Japan 2014: Hamarikyu Gardens to Sensoji, via the Sumida River

Casting my mind back to May 13th, it was a drizzly old day in Tokyo, following a couple of rather nice days. It seemed a shame that my first full day of sightseeing with the tour group I was joining for work was a wet one, but we didn’t let that stop us! I was a little wary of visiting places I had seen before and perhaps not enjoying the day as much as the other members of the group, but I really needn’t have worried. After a fairly early start at Tsukiji fish market, we made our way to Hamarikyu Gardens (浜離宮恩賜庭園 / Hama-rikyu Onshi Teien).

Somehow, in all the many times I had visited Tokyo I had never visited Hamarikyu Gardens. The landscape garden in central Tokyo offers an interesting view of Japan, with a classical Japanese garden in the foreground and skyscrapers towering in the background. This view seems to sum up Tokyo perfectly.

Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo

Reflecting on Hamarikyu Gardens

The garden itself is a nice place to wander around, and I expect it would have been even nicer had it not been raining. I’d certainly like to return on a drier day.

Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo

A garden from days gone by

Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo

Feeling arty in the rain

The group sought refuge in Nakajima-no-ochaya, a rest house and tea house where the Tokugawa Shogun, ladies and Imperial Court nobles used to enjoy the view. The present building is not the original, but a restored structure built in 1983.

Nakajima Teahouse, Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo

Nakajima-no-ochaya

Inside, we enjoyed some matcha (powdered green tea) and wagashi (traditional sweets).

Nakajima Teahouse, Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo

Matcha and wagashi

Nakajima Teahouse, Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo

Inside the wagashi

Nakajima Teahouse, Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo

Japanese display inside the tea house

Not wanting to linger too long in the damp gardens, we soon made our way to the water bus landing where we planned to take a river cruise along the Sumida River towards Asakusa. Again, it really wasn’t the weather for it, but we soldiered on anyway! In all honesty, with the weather as it was the cruise was less than inspiring. I’m sure on a clear day it would have been lovely though!

Sumida River Cruise from Hamarikyu Gardens to Asakusa

Less than inspiring…

Sumida River Cruise from Hamarikyu Gardens to Asakusa

Yakatabune on the Sumida River

Sumida River Cruise from Hamarikyu Gardens to Asakusa

Looking back along the Sumida River

When we reached the other side, even the SkyTree was hiding from us.

SkyTree

Yoohoo – SkyTree, where are you?!

Strolling through the back streets, we eventually came to Asakusa. Asakusa is an area of Tokyo I thought I knew fairly well, but coming at it from a different angle took me by surprise and I found it much more interesting than I had expected.

Rickshaw man, Asakusa

Must be Asakusa…

Kaminarimon, Senso-ji, Asakusa

Kaminarimon, Senso-ji, Asakusa

Nakamise, Senso-ji, Asakusa

Nakamise, Senso-ji, Asakusa

Breaking for lunch, we split up to wander down the back streets near Sensoji (浅草寺), the big temple in Asakusa.

Asakusa back streets

Asakusa back streets

I stumbled upon, of all things, a hitsumabushi restaurant! Hitsumabushi – a grilled eel dish famous in Nagoya – is one of my favourite things in the world, so couldn’t resist.

Hitsumabushi restaurant, Asakusa

Hitsumabushi restaurant – it had me at うなぎ!

Hitsumabushi restaurant, Asakusa

Hitsumabushi – the food of gods

After lunch, we followed the crowds into the temple grounds. As part of a tour group, I had never felt more like a typical tourist!

Senso-ji, Asakusa

Back into the throng of people – Sensoji

There were lots of school groups at the temple, and a lot of kids were getting omikuji (おみくじ / fortune papers).

Getting o-mikuji at Senso-ji, Asakusa

A boy get omikuji at Senso-ji

I often don’t bother with omikuji, but I knew Sensoji had fortunes in English, so I thought I’d give it a go… and I got the best fortune!

The best fortune! - O-mikuji from Senso-ji

The best fortune!

The temple was very crowded with tourists and school groups.

Senso-ji, Asakusa

Crowds at Sensoji

Senso-ji, Asakusa

Too noisy to pray…

Looking for a little bit of peace, I wandered round the back of the temple and into the gardens – an area I hadn’t really explored before. I found what I was looking for…

Senso-ji, Asakusa

Peace…

Senso-ji, Asakusa

…at last.

Senso-ji, Asakusa

Senso-ji, Asakusa

It amazes me how, despite the noise and crowds, it is always possible to find a moment of peace even in a place as hectic as Tokyo. I need to keep that thought with me in my day-to-day life, and remind myself to find a peaceful moment no matter what chaos I’m facing. Remembering that should help me to keep a clear mind, allowing me to see more clearly.

SkyTree in a puddle

Found the SkyTree.

As I’ve said before, there are many, many more posts to come from my recent trip to Japan, so please do continue to watch this space! またね!

2 thoughts on “Japan 2014: Hamarikyu Gardens to Sensoji, via the Sumida River

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