14 Picnic-Perfect Hanami Spots Near Tulip Sharehouses!

Spring is now upon us and cherry blossoms are in bloom! The Tulip Team have put our heads together to present you with the best sakura viewing spots next to each and every of our share houses. Below is a list of 14 parks and places with which you wonderful ladies and gents can refer to next time you’re in town for the traditional Japanese cherry blossom viewing custom also known as hanami (花見). From lively, popular viewing spots such as Yoyogi Park in Shibuya, to serene hidden gems in the likes of Araiyakushi Park in Nakano, we’re sure you’ll find one that suits your fancy to admire the fleeting yet sensational wonder that is Japan’s sakura!

1. Nakano Central Park 中野セントラルパーク | Nakano

A brisk 12-min walk from Happy House Asian and an 18-min walk from Happy House Orange is Nakano Central Park, a dog-friendly open space lined with sakura trees, plenty of eateries (think cafes and shops), convenience stores, and, depending on the time of visit, an impressive, ever-changing collection of food trucks. Nakano Central Park is also the venue of the Cozy Culture Club’s debut hanami picnic event! Bring your own bento and join us for a FREE afternoon of language and culture exchange fun. We’ll be also grabbing freshly brewed Kirin beer at the foodtrucks nearby, so be sure to bring some change.

Interested? Sign up on Facebook or Meetup, we’d love to see you there!

Nakano Central Park 中野セントラルパーク
4 Chome 10-2 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164-0001

Nakano Station | FREE Admission

 

2. Araiyakushi Park 新井薬師公園 | Nakano

Sakura illumination at Araiyakushi Park | design_energy

For a quiet, pleasant hanami party, take a 3-min stroll down from our Happy House Vitamin Color, Araiyakushi Park is home to 24 beautiful cherry blossom trees.  The park is teeming with greenery and features a relaxing Japanese-style koi pond swimming with goldfish and carp, the Arai Yakushi Otera Temple, and a brilliant spectacle of cherry blossom illuminations during hanami season.

Araiyakushi Park 新井薬師公園
5-4 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 165-0026

Araiyakushi-mae Station | FREE Admission

 

3. Tetsugakudo Park or Temple Garden of Philosophy 哲学堂公園 | Nakano

Walk 2-min from Cozy Village Jasmine or hop on the 中41 bus heading towards Nakano Station from Happy House Herb for a 10-min ride to a  beautiful part forest and part park scenery of ponds, river, and tall trees. Testsugakudo Park, while small-scale compared to the likes of Shinjuku Gyoen and Yoyogi, the park’s 77 philosophy-inspired buildings, stonework, and pathways make for a lovely, serene afternoon stroll. Cherry blossom trees line the riverside leading to a cherry blossom circle perfect for hanami picnics. PS. Happy House Vitamin Color residents, you’re in luck with options, the park is an 18-min walk from the sharehouse!

Tetsugakudo Park 哲学堂公園
1-34-34 Matsugaoka, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 165-0024

Araiyakushi-mae Station | FREE Admission

 

4. Yoyogi Park 代々木公園 | Shibuya

While Yoyogi Park isn’t the most picturesque of parks in terms of landscape design, its wide open space ensures you won’t be fighting for inches of grass on which to layout your picnic blanket. Plus it ensures you a view of the cherry blossoms no matter where you’re seated! Psst, Witt-style Yoyogi and Witt-style Jingu residents, the park is a mere 5-10min walk from the sharehouse – leaving you ladies with no excuse NOT to go out on a hanami excursion.

Yoyogi Park 代々木公園
2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0052

Harajuku / Yoyogi-Koen / Yoyogi-Hachiman / Sangubashi / Meiji-Jingumae Station Station | FREE Admission

 

5. Setagaya Park 世田谷公園 | Setagaya

Cherry blossoms encircle the pond at Setagaya Park | kanegen

Despite mainly catering to horse-riding children (yes, there are actual horses meandering on site!), Setagaya Park is home to several beautiful gardens, lovely grassy knolls,  a center piece water fountain, and, of course, plenty of cherry blossom trees for hanami. If you are lucky, you might even stumble on an occassional flea market. Psst, this gem of a park is lcoated only a mere 10-min walk from our Witt-style Mishuku sharehouse!

