Category Archives: general

Walking Tour #1: Marunouchi and around the Imperial Palace

Quick history review: The Tokyo of today started out as a small, isolated bit of land in an almost completely encircled bay. It was a tiny village called Edo. In 1603, the ruling shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, took command of Japan and moved the center of civil and military control from Kyoto to Edo. He (and his sucessors) built a castle, moats, canals, walls to fortify his residence, and layed the groundwork for our modern day Tokyo.

To fund the growth of the city, the shogun had his inner and outer daimyo (weathly land owners) live for 2 years at a time in Edo, then they would cycle out and go back to their families and country farms. The difference between and inner and outer lords, were that the inner daimyo were loyal before the takeover, the outer ones figured it out too late. As a result, these most trusted inner lords had the more desirable locations in the new city– closest to the new castle, closest to the seat of power, in the area between the inner and outer moats.

The rule of the shogun ended in 1868, when Emperor Meiji came to power. Edo was renamed to To (east) Kyo (capital) and the daimyo were sent back to their home provinces. The land between the moats was used for government offices and military training grounds. 

Today, Marunouchi, is the financial center of Tokyo. 

Our first walk took us through the streets of Marunouchi, which literally translates to within the moats.

    

The Dai Ichi Insurance Building was built in 1938. Interesting note: at the end of WWII, General MacArthur had his Allied forces headquarters in this building from 1945-1951.

 Kusunoki Masashige was a 14th century samurai, a loyal defender of the Emperor.. 

Tatsumi-yagura, is a two-storey high keep at the easternmost corner of the Imperial Grounds, also part of the outer moat system.     

Build-A-Bear… In Japan!

For Annie’s birthday, we took a trip about 15 miles away for our home to Yokohama, which is a city that has the Cup Noodle Museum, an amusement park, and an assortment of malls and shopping centers. Although Yokohama has so much to offer, we hopped in the car and drove out there for one main reason: Build-A-Bear. Annie and I have loved Build-A-Bear since our very first trip and now that it came to Tokyo, we had to go and see it. It is like how they have always been, you pick a bear, you stuff the bear, you dress the bear, name it, and take it home. This process is slightly harder in a foreign language but we managed to make it through and get sheeps, since it is the year of the sheep. The Build-A-Bears in Japan are exactly like the ones in the U.S., from the Stuff Me machines to the Name Me kiosks. They even use the same Heart-Warming ritual. I love Build-A-Bear and how it reminds me that I’m not too old to still get things like Build-A-Bears.

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Merry Christmas w/ a Tokyo Twist

Since we are one of the first up on Santa’s annual world tour, we figured we would substitute more of an appetizer offering (with a slight Tokyo/Japanese twist) in lieu of the traditional milk and cookies.

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Merry Christmas to all…and to all a good night!

Mikan Picking

My favorite stop on the tour was at a small orchard on the side of a hill near Odawara. We spent part of an hour, outside, picking mikan. Mikan is the Japanese version of the clementine or satsuma mandarin. They are sweet and seedless, and are in season now. And, at our house, we go through a couple dozen a week.

The little orange citrus fruits have a beautiful view of Sagami Bay:

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Fuji-san

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It was one of those lovely clear, crisp days in Tokyo today. I went to pick mikan and visit Odawara Castle (more on that later). Along the way, we were treated to a beautiful view of Mount Fuji.