It’s no secret the world has a problem with plastic pollution, particularly the presence of micro-plastics in our oceans and drinking water. Did you know that some tea manufacturers incorporate small amounts of plastic into the teabags, so they hold their shape when immersed in hot liquid? That plastic ends up in our cups and ultimately in landfill.
Other manufacturers use staples or glue to attach the string to the teabag or chlorine to bleach the bag white, for aesthetic purposes. These are all things we don’t want melting away in our morning cuppa.
If you’re anything like me, you like to support Companies that are taking the initiative to swap out plastic packaging for more environmentally friendly alternatives.
I was thrilled to find Biodegradable, 100% plant-based, plastic-free teabags in recyclable packaging from The Tea Centre. That’s good news for avid tea drinkers such as myself, who can now sip away without concern for ingesting nasty chemicals.
Made from plant-based materials, such as sugarcane
Heat sealed without glue
Sold in Eco-friendly Biodegradable packaging – No Plastic
But that’s not the only way the Tea Centre is contributing to reducing waste. While the products from the Tea Centre range use inner wrapping that looks for all the world like plastic, it’s actually a cellulose product, called NatureFlex, made from 100% natural wood pulp, compostable and biodegradable.
Bio-degradable Teabags and cartons that are 100% Recyclable.
Customers now have the option to purchase their teabags packaged inside a fully recyclable carton. These cartons are consciously crafted from food-grade cardboard. Moreover, the printing on the package is gold foil stamping that is also 100% recyclable.
That’s more good news, right?
JAPANESE LIME TEA
Just like Japan itself, I found this tea is ambrosial and aesthetic. With a subtle lime flavour, it has just the right balance to to be zesty and fragrant without overpowering the senses. Served as a cool drink, the lime flavour is delightfully refreshing and that comes from someone who doesn’t generally drink Iced tea.
Japanese Lime Tea
Green tea, citrus peel, lemongrass
Biodegradable Teabags and Packaging
This zingy variety of Green Tea can be sipped as both a hot brew or iced tea.
Add one tablespoon tea to one litre of cold water and refrigerate for 4–7 hours.
Strain and serve.
BLENDED IN GERMANY | GLUTEN FREE | VEGAN
Why is a Green Tea Fusion Good for You?
You may already be familiar with the healing properties of green tea. The antioxidants are a boost for our hair and skin and also offer anti-inflammatory benefits. With ingredients such as lemongrass stalk to help relieve anxiety, lift one’s mood and help to ease digestive ailments, a green tea fusion is especially good to drink first thing in the morning.
Plastic, GMO and chemical free. Pyramid tea bags are 100% biodegradable.
Since 1993, The Tea Centre has been offering a different tea experience and I’ve been fortunate to be gifted a sample of the teas to experience. If you love the aroma and flavour of fine tea, the tea will delight you.
I recently wrote about Glogg Black Tea. Some other warming winter tea flavours I plan to try include:
Japan is a very clean country. You won’t see or find litter in the streets. Why?
Several years ago in Japan, a bomb placed in a busy commuter station waste bin exploded and this on top of a 1995 domestic terrorist attack using deadly Sarin Gas also in a garbage bin, led to the removal of most bins, from public spaces, in Japan.
Japanese Garbage Disposal
Since then, the Japanese people have been responsible for the disposal of their own rubbish. Most carry a bag and take their trash home with them when they are out and about. Consequently, you will see nothing but a clean streetscape without litter of any kind. And if you do find a public bin, it will be separated into recyclables and combustible garbage all ready for recycling.
Despite the huge population, you won’t find trash anywhere on the streets of Tokyo or Kyoto.
Not even at Shibuya, the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world.
Nor will you find any rubbish or litter in Arashiyama, Nara or at the steps of Mt Fuji.
Recycling Garbage in Australia
Australians are fairly new to the waste recycling game with only a small portion of the 70 million tonnes of waste we produce, being recycled. The rest ends up as landfill or is shipped to willing countries, usually in the third world in exchange for hard currency! Surprising? It is true and as an Australian, somewhat shameful.
Think New Product, Not Waste
Think resource, not waste, when it comes to the goods around us – until this happens, we simply won’t award recycled goods the true value and repurpose they deserve.
There are many things that might be recycled if we considered them a resource for the development of new products, rather than waste.
Paper, cardboard and plastics can be, and are, upcycled to new products; food and garden waste biodegrades in backyard compost heaps/bins; books are re-used, via book exchanges or free services such as Bookmooch.
It’s estimated about 130,000 tonnes of Australian plastic ends up in waterways and oceans each year through littering. Especially problematic are products like wet wipes are being flushed and plastic flying away from landfill processing. 130,000 tonnes! No wonder the oceans are dying.
Do you know what happens to the waste you dispose of, in your country?
Global Recycling Day is observed around the world on 18th March each year, and thus the theme for the Friendly Friday Blog Challenge is:
Up until Thursday 25th March, the challenge is toshare photographs, a story or a blog post about what recycling means to you, on a circular economy, or what is happening in your local area?