Setagaya Park 世田谷公園
15-27 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 154-0001

Sangen-jaya / Ikejiri-ohashi Station | FREE Admission

 

6. Wadabori Park 和田堀公園 | Suginami

Slightly off the beaten path is the quiet, lush greenery of Wadabori Park, a natural enclave from the city’s hustle and bustle. Happy House Kamikitazawa residents, take a perfectly doable 15-20min breezy afternoon bike ride from the share house and lose yourself in the leafy shades, and unwind with a stress-free spring stroll down the path lined with cherry blossom trees along the Zenpukuji River. Best of all, the park features 10 BBQ facilities (reservation with the Suginami Ward Office required) and the athletic fields are free for all on the 1st Sunday and 3rd Saturday of the month!

Wadabori Park 和田堀公園
2-23 Omiya, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 168-0061

Nishi-Eifuku Station | FREE Admission

 

7. Toshimaen Amusement Park

Night cherry blossom illuminations at Toshimaen Amuseument Park

10-min by foot from our Witt-style CloveR is Toshimaen. A lively amuseument and water park throughout the year, the charming old-fashioned park is magically lit up after dark during sakura season. The park’s special “Sakura Nights” entry program provides unlimited access to designated rides and attractions while admiring the illluminations on over 500 cherry blossom trees!

Toshimaen Amuseument Park 豊島園
3-25-1 Koyama, Nerima, Tokyo 176-0022

Toshimaen Station | Sakura Night admissions beginning at 500 yen

 

8. Rikugen Gardens 六義園 | Bunkyo

For more sakura illuminations, head over to the exquisite Japanese-style Rikugien Gardens at Sugamo Station near our Witt-style Apricot Terrace. After sunset, the gorgeous Waka poetry-themed park is  transformed into a brilliant fairlyland of dazzling cherry blossom illuminations that are well-worth the entrance fee. PS. Word of advise, book online and get there early to make it in ahead of the line of lovebirds! Oh, and don’t forget to bring your camera!

Rikugien Gardens 六義園
6-16-3 Honkomagome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0021

Sugamo Station | 300 yen

 

9. Edogawa Park 江戸川公園 | Bunkyo

Formed in the Edo era, the Kanda River runs from Inkoashira Park in Mitaka Ward, joining the Sumida River underneath the Ryogoku Bridge. Numerous cherry blossom trees bloom along the riverside, however, one of the best spots to view it is at this particular point inside Edogawa Park, titled 神田川桜並木 on Google Maps, which is a 9-min walk from Happy House Kagurazaka and a 18-min walk from Happy House Stella. The river itself is only a 10-min walk from Happy House Stella, and nearby parks include as Kansen-en Park, Higo-Hosokawa Garden, and the Chinzanso Garden.

神田川桜並木
2-1 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo, Tokyo 112-0014

Edogawa Park 江戸川公園
2-2-1 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8555

Edogawabashi / Waseda Station | FREE Admission

 

10. Sotobori Park 外濠公園 | Chiyoda

For yet another river-side hanami picnic option, why not check out Sotobori Park, with a promenade that connects Ichigaya and Iidabashi Station. Chilli Pepper and Cream residents! Make a 5-min walk down to the park to enjoy a relaxing morning or afternoon stroll (whichever suits your fancy!) underneath a canopy of white cherry blossom petals while listening to soft river sounds!

Sotobori Park 外濠公園
2-9 Gobancho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-0071

Iidabashi Station | FREE Admission

 

11. Meguro River Park 目黒川船入場 | Meguro


Constantly featuring in Tokyo’s top 10 hanami viewing lists, Meguro River Park is THE place to go for a feel of the much-talked about cherry blossom rain and all-around hanami atmosphere. Numerous small, delectable eateries lining both riversides present the perfect opportunity for a quick bite (or two!). We highly recommend getting there around dusk, grabbing something nice to drink (ala our staff did in the pic above!), and enjoying the changing view from light to night. Our Witt-style Nakameguro residents are in luck, the hanami hot spot is just a 17-min bus trip or a 15-min bike ride from the house!

