Postcards are wonderful for showing you a country–they come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and themes–but they do have their limits. Often times they only show “typical” tourist views, famous monuments and the like. Sometimes, I find myself wishing I could explore what’s just off the card–the store around the block, the coffee shop by the park or even just stop by the newspaper stand, wherever my imagination takes me. I was very lucky to receive a series of photos from a Japanese friend showing her Japan and not that of a postcard publisher or professional photographer. I asked her if I could share them with you here and she very politely agreed!
As food always catches my attention, I’d like to start with the above shot–dinner at a ryokan. Visiting a ryokan, or Japanese-style inn, is on my must-do list for Japan! The presentation is amazing! You feel hungry just looking at it! One of my guilty-pleasures at the moment is watching cooking competitions on TV. The importance of presentation has been drilled into my head. Cooking is as much a visual as a taste-based art and I think this picture is the proof! I’m not sure if there is a recommended order for eating the dishes but I think I would try the tempura first!
She next chose to share a painting in the Tsukijishijo subway station in Chuo, Tokyo. The station serves the lower part of the Tsukiji district. It’s an area popular with tourists which includes the enormous Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market. I love government attempts to add a little color and culture to the metro. When I was in Athens for the Olympics (yay Greek debt!), I remember loving the way the designers chose to display some of the artifacts that found while building the metro. Walking past the glass cases, I got a taste of history while heading to the Games. The Parisian metro is also making an effort to beautify certain stations with art. It’s neat to know that the same efforts are underway in Japan. I wonder how many other subway stations in Tokyo offer you a taste of Japanese art on your way to work/play.
Cherry blossoms are also synonymous with Japan. The Japanese Cherry Tree is often referred to as a Sakura! Sakura flavored products are popular. Since I became interested in Japan, I’ve tried Sakura bath products, candles and even KitKats.
While I haven’t seen Sakura in Japan, I have visited the Washington, DC Cherry Blossom festival and fallen in love with their beauty. The DC Cherry Blossoms will be celebrating their centennial next year in 2012. The trees were a gift from Japan to the American people in 1912. More specifically, the city of Tokyo gave Washington, DC 3,000 cherry blossom trees in the spirit of international friendship. Today they flower around the Tidal Basin and attract thousands of visitors every year.
My friend took these pictures while visiting Chichibu, Saitama. As you can tell, she wasn’t alone! Peak viewing times bring everyone out to the park for picnics and pictures!
I’ve already mentioned how few postcards of urban Japan I have so this shot of Harajuku, Tokyo was also a welcome surprise. Harajuku, besides being one of Gwen Stefani’s favorite places to hang out, is a large shopping district which attracts the young and trendy of Tokyo! Yet another place I want to visit even if I doubt I quality as “young and trendy” now that I have two little girls! LOL One of my favorite things to do in any city is just wander around and window shop–I think I’ll take the bus you see above and talk to you all in another day! I’m off on an adventure!