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January 2010 Archives

January 3, 2010

Enjoying Winter Peonies at Ueno's Toshogu Shrine


Akemashite Omedetoo! Happy New Year!

2010 is the year of the tiger. If you're lucky enough to be in Japan over the New Years holiday, you can observe many traditions associated with getting the year off to a good start. During the first 3 days of January, most people enjoy eating "osechi ryori" or special New Years dishes with their (extended) family, and visit famous shrines to pray for prosperity and health in the new year. Stalls are set up to sell "omamori" or good luck charms for avoiding traffic accidents, illness and other calamities. At this biggest holiday of the year, many people dress up in kimono, although less common among young people.

In Tokyo, the streets are almost empty at the beginning of January because many Tokyoites escape the metropolis to visit relatives or fly overseas for a holiday -- so it's ideal for sightseeing by bicycle! As a bonus, the lack of smog means it's the best time to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji to the west from any high point in Tokyo.



One day trip I highly recommend is Ueno Park next to JR Ueno station - you can explore the National Museums and the Zoo any time of the year, but January is when you can enjoy "fuyu botan" or winter peonies in Peony Park (Botan-en) inside Ueno's Toshogu Shrine grounds. The many gorgeous blooms in red, pink and white are an unexpected and welcome sight on a cold or gloomy day in January. Each plant is protected from the chill by a straw canopy - which reminds me of the woven straw capes people used to wear long ago. You can walk among the peonies and winter cherry blossoms and then sit on a bench covered with festive red cloth and warm up with a drink of "ama-zake" or sweet sake. Toshogu shrine was built in 1627 and enshrines the spirit of the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.


Ueno Toshogu Shrine website in Japanese
When: January 1 to mid-February
Entrance fee: 600 yen
Hours: 9:30am to 4:30pm
Tea house with ama-zake (hot, sweet sake)
Location: Ueno Toshogu-shrine is located west of Ueno JR station near the zoo. Take the Park Exit (Koen-guchi). Map
Ueno Park information in English

January 23, 2010

Bilingual Atlas of TOKYO

I recently found a great bilingual map of Tokyo, It's so useful even in Japanese that it's now my main map I carry around when I bike.
"Bilingual Altas of TOKYO", by Tokyo Chizu Publishing (ISBN : 4808509512) is a 1:10,000 scale map (which is a rather detailed map) that covers most of the 23 wards. Major terminal areas are covered in an even larger scaled map. Of course, all city names, area names, stations, streets, and landmarks are written both in English and Japanese. I haven't seen any other bilingual map of this detail, in pocket size and easy carry around.
What's more, an English index included at the end of the altas where city names, facilitiy names, station names can be looked up easily. There's even a section listing points of interest to visit is various areas in Tokyo.

One let-down is that the map is only sold on Amazon Japan. Not sure if you can purchase it from outside Japan.

About January 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Cycle Tokyo ! Weblog in January 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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