Meguro River Park 目黒川船入場
1-11-18 Nakameguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0061

Nakameguro Station | FREE Admission

 

12. Roka Koshun-en Park 蘆花恒春園 | Setagaya

The hanami scene at Roka Koshun-en Park is hands down the most floral site on our list, with a fusion of colors from both pink sakura and yellow rapeseed blossoms! Former residence of famed writer and philosopher Roka Tokutomi, actual name Kenjiro Tokutomi, the historic park grounds contain the author’s prior place of abode, a garden and bamboo forest, a shrine, and an abundance of forest-like flora. OKURA HOUSE ladies, we promise you it’s absolutely worth the 15-min bike ride!

Roka Koshun-en Park 蘆花恒春園
1-20-1 Kasuya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 157-0063

Hachimanyama Station | FREE Admission

 

13. Shiba Park 芝公園 | Minato

Take a break from Roppongi and enjoy the cherry blossoms with a view of the city’s signature Tokyo Tower at Shiba Park. While not the most aesthetic of parks, its spacious grass fields is excellent for a spot of afternoon napping or for unrolling a substantial picnic spread. The park is also adjacent to the impressive Zojoji Temple, making it a perfect blend of modern, history, and nature sights – all this just a 15 to 20-min walk from our Witt-style Roppongi!

Shiba Park 芝公園
4-8 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011

Shibakoen Station | FREE Admission

 

14. Johoku Chuo Park 都立城北中央公園 | Nerima

Measuring 260,000 square meters, Johoku Central Park is one of the city’s largest with plenty of green, open space for spreading out picnic baskets and blankets. With its vast grassy fields, a huge athletic field, and plenty of tall trees, our Happy House mint residents only need make a 11-min walk to reach the perfect spot to do a bit of jogging or an early morning outdoor yoga session! PS. The park also has a special area designated for housing Moro relics dating back to the stone ages to satisfy your inner history buff.

Johoku Chuo Park 都立城北中央公園
1-3-1 Hikawadai, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 179-0084

Hikawadai / Kami-Itabashi Station| FREE Admission

 

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By: Lydia Hon

Akemashite Omedetou – A Kyushu New Year!

In Japan, New Years is not about popping champagnes, midnight kisses, ball drops, and a foggy memory of the previous night. Instead, it is a relaxing time for families and friends to visit shrines, enjoy watching New Years TV specials, and huddle under the kotatsu.

明けましておめでとうございます!(Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu) is what Japanese people say to family, friends, and colleagues when greeting them in the new year, adding 今年も宜しくお願いします(Kotoshi mo yoroshiku  onegaishimasu). It means “Happy New Year” and “I look forward to continuing our relationship this year.”

Cultural Tip: If a member of someone’s family has passed away, traditionally, it is not appropriate to send them a New Years card or say “Akeashite Omodetou” as the family is mourning.

Otherwise, it is standard to say after the clock strikes 12:00, but not before the new year! At the end of the year, people say, よいお年を (Yoi otoshi wo) when seeing someone for the last time before the new year, meaning “Have a great new year.” 良い (yoi) means “good” and the お年 means “year.”

This year, our staff spent Japan’s most important holiday in Fukuoka, Kyushu! It was no ordinary New Years, but one spent helping out in a Buddhist temple.

On New Year’s Eve, people eat 年越しそば (Toshikoshi soba), meaning “year-crossing buckwheat noodles” that represent hope for a long-lasting life. It is usually served at temples, where many people come to line up and ring a large bell, rung a total of 108 times. The number 108 represents the worldy sins and it is believed that ringing the bell will rid those sins of the past year.

As midnight approached and all were warmed up and full with soba, countdown commenced and party poppers danced in the night sky.

Most people will go to their local shrine to do “hatsumode,” the first visit of the year to the Shinto shrine. There, you will see locals praying, warming up around the bonfire, buying a fortune from the stand,  and having some sweet sake or pork soup. Usually very late into the night and sometimes until dawn, families and friends are chatting and enjoying good company to kick off the New Year.

New Years Day is a relaxing time spent with family eating osechi, the traditional New Years food assortment that symbolizes prosperity, luck, and happiness in the coming year.  Ozoni is a mochi soup also enjoyed on New Years Day, but if you are at a temple, you’ll be lucky enough to help make it!

Ozoni has different tastes depending on the region. Kyushu ozoni commonly features a white-miso base but this year’s was particularly special. One of the members of the family got married and it is a Kyushu custom for the husband to bring a large fish to his wife’s family for New Years. We enjoyed this year’s ozoni featuring yellowtail, it was delicious!

