We tested our train navigation skills today by making our way to the Rikugien Gardens near Komagome Station. Yuki had suggested that we visit them.
I use an App on my iPhone called MetrO when we are away as it provides guidance for public transport systems in virtually every major city in the world. You just enter your starting point and desired destination and the app then calculates the most effective route to get there. I’m not sure that it has been updated for the newish iPhone 6 as it occasionally seems to revert to a previous destination rather than the one I am currently trying to get to. I hadn’t noticed that it had done that today until we got off one train to change to another on a different line. I realised that it was taking us to somewhere I had researched as a future destination rather than the correct one. However a quick bit of back-tracking for a few stations and a change to a different railway line on to one of Tokyo’s maze of subways had us walk out of the station right at the entrance to the gardens.
The Rikugien Gardens are built around a large lake. The name “Rikugien” refers to a system for dividing Chinese poetry into six categories. This system also influenced the division of Japanese Waka poetry as well.They gardens were created in 1792 to reflect the Waka poems by the then shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi’s trusted confidante Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu. I’m sorry to say that my ignorance of Japanese and my lack of cultural understanding prevents me from appreciating the symbolism of the plantings, bridges and very organised rocks but I did like the scenery of the gardens very much.
This garden is apparently a typical example of the famous gardens of the Japanese Edo Period (1606 – 1888). Later, this garden became a second residence of the founder of Mitsubishi, Iwasaki Yataro. In 1938, the gardens were donated to the City of Tokyo, and in 1953 they were designated as a special site of exceptional beauty and an important cultural asset.
Today was warm and humid and it was a rather long walk to one of the Japan Rail (JR) stations for us to return to Shinjuku where we are staying. We stopped at a typical little restaurant for lunch and enjoyed a cold beer and iced water. The meal of dumplings and pork with noodles was far more than we could eat.
We decided to bypass our station at Shinjuku and took the train for another three stops to Shibuya where I had been taking photos last night. I wanted to get to the Starbucks cafe opposite the station and take a photo of the crowds crossing the multi-way intersection. This is one of the busiest street crossings in Tokyo although today, Sunday, it a little less busy than normal.
Hundreds of thousands of people cross the Shibuya Crossing every day. The crossing uses a ‘scramble crossing’ system, where the pedestrian lights turn green in every direction. It’s amazing to see hundreds, or even thousands of people cross at the same time without bumping into each other as soon as the pedestrian lights turn green. Then, when the pedestrian lights turn red, cars start driving again as the road has always been clear. This is a typical example of Japan’s disciplined lifestyle in which rules are seriously obeyed and regulations followed to the letter.
Near Shibuya Crossing, there is a statue of a dog that is famous as a meeting spot. This statue called “Hachiko” is of a dog named “Hachi” and is the central character of the story in the film “HACHI” starring Richard Gere. It has long been used by many people as a meeting point. Also right in front of the Hachiko statue, there is a retro-looking streetcar called “Tamaden” that once ran through Shibuya. It’s now being used as a tourist information centre where an English speaking (resident) guide and maps in multiple languages are available. Sadly, these two items are just a little too popular and crowded to be able to get a decent photo.