Akasaka, pretty shattered after a very full day’s sightseeing. The metro definitely is easier than I expected. The map is very complicated at first, but once broken down into chunks, it is manageable. So clean everywhere and no graffiti at all – a huge contrast to so many other big cities. Special spring celebration displays are everywhere – some more kitch than others!
Today we were up earlier and off to the Imperial Palace Gardens for more cherry blossom viewing. We spotted the British Embasssy and saw about 20 classic soft top Porsche roadsters cruising past!
We had planned to go into the museum, but strolling in the gardens and people watching was more fun. Then we headed to the main station to book our bullet train tickets from Sendai to Hakodate on Hokkaido in four weeks time! Straightforward as the staff a Japan Rail are very helpful and speak good English. Next on to Midtown, very upmarket shopping complex surrounded by some lovely cherry trees. We visited the Fuiji Photography museum which had the best photos of the blossoms from all over Japan. Set a high barrier for me to aim at! Finally the Suntory Museum of Art to see an exhibition of another great artist of the Edo period – Kawanabe Kyosai. It is entitled “Nothing escaped his brush” and shows the great range of subject matter and methods he used.
Dogs are everywhere. Lots in clothes, including one in a pram wearing a set of spectacles. We saw a dog spa and hotel complex with organic dog treats and dogs being groomed with their own view of the blossoms!
The Olympics are only 500 days away now and mascots, posters and souvenirs are already here. The Japanese are already extremely polite, but there are posters on the metro reminding them to be so.
There are many self serve restaurants but tonight we ate in one where you ordered your meal on a machine and paid the bill and then it was brought to your table. Very clean, fairly healthy and tasty food! We also found out that one of the green vegetables we ate yesterday was edible chrysanthemum! https://www.yayoiken.com/en/about/
So a whirlwind, memorable, cherry blossom filled weekend and a great start to our Japanese trip.