It is not as common these days, but some families will drink otoso, a medicinal spiced sake, usually served by the youngest family member. Three cups of different sizes are stacked on top of one another as each member of the family takes turns and chooses their desired cup. The person serving will drink last and will have otoso served by a different member.

After the cleanup and relaxing time over snacks and drink with family, we visited Fukuoka’s most famous shrine, Miyajidake Jinja. Be prepared to see a long wait and large crowds at the shrine on the first few days of the new year of the people who are there to do “omairi,”the act of praying at a shrine.

Some larger shrines hold a 3-4 day festival with food stands, performances, and handcrafted goods for families, friends, and couples to enjoy.

Before going back home to Tokyo, we couldn’t leave Fukuoka without eating the famous tonkotsu ramen! It was a perfect end to the beginning of the year.

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2018 Tulip Bonenkai: Year End Celebrations with Israeli Eats!

Source / illustrain

Literally meaning “forget the year”, bonenkai (忘年会) are parties held with friends and coworkers at the end of the year to leave behind the stresses of the past year and begin the one ahead refreshed via alcohol consumption.

For this year’s Tulip bonenkai, our ever-enterprising lady-boss Norie-san invited us to Shamaim for an authentic Israeli tabehoudai (食べ放題) aka all-you-can-eat session. Think copious amounts of soft pita and scrumptious hummus washed down with your choice of alcoholic beverage! Perched on the first floor of an inconspicous suburban building just a minute’s walk from Ekoda station, Shamaim presents an intimate atmosphere of middle-eastern decor, dark honey wood interior and lively music.

L-R: Naomi, Jan, Owada-san, Kagamimiya-san, Lydia, Norie-san

We started off the evening with a heartful kanpai  (“cheers”) and an obligatory group snap draped with cheery Christmas tinsel supplied by our unofficial designer-slash-entertainer-in-chief Naomi! With the formalities out of the way, we were ready to wind down into a rowdy evening, catch up on life outside of work, and eat to our hearts content. Dinner began with a mouth-watering starter spread of hummus, falafel, pita, and salads!

The scrumptious starter spread!

Following the starters, we heartily feasted on plates of freshly fried schnitzel along with lamb and chicken shish-kababs on beds of perfect rice pilaf. As Tal, the hospitable owner is fluent in both English and Japanese, we had absolutely no problems requesting for seconds! And boy did we spare no effort asking for another round (or two) of our favorites. After chatting the night away exchanging experiences from past and present, we parted ways with full bellies and another year of memories as some headed home while others continued the celebration at the karaoke room!

Interested in giving Israeli cuisine a go? Why not make your way down to Shamaim at:
TM Bldg. 2F, 4-11 Ekoda, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
東京都練馬区栄町4-11 アートビル 2F
03-3948-5333

PS. They are veggie-friendly!

Japanese Harvest Moon: 中秋の名月 (Chushu no Meigetsu)

Google informed me that today is 中秋の名月 (Chushu no Meigetsu) 2017 with an adorable mochi-pounding rabbit graphic. This marks the harvest moon and the middle of the autumn season.

So cute! (image: google.com)

But to be quite honest, I wasn’t really sure what to do with this information. Am I supposed to honour this day somehow? I asked my colleagues about it and it seems especially in urban areas like Tokyo, the harvest moon is being celebrated less and less.

Harvest Moon Traditions

My boss has fond memories of being a ‘mochi thief’  as a child in the countryside of Aichi prefecture. Apparently the tradition there is similar to Trick or Treating. The children of the town not only demand sweets from their neighbours, but are even allowed to sneakily steal mochi off the altar of the shrine.

Another of my colleagues recalled having a picnic outside with her family to engage in tsukimi (月見) which is viewing the full moon. In the past, the viewers would get inspired by the beauty to compose poetry on the spot. In modern times kicking back with some good food and drinks is enough! But sadly, she also agreed that nowadays in Tokyo, no one does much to celebrate.

Traditional Japanese Harvest Moon sweets
By katorisi (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
According to Japanese folklore, the grey shadows on the moon are in the shape of rabbits pounding mochi which is why dango (little white mochi balls) are a traditional celebration food of the harvest moon.

 

But my colleagues did note that in the countryside where harvests are more important, people are probably still diligently recognising this festival. So the least we city slickers can do is eat some dango and look at how pretty the moon is tonight!

