22 February, 2008

Ume (Prunus Mume) / Yushima Tenjin shrine

Ume flower is often described as a harbinger of spring in Japanese literature or songs. The combination of "Ume and Uguisu[Japanese Nightingale]" is very popular as a golden battery that marks the end of winter. During Sunday morning walking with Lee, I found some Ume flowers began to bloom. Although the cold weather has been continuing even now, spring is actually coming here in Tokyo.

I had heard the Ume Matsuri[Ume festival] was held in the yard of the Yushima Tenjin, so Lee and I went there to see the Ume bloosoms.

The temprature has been still cool and there were some snow remaining on the pavement (11th Feb.).

Yushima Tenjin is famous shrine that enshrines Sugawara-no-Michizane. Michizane was a top ranking elite bureaucrat in Heian-era who excelled in scholarship, and now a day, he's defined as Tenjin-sama or Kami[God] of academics. At the end of his life, he fell into a political trap of his rival and demoted to the officer of far west area. At the day of departure, he made a "waka"[short poem] regarding Ume flower.
"Kochi hukaba nioiokoseyo Ume no hana, nushinasitote haru wo wasuruna" [When you feel the east wind, Ume flower, remind yourself to bloom, even if I am not there. (I'm so sorry my terrible translation)].
According to his regend, an Ume tree, which was loved by Michizane, flied out to his far west house from Kyoto (the regend of Tobi-Ume[flying Ume]). Ume flowers thus became to be recognized as the theme flower of Tenjin shrines (Tenman-gu) across Japan.

Since he is a Kami of scholorship, many students preparing for their college/highschool entrance exam visit there and pray for their success. Students hang Ema[wooden plaque] in which their wishes were written.
It was a entrance exam season, thus so many Emas were hanging there.(11rd Feb.)

And , below is the photo taken on 17th Feb. Students who succeed their exam visit to thank Tenjin-sama for thier success.

Anyway, it was too early to enjoy full bloomed Ume bloosoms.
We'll try to get there again in the end of Februaly. Ume Matsuri will be held until early March.

Yushima Tenjin is near by the University of Tokyo. The closest station is Yushima of Chiyoda-line(Tokyo Metro).

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07 February, 2008

Snow day

When I woke up last Sunday morning, I found the heavy snow was falling thick and fast outside. Weather reporter said it would be a record snowfall in Tokyo.

I wore my ski jacket & cap, put Lee on a raincoat, then brought out him to the snow covered land.

Generally, dogs are said that they like snow. In the lyrics of a Japanese famous nursery rhyme about snowfall says "a dog is excited and dashing around the yard, while a cat crawls into Kotatsu* ". But, Lee did not seem to enjoy the snowfall so much.

Lee, you dogs love snowfall, don't you?
"No, I'm NOT that kinda guy."

"I hate the feeling the snow is melting on my head."

"Are you satisfied, Shige? OK, let's get home."

The snowfall had continued all day long.

My daughter had a Kanji Kentei (Kan-ken: Chinese character proficiency test) at Ochanomizu University in the afternoon, and I went there with her. It was the first time for me to walk in this campus since it was a women's university. However, I could not walk around the campus because of the heavy snow. I was just reading and waiting in another room while she was struggling with her exam. So, regrettably, I cannot describe the image or atmosphere of this university. The only photo I could take is the below one.

How was the exam?"
"Not so bad."

The result of the exam will be send to her next month.

* Kotatsu: A heater-installed low table covered with blanket. It could be a dangerous item for you. Once you were trapped into it, you could not get out easily :)


02 February, 2008

The Koishikawa Korakuen Garden/ Korakuen, Bunkyo ward

Last Friday, I had a day off to have an annual medical check-up. The check-up was finished earlyer than I expected. It was a clear sunny day. I found there were no clouds in the sky when I left the clinic. I realized there was a famous garden near the clinic, and its a good chance to enjoy walking. So I dashed back home, grabbed my camera and hurryed back to the garden where I had wanted to enter for a long time (previouse post regarding this garden is here).
The Korakuen garden. When most of the Japanese hear this place-name Korakuen, it might reminds them (including me) the Korakuen amusement park or the baseball park. But originally, this place-name was named after the Korakuen garden. In edo era, this place was the garden of the mantion owened by the important and influential Daimyo (feudal loard), Mito-Tokugawa family.

As soon as you enter the garden, you will see the big dome roof of the baseball park and the building of Bunkyo City Hall. Its a bit disappointed view, but you'll forget those soon.

Engetsukyo bridge.

This stone bridge has been there since this garden's opening (17 centuries).

Shiraitonotaki falls.

There is a big pond in the center of the garden. I heard that, in edo era, the owner and his guest had enjoyed boating on this pond

Unlike the other Japanese garden in Tokyo, e.g. Rikugien (please see the previous post), Koishikawa Korakuen has some artificial hills.

The picture below is the ruin of Saigyo-dou. Unfortunatery, some of wooden architecture were lost in fire during the World war II.

This is a Saigyo-dou photo taken 70 years ago.

Gardian dog still has been guarding the site.

Although the garden is located in the center of Tokyo, I could find some Kosagi (Egretta garzetta) came flying.

I fully enjoyed a peaceful afternoon.

The closest station of this garden is Korakuen station(Tokyo Metro Marunouchi-line, Nanboku-line).

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