Include a comment below, tag your post Friendly Friday Recycling and pingback myself and Sandy, who will host the next challenge on Friday 26th March.
Recycling is a key part of the circular economy, helping to protect our natural resources. Each year the ‘Seventh Resource’ (recyclables) saves over 700 million tonnes in CO2 emissions and this is projected to increase to 1 billion tons by 2030. There is no doubt recycling is on the front line in the war to save the future of our planet and humanity.
So often we walk around in nature failing to notice the details, the grass under our feet.
Subtle changes in colour and appearance indicate the passing of the seasons. Many varieties of grass remain invisible, yet are an integral part of the natural landscape.
The theme for this week’s Friendly Friday challenge is:
‘Splendour in the Grass’
Using Grass to Frame a Landscape in Photography
In photographic terms, grass can be used to frame the shot or make an interesting feature in the foreground.
This ‘Moon viewing,’ photo captured during the Tsukimi festival in mid-Autumn, in Japan.
Japanese Senga Grass Fields at Mount Fuji
The Japanese find Splendour in the Sengakuhara Pampas Grass, by strolling along a walking trail, at the western side of Mount Hakone. For it is here that the changing colour of the tall grass offers stunning vistas. In November, the grass turns a shimmering, silvery gold. Wedding proposal and selfies abound at this time of year.
In Australia, a country fringed by blue oceans, you will find grass the colour of sunburnt earth, which often makes me yearn for the vivid fluorescent green grass of wetter climates.
Australian deserts display different kinds of saltbush grass.
In the arid conditions of the Australian landscape, plants have adapted to grow under extreme conditions, such as the grass tree.
Grass Trees in Australia
A relic of the Age of Dinosaurs, Xanthorrhoeas, also known as the Grass Tree, grow very slowly and are resistant to bushfire. In fact, fire helps the grass tree produce its flowers. They also have a unique symbiotic relationship with the soil. The presence of a mycorrhizal microbe in the soil around their roots allows them to flourish, even if the soils are nutrient-poor.
Grass Trees are highly sought after in Australian horticulture and as such are often illegally removed from their natural locations. They fetch high prices as ornamental plants. Little do the owners realize that if the soil in their garden does not contain the mycorrhizal enzyme, the grass tree that they paid so dearly for, will wither and die.
Imitating Nature in Growing Grass Trees
Here’s a secret that an old-timer once told me. Take a cup of brown sugar, put it in a bucket of water and water your grass trees once a month for two years with that mixture. The sugar feeds the mycorrhiza and gets it going and your grass tree will survive.
It is quite ironic that my Friendly Friday Challenge Co-host, Sandy, should give us the prompt, Market this week as I was just looking through my photos of the wonderful Market Hall, in Helsinki, Finland.
Where the Hungarians are spoilt for choice in varieties of Paprika in their markets, Helsinki is spoilt for choice in terms of Salmon.
Me, being Australian, have only really known three varieties of Smoked Salmon – Tasmanian, Norwegian and Danish Smoked Salmon.
My eyes opened as wide as saucers when I saw the contents of the cabinets in the Helsinki Markets, the day I arrived in the Finnish capital.
I remember it is not just ordinary salmon, because the thing that struck me about Finns, was that they had taken Salmon to a whole new level, like as in Heinz 52 different varieties.
Now I love Salmon, so I was pretty happy with this, until I realized how hard it would be be to choose which one to buy! I needed help to choose between Tsar’s salmon, Cold Smoked Salmon, Flamed Salmon, Lemon Salmon and Rose Pepper Salmon, etc. and in the end, feeling rather befuddled, I settled on Cured Salmon with Basilic. With a large helping of Salmon Soup? How could I resist?
You need to know that the people of Helsinki eat a good deal of fish, freshwater fish, that is. Even sometimes three times in a day. So when I think of Helsinki, I think of Salmon, and lots of it.”
Most of us are familiar with ‘Michelin stars – the rating system for high-class restaurants the world over. Those highly sought after Michelin stars are indicative of excellence in consistency, presentation of food and mastery of technique.
What would you do if you were presented with a Michelin meal you couldn’t eat? Read the first part of a Michelin Meal in Japan.
Eleven Course Meal
My stay at a traditional Ryokan, or ‘Old World’ Inn, complete with Tatami mats and sliding paper walls in Kyoto, Japan, included an evening meal, which was served to us in our very own private dining room that comprised part of the sleeping quarters. A fantastic arrangement! Yes, well not necessarily.
It meant not eating the meal was never going to be an option, as we couldn’t leave the restaurant and go home. This was in our home, albeit our room, even if it was only for a short time.
Unfortunately, my daughter a.k.a. Miss Teen now ‘Adult,’ refused to eat any of Michelin Courses #1,#2 and #3 out of 11 courses. And this entire menu was all about seafood.
From Crab to Squid, Sea