Enjoy your tsukimi!

 

Kanji List:

  • 中秋の名月(ちゅうしゅうのめいげつ) – Harvest moon (lit. middle of autumn’s great moon)
  • 月見(つきみ) – Moon viewing (having a picnic outside to appreciate the moon)
  • 餅(もち) – Rice cakes eaten as a sweet/dessert
  • 月見団子(つきみだんご) – Small rice cake balls eaten traditionally at this time of year (lit. moon viewing dango)
  • 十五夜(じゅうごや) – Another word for the night of the harvest moon (lit. 15th night but it does not necessarily fall on 15th, this just means the middle of the month)

 

Easy Valentine’s Day Chocolate Recipes!

As you may know, Valentine’s Day in Japan is the day when ladies give chocolate to their friends, sweetheart, or someone they hope to get together with (and it’s most often home-made)! Here are some easy recipes to give to your loved ones. Have fun with it!

Chocolate Love Bark

What you need:

Chocolate (of course!) – Milk, semi-sweet, dark, or white.

Toppings – Dried fruits, toasted nuts, cocoa nibs, candied ginger, or pretty much anything you’d like.

How to make:

Line a chilled wax paper on a baking pan, melt the chocolate until it is smooth and pour it onto the pan. Spread the chocolate evenly, sprinkle on the toppings. Place the chocolate in the freezer for 20 minutes to set.

Image: foodnetwork.com

Matcha Truffles

What you need:

1/2 teaspoon of matcha green tea powder

7 ounces 70% Dark Chocolate, fine chopped

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sugar

Matcha green tea

How to make:

Combine the cream, sugar and 1/2 a teaspoon of matcha green tea in a saucepan and whisk. Bring to a boil, stir constantly, and remove from heat. Immediately add 5 ounces of the chopped chocolate to the mixture and gently stir until blended. Spread the mixture in a shallow dish and refrigerate until firm. Roll the mixture into balls and arrange on baking sheet lined with wax papaer. Freeze truffles until firm. Melt the leftover two ounces of chopped chocolate and lightly coat the truffles. Roll the cooled truffles in the matcha powder, store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Spiked Bourbon Hot Chocolate

What you need:

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

2 teaspoons brown sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 oz semi sweet chocolate

½ teaspoon vanilla

1½ oz bourbon

whipped cream

caramel

How to make:

Mix the milk, cornstarch, and cocoa powder together in a saucepan. Whisk until completely blended. Turn on the heat to medium-high and add the brown sugar, salt, and chocolate. Stir frequently until the mixture is hot and the chocolate is completely melted. Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the vanilla and bourbon. Pour the hot chocolate into a mug and top with whipped cream and caramel.

Recipe and photo courtesy of cookienameddesire.com

Choco-dipped Fruit Bouquet

What you need:

Your fav fruits

Your fav chocolate

Cream

How to make:

Melt the chocolate and cream together in a bowl set over simmering water until just melted. Stir and remove from heat. Dip each fruit into the mixture and set aside on wax paper to dry.

Rasberry-filled Molten Cupcakes

What you need:

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature

4 large eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

Pinch of salt

11 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted (2 1/2 cups chopped)

18 raspberries (36 if they are small)

Confectioners’ sugar, for serving

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

How to make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 12 standard muffin tin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl with a mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low, beat in flour and salt. Beat in chocolate until just combined. Divide half the batter among cups, add two raspberries to each, and top with remaining batter.

Bake until tops are just set and no longer shiny, 10 to 11 minutes, let cool in pan on a wire rack, 10 minutes. Remove from pans, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and top with ice cream!

Recipe and photo courtesy of Marthastewart.com

Have fun trying out these recipes and maybe you’ll get something sweet in return next month on White Day! 😉

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Japanese New Year: Akemashite Omedetou – Happy New Year!

New Years is undoubtedly the most important holiday of the year in Japanese culture. It is a very special time to reflect on the past year, enjoy the holiday with family/friends, and begin the new year with many traditional customs.

I spent the New Year with family and friends this year in Kyushu and had a great time celebrating like the locals do!

On December 31st before midnight, many people visit the Buddhist temples as the New Year approaches. People line up to ring a large bell, which is rung a total of 108 times. The number 108 represents the worldy sins and it is believed that ringing the bell will rid those sins of the past year.

