Sunday, December 11, 2011


Inspired by our visit to Japan, we watched Kagemusha, an old film by Kurosawa. The visuals were fabulous: interiors that mirrored the style of the museums, traditional buildings, and gardens that we toured. Or did the traditional buildings and well-kept gardens mirror the movie sets? Maybe.

The action scenes with huge armies marching and fighting and horses speeding past the blurred background were also great, as was the plot about a thief rescued from death to be used as the double of a deceased warlord in a great struggle.

Saturday, December 10, 2011



Netsuke Horse

--from the Tokyo National Museum


-- from a fox shrine in Ueno Park.
In Japanese mythology, foxes bring luck and money, and often have their own shrines.

Dogs and Lions

Friday, December 09, 2011

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

The original Korakuen Garden was begun in 1629; it was built for one of the Daimyos, or feudal lords appointed by the Edo Shogun. The red maple trees and other fall foliage were splendid when we visited it last Monday. The landscaping is intensely developed, with fish ponds, streams, arched bridges, a tiny artificial waterfall, pretend mountains and rivers named for real ones somewhere in Japan, stone lanterns, artificially-supported pine trees, rocky footpaths and stairways, trellised wisterias, and even a rice paddy.

As we walked we saw dozens of Japanese visitors with cameras, and one professional photo shoot featuring a couple of models dressed in kimonos and elaborate accessories. The Tokyo Dome is right next door, providing ultra-modern contrast with the ancient garden features.

Feeding the fish and ducks

Men working on the rice paddy; wisteria trellises in the background.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Tokyo Street Scenes

From the Edo Tokyo Museum: an idealized street scene from the past. . . and several street photos that I took while walking around last week:

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

University of Tokyo Campus

The University of Tokyo hosted the conference that Len attended last week; we stayed in a guest house near one of the several gates. Our gate was not decorative, only serving for security as cars drive through to the nearby University Hospital. Other gates are quite beautiful, such as the one above that frames the yellow leaves of an alley of ginko trees.

The building above is the most well-known sight on campus, our hosts explained. When there's a news story about the university, the media use this building as the representative view.

A famous location at the center of the campus is the Sanshiro Pond, originally part of a feudal estate in 17th century Edo (the old name for Tokyo). The water is quite far below the level of the rest of campus, and attracts ducks and other wildlife. When we walked down the steps to the path surrounding the pond, we felt as if we were in a rural setting rather than in the midst of a busy city.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


The gardens behind the Pagoda at Asakusa were open today, so we enjoyed a walk in the beautiful sunshine. A young woman dressed in a kimono-like blouse and jeans served us some green tea as we were walking.

From the Temple steps we could see the huge incense burner, where crowds of people were trying to breathe in the smoke. Similarly, many people were drinking the water at the fountain, and throwing coins into the huge offering trays.

We also walked through the large shopping area around the temple.

Water Taxi Ride on the Sumida River

Here we are walking on the Azumabashi bridge after our water taxi ride. Behind us is the famous Asahi brewery building, designed by a French architect. I think the thing on top looks like one of those large Japanese radishes, but it's supposed to be a golden flame.

We had very good luck because our volunteer guide to the Edo-Tokyo Museum explained to us where to get the water taxi, looked up the schedule, and then walked us to the dock so we could buy tickets on a boat that was leaving 15 minutes later. We really wanted to take a boat ride, but were afraid we couldn't figure it out.