blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Parks and gardens of Tokyo

I took the Hanzomon (Z) Line to Otemachi in order to see the Imperial Palace Gardens, but to my disappointment they are closed on Mondays. Therefore I stayed this side of the Sakurada Moat and palace walls to walk through the Outer Garden on the pebbled footpaths, admiring the pale, soft, dried up lawns under the ornamental pines. By crossing busy Uchibori Dori I could access another green space, the Hibiya Park, with fountains, ponds and an open-air stage at the centre. One corner of this park used to be a burial ground long ago, and with reference to this terracotta figures stood in the flower bed. There was a small hillock where more pines grew, their trunks decorated with a sash, or obi, made of straw, and labelled with their botanical names in Latin. Ornamental cabbages and flowering pansies were growing in neat rows near the tennis courts where women were playing sets with one another; perhaps their husbands were those gentlemen I saw striding purposefully towards their lunch venues in their dark suits.

I followed some of these gentlemen into a Trattoria on the ground floor of the Press Centre and was served a salad, a teacup of cream of pumpkin soup, a pile of spaghetti drenched in pesto sauce and a strong cup of Italian coffee. This meal cost the same as my hotel breakfast but was a better deal, the “continental” breakfast having been two slices of toast with jam with coffee and juice, preceded by a green salad in a vinegary dressing with shredded carrot and lots of onions. I was interested to watch my fellow diners at lunch time, the women as smart as the men, except that their face masks rather spoiled the effect as they came in. They took them off, of course, while eating.

Afterwards a long search for a Post Office led me under the railway lines (along more busy streets) to the Shinabashi “City Centre” around the Shiodome, an ultra modern shopping mall-cum-office block complex, tall trees in the glass covered basement, skyscrapers scores of floors high and people walking & riding the escalators like little model figures in an architect's maquette. There I found a lady in a print shop who sketched a map for me to show me where the nearest post office was so that I could finally buy some stamps for my postcards. (Not that I've found many postcards yet, either.)

By following my nose and the walkway signs that were translated into English I made my way under flyovers and across wide roads at ground level into the haven of the Hama Rikyu Garden, once owned by a Shogun in the Edo period of Japanese history and later by the Imperial Family who donated this piece of land to the City of Tokyo after it had been “dilapidated” (i.e. destroyed) first by a Great Earthquake and secondly, I'm afraid, by 2nd World War bombers. It was restored by the City. It was a lovely place, as I'd guessed when I spotted it from the river cruise yesterday, full of bending pines, salt water ponds (fed by a tidal stream through a sluice gate) and walkways including a sea wall and a path up a little mound called Little Mount Fuji. Ducks and a heron fished in the ponds and on an islet in one there was a Tea House I may return to when I'm not so full of coffee. A bridal couple, the girl in a red kimono, was having photos taken and big birds of prey, eagles maybe, were fighting a noisy battle with the ravens.

I caught the river boat from the landing stage where we'd pulled in before and sailed back to Asakusa from where I know how to get back to the hotel.

The dogs of Tokyo have their own designated playgrounds, by the way. There's one by the riverside, a long, thin, fenced off area with an artificial lawn where they can chase balls to their hearts content and where their owners have to clean up after them, closely supervised by a uniformed officer. I didn't see any dogs in the other parks.

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