Many also come to enjoy hot soba called”toshikoshi” soba, which literally means “year-crossing” soba. It often runs out pretty quickly!

People are free to also go inside of the temple to pray and chant with the monks. After the temple ceremonies have finished, many will then head to a nearby shrine with family and friends to warm up by the fire and buy a fortune or charm from the stand.

New Years Day usually involves larger family get togethers enjoying conversation, drinking “otoso” which is a spiced sake, and of course, eating the traditional “Oshechi” meal and “ozouni” mochi soup!

Mochi is a very important food during New Years because it can last a very long time without spoiling and also sounds similar to the word “to have” or “to hold” in Japanese, so it is eaten in hopes of gaining good luck and fortune.

 

Kakizome, the “first writing” of the year, is an activity where people write their New Years Resolution or a kanji they hope represents their year and hang all together on the wall.

At night, the festivities continue with a party to start the year off with loved ones, toasts, delicious food, games, etc. The adults keep eachother’s glasses full throughout the night!

Soaking in the atmosphere of the Japanese New Year is truly a special experience. We hope you enjoyed the holidays this year too. Happy New Year from Tulip Real Estate, let’s kick this new year off right!

Christmas in Japan for Independent Ladies Who Don’t Need No Man

‘Goodwill to all men’ Jesus famously said on 25th December, year zero. But in Japan at this time of year, it seems goodwill is reserved only for those in relationships.

The list of casualties to Japan’s couple culture is long. Disneyland, aquariums, Sky Tree and even Christmas. But as everyone knows, a few good girl friends are far better company. Get all your favourite single ladies together because Christmas is ours this year!

Try Starbucks’ Christmas drinks

Japan famously has flavours not available in other countries, alongside the legendary Gingerbread Latte. This is year it’s Snow Pecan Latte (white chocolate and nuts), Baked Apple available as hot or a Frappuccino or the just released White Chocolate Matcha. The perfect place to warm up, gossip and discuss how liberating it is to break free of the patriarchal pressure to pair up.

(image from http://www.starbucks.co.jp/)

Go to see some illuminations

Time to get those perfect ‘I’m having fun with my girlfriends’ Instagram shots. Big cities like Tokyo have winter illuminations pretty much everywhere and they really do make you feel pretty Christmassy. Do some research and you can easily find some near you.

Eat some Fried Chicken: It’s Tradition!

Everyone’s heard the ‘in Japan they eat Kentucky Fried Chicken at Christmas time’ thing. You’d be hard pressed to find a traditional Western Christmas dinner in Tokyo, so why not join in on the finger-lickin fun. You have to book weeks in advance for the real deal, but luckily plenty of rival fast food restaurants like Lotteria and Mos Burger are trying to end KFC’s stranglehold on the Christmas fried chicken business by offering similar sets.

Exchange gifts at a Christmas movie sleepover

Boys are terrible at choosing gifts, so you’re not missing out. Instead make a secret Santa with your girlfriends for some presents you actually want. Do the big reveal only when you’re all cosy at home wearing Christmas themed pyjamas. Bring some overpriced Christmas cake to watch some festive films with and you’re all set!

Disclaimer: This blog post is tongue-in-cheek, if you do have a partner this Christmas we hope you have a wonderful time together!

 

Autumn Activities in Tokyo: A Guide to a Fun-filled Fall

dulichtet.com

Autumn in Japan is an exciting time for the locals to enjoy picturesque autumn foliage, indulge in the delicious, seasonal comfort food, and spend time outdoors before the chill of winter time comes. Here is our guide of things to do this autumn to enjoy like the locals do!

1. Seasonality is a very important part of Japanese culture and food plays a big role. Eat warm and seasonal Japanese comfort food that is known to be enjoyed the most during this time of year such as baked sweet potato, grilled sanma with grated daikon, matsutake mushrooms, roasted chestnuts, persimmon, and freshly harvested rice.

