OBSERVATION OF THE DAY on Cherry Blossom or Hanami season.
Well no-one can say I haven’t done my utmost to get the most out of Hanami season but I think it was the walk I took in the Aoyama Cemetery that finally nailed it for me. While it is fun to search out the best photos – and I hope you enjoy the four below – it is really a time of celebration of something we take for granted much of the time – Springtime and all that it implies. Seeing people enjoying their friends and family at picnics or the lovely Hanami dances or even the multitude of traditional art on this topic reminded me that the cherry blossom is a really beautiful symbol of this time of year which is always filled with more light, new hope, endless possibilities and thoughts of the future. And, in my book, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
After getting a bit lost I finally found the canal at Meguro that you can stroll along to view the cherry blossoms at night. Full of romantic couples (and me) but nevertheless very pleasant and a whole new experience when lit up.
Night viewing of cherry blossoms along the canal at Meguro
My favourite spot to view – best blossoms and by far the least crowded was Aoyama Cemetery close to my hotel in Roppongi Hills. Not only was every corner I turned stunning, it was, like many cemeteries, a wonderful place to wander and contemplate.
Aoyama cemetery blossoms in their best environment
Next post will be full size pics of my four favourite cherry blossoms and a final observation on the whole cherry blossom thing.
Not only do people picnic and photograph the arrival of cherry blossoms but they also enjoy traditional dancing to celebrate the arrival of blossoms. Here are some of the dancers I saw walking along the river in Sumida Park a some cherry blossoms I saw there. Pay attention to the women in white with the pointed headdresses- they are dancing at a rapid pace with their sandals pointed forward the whole time – amazing balance – the guys just wear socks!
Dancers celebrate Hanami in Sumida Park
Ladies dancing on the points of their sandals in Sumida Park
Passers by in the Sumida Park enjoy traditional Hanami dancing
Cherry blossoms in Sumida Park
TIP OF THE DAY – what to buy in Japan that won’t cost an arm and a leg
If you are on a tight budget then the larger cities in Japan may not be your best bet – it is very expensive for virtually anyone visiting from any country (except possibly the Swiss!) so bargains are limited – best to spend your budget on food and sightseeing. However Japanese products are worth taking a look at. I love Onitsuka Tiger trainers and bought two new pairs – well under AUD100 and they have a very wide choice of colours. I would also recommend visiting the local brand drugstores that stock all sorts of cheap and excellent quality make up and skincare – I recommend Heroine mascara (plus their special eye make up remover) – it really does not smudge; the drugstore Shiseido range – much cheaper than department store version especially Miracle Whip make up remover and anything by Kose but especially their beautifully packaged oil reducing mini sheets. And finally a multitude of face masks in individual packets which are excellent and convenient for travel.
My new Onitsuka Tiger trainers
Am doing a lot of eating and chasing cherry blossoms -So wanted to share
Here is more Hanami – this time from Garden in National Museum of Tokyo
Enjoyed a traditional shabu shabu.
Shabu shabu in Roppongi Hills
At this restaurant you are part of the kitchen and the cooking. Well actually the chefs do all the hard work and we just ate it – phenomenal. Robitaya in Roppongi Hills.
Best and most entertains meal of the visit
This tiny whiskey bar seats about 7 people and boasts a permanent cat on the counter. Also whiskey was served over the biggest ice cube I’ve seen. As for whether I will ever get bored of sashimi? Nah…
More of everything I like – and I usually don’t like cats much but this one was ok.
While it is great to see the work of artists you know and love, one of the things I love about going to art galleries or museums is getting exposure to artists you’ve never heard of. So it was that I visited the Mori Art Museum at 8.30 pm on a Saturday night (yes I know, get a life!)mostly because I wanted to see the space itself (I’ve never been to an art museum on the 54th floor of a building before) and also to take in the night view over Tokyo. Then I saw the guest exhibit was by N S Harsha an artist based in Mysore (Mysuru) and was truly stunned with his work. My absolute favorite is the final painting below – a true masterpiece.
Much of it has social commentary built into it but he also displays a love for his local community and the people in it. As a result you will see he paints a lot of people and each one is different. In the second set of extracts from four massive paintings he actually painted over 1000 people and again they are all different and some are quite funny (see the grumpy Batman clad guy?) He is also interested in sleep’s restorative powers so people sleeping appear quite often.
N S Harsha – people sleeping and is that the Opera House I see around the man’s neck?
1000 people – a masterful canvas
And here you see something different again – huge installations in incredible detail. The one with the sewing machines shows different flags being made on one side but blank on the other – questioning the meaning of “nationhood” and whether a constant flag can really represent changing nations adequately.
Sewing machines, t shirts and cows
The painting below is huge and covers a gigantic wall and at a distance looks like it was painted in massive brush stroke but as you see from the detailed shot below it is actually made up of thousands of tiny stars and planets. Just fantastic.
N S Harsha paints infinity
And for those wondering about the Tokyo night views from the 54th floor – here they are.
Tokyo glittering by night from on high
For those who enjoy cherry blossoms I am going to provide some sample pics over the next few days and then finish with my four best shots. Here are some shots from Ueno Park over the weekend where many young people meet up with friends and enjoy full day picnics to celebrate Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) – come rain come shine as you can see.
Nothing, including cold and rain, stops people enjoying the cherry blossom season
Another way of viewing cherry blossoms in the dry and warmth is to visit the National Museum of Tokyo where you can find a range of art incorporating blossoms. It is hard to express what a big deal this is over here but hopefully the photos over the next few days will do that. It is stunning although I’m going to miss the very best days.
Classic Japanese art – just gorgeous
Now in Tokyo and as this is my 3rd leisure visit here I’m going to be focusing on two priorities while I’m here for four days – art and cherry blossoms – and food of course but you’d be expecting that. I’m staying at the Grand Hyatt Roppongi Hills – which is a new location for me and easily accessible by subway to the things I want to see. It is also on top of a very large shopping centre so I’m happy;)
For those who’ve been following this blog for a while you may recall my excitement when visiting MONA in Hobart to find a Yayoi Kusama exhibit. She is a wonderful Japanese artist who is especially famous for her love of polka dots and she is still going strong at 87. So I was especially thrilled to see that there was a large exhibit of her new works entitled My Eternal Soul at the National Art Centre in Tokyo very close to my hotel. Hope you enjoy this selection of her work as much as I loved my visit. It’s the first time I’ve seen so much of her work in one place and I was very excited about that.
Polka dots everywhere. Yayoi Kusama wows in her mega room of new works
Polka dots in all Kusama playful sculptures- you can’t help but smile
A few samples of the dozens of paintings exhibited. I want one!
and here is my haul of Kusama goodies to take home. Hand Towel (check), Tea Towel (check), iPhone cover (check), plastic zip folder (check), key ring (check)
My very own collection of Kusama memorabilia
TIP OF THE DAY – by far the easiest way to travel around Tokyo is by subway – it is fast, efficient and clean – and of course everything is on time. Wherever you get on just find the large subway map above the ticket machines, find the stop you are heading to and the price of the fare will be labeled on the map. Then , select your fare, throw in your money and out pops the correct ticket. An app I am very fond of for large cities is Citymapper as you just have to input the name of a place you want to visit or an address if you know it and it will immediately provide you with a variety of public transport options and how long it will take you to get to your venue. (Walking and driving options too but public transport is the one I think is most useful). I use it a lot in London and NYC too where they cover tube, rail and buses and it is now available for Tokyo too.