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SOLO JAPAN II 14.-28.3.2004.
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conclusion of my trip | photo gallery II

Photo copyright Ude
A memorable view: the majestic snow capped Fuji-san looming in the background of Tokyo.
Saturday, 27th of March 2004

Day Fourteen:
Cherry-blossom viewing

"Oh my God, I can see Mt. Fuji!!"

That was what I shouted when I opened the curtains and saw the sleeping volcano with my bare eyes all the way from Tokyo. I instantly grabbed my camera and took several photos of the beautifully snow capped mountain in the distance. I was so thrilled of finally seeing this famous landmark of Japan and I couldn't have imagined a better start for the day.

Today was a perfect day for hanami or cherry-blossom viewing, the annual nature event the Japanese look forward to every spring. It has been impossible not to notice this in recent morning programs where they have been monitoring the arrival of cherry-blossom in different parts of Japan. The cherry-blossom had started unusually early this year, which was just fine with me.

Choosing the locations for today

Kamakura - an important historical city and major tourist spot a hour train ride away from Tokyo - was one location we considered to go, but then we the came to the conclusion it probably is jam packed with people today, so we decided not to go there after all. Ueno park - the biggest one in Tokyo - was guaranteed to be crowded with people too, so we decided to settle for a some smaller parks around the city.

We took a local train and got off a station that was near our first destination. The rather modest park had lots of cherry trees blooming for the delight of the Japanese. A lot of people had spread plastic blankets on the ground to sit on while eating, drinking and enjoying the spring weather and cherry-blossoms. Some even had set up tents and there were some individuals who had "reserved" large spots of the park in advance (usually for company colleagues). There were also pizza delivery men scouting the area for potential customers.

We walked around the small park for a while before heading for a small garden area named Kyu-Furukawa. There were less people around probably because it had an entrance fee (150 yen) and there weren't many cherry trees around. It was a decent park, however.

Brilliant cherry-blossoms

We moved on to a third park which was the biggest of the three and it had a lot of fantastic cherry trees in full bloom. I was also a bit surprised Tokyo did after all have a park where you could (almost) isolate yourself from the concrete jungle. There were lots people here too, though.

We wandered around the park and we had some dango rice dumplings as a snack before leaving. Shiho then decided to show me a temple near by she used to visit years ago.

The temple was located along a small but busy market street. It was again interesting to see that people of all ages visited the temple. I don't know what the level of their "faith" is, but at least it does seem to live in many people's daily lives more than christianity does for Finns like me.

One special attraction of the temple was a buddhist statue on the side of the temple which is believed to give protection against diseases and illnessess. Visitors take a small towel, soak it with water and wash a part of the buddhist statue they want protection in themselves (head, arms, stomach etc.). The statue was so popular the temple had built a waiting line fence next to it.

I bought some omamoris (small textile pouches which contain a blessing written on a slip of paper) before making our way back to Shiho's apartment.

Pizza and the daily review

Back at the apartment we were caught lazy and ordered some pizza, which were rather small and salty compared to the pizzas back home. And not as a surprise it was the most greasy meal I had during the whole trip.

The rest of the evening went by preparing my stuff in advance for tomorrow's return back to Finland. I was glad (and lucky) to see the cherry-blossom during the closing stages of my trip. It certainly is a spirit lifter for the Japanese and a characteristic part of Japan along with the autumn leaves.

And seeing Fuji-san earlier truly made this a classic spring day in Japan. Beautiful.

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Photo copyright Ude
People relaxing in a small park by enjoying the fine weather and cherry-blossom or sakura.

Photo copyright Ude
One of the most spectacular cherry trees in full bloom.

Photo copyright Ude
A small bridge from the last park we visited during the day.

Photo copyright Ude
A monk collecting alms next to a temple entrance.

Japan Meteorological Agency - Here you can find every year sometime around March a forecast for the cherry-blossom around Japan.
Kyu-Furukawa Teien - One of the parks we visited during the day.
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