2. Go on a camping trip in cool, crisp weather before winter. Camping is a popular past time for many Japanese, even in one of the world’s most busiest cities! There are many campgrounds outside of Tokyo but quite a few within it as well. We recommend Hikawa Camp-Jo, a spacious campsite by a serene stream and just 5 minutes from Okutama Station. Price: 700 JPY per adult, per night.

seotonoyu.com

3. Check out an Autumn Omatsuri! Autumn offers many interesting festivals and ceremonies in Tokyo from tea ceremonies, traditional dance festivals (Ikebukuro’s Tokyo Yokasoi), and the Oeshiki Festival, a buddhist festival that commemorates the life of Saint Nichiren.

japanfly.co / gotokyo.org

4. Taste a variety of top-rated ramen from all over Japan at the Tokyo Ramen Show. It is the largest outdoor festival dedicated to ramen where you can learn about the different regional ramen ingredients and techniques. Come with an appetite! From October 27th -November 6th.

latimes.com

5. And of course, enjoy the colorful autumn foliage at the many natural spots throughout the city. Recommended spots for an unforgettable sight are:

 Koishikawa Korakuen

jebsenholidays.com

Shinjuku Gyoen

justgola.com

Icho Namiki (Gingko Avenue)

centertourandtravel.com

Mount Takao

japan-magazine.jinto.go.jp

Rikugien to enjoy the stunning gardens by day, and evening autumn illuminations by night.

tokyocheapo.com

We hope that your autumn is filled with delicious food and fun activities. Happy Fall!

 

May a foreign girl carry the Mikoshi at a Matsuri?

 

YES!

Matsuri are the wonderful traditional (shrine) festivals in Japan. The Shinto Gods are believed to sit inside and be carried around in portable shrines, Mikoshi, for their satisfaction. This weekend on May 14th and 15th, one of the biggest ones in Japan will be held in Asakusa. Sanja Matsuri 三社祭. We have spotted foreign ladies carrying the Mikoshi, just like the Japanese folks, and wondered how that comes and if YOU might be allowed to join too.

To learn more, we interviewed well known expert Sasagawa Hideo in Asakusa. He runs a shop for Wagara 和柄 (Japanese textiles), Matsuri supplies and has a Matsuri Museum worth visiting in the second floor. Everybody is welcome. Now let him speak for himself.

Sasagawa: I love nothing more than Matsuri. Sanja Matsuri is one of the most important ones and people from all over Japan are gathering here. They come to Sensô-ji from as far as Hokkaido in the North and even Okinawa in the South.

SASAGAWA Hideo  shows a photograph of the old Kaminarimon 雷門

Tulip: How can all those people participate, there must be a system, right?
Sasagawa: Yes. Each local area has a contingent of participants they may send, they are numbered.
Tulip: How can a foreigner enter a Matsuri as a participant?
Sasagawa: In the area you are living in / where the Matsuri will be, you must go to the local elders, traditional shops or the town council, Chôkai 町会, and tell them that you are interested. If they are fine with it, you get on the list.
Tulip: How about the traditional clothing all participants wear? Do you just buy any?
Sasagawa: You must wear clothing, like a uniform, from the very area sending you there. A Happi or Hanten (the jacket he wears in the pictures) for sure. They differ from place to place due to the symbols of the area or group on the back. Also dark shorts, Tabi and a headband.

Since people come in different sizes, ask if they got something that fits you. Ladies may wear long trousers, like the Jin-Rikisha pullers here, instead of the shorts men are wearing.

Tulip: Ladies may carry the Mikoshi too?
Sasagawa: Absolutely! Traditionally, ladies had been not allowed. The Shinto-religion sees them as unclean. But nowadays they sure can. As far as I know, the change has started when ages ago a Geisha house one day decided to participate in a Matsuri. People thought that this was kinda cool. From that point on more and more ladies joined and now it is pretty normal.
Tulip: Can foreign ladies also enter other Matsuri as participants in Japan, let’s say in Kyôto?
Sasagawa: That depends on the area. If she is part of the neighborhood and / or asks the people in charge it is possible I believe. Some might not allow it though.
Tulip: Thank you so much for all the information!
To enjoy Sanja Matsuri, get to Asakusa from around 10am this Saturday and Sunday, don’t be much later.

You can visit Sasagawa-sensei and have a seat with him at the museum-floor. He is happy to tell and show you much much more.

和柄ショップ 雷門日興店
〒111-0033 東京都台東区花川戸2-19-6

Tokyo-to,Taito-ku, Hanakawado 2-19-6

Wasshoi Wasshoi! (Yelled while carrying the Mikoshi.)

Edit: Today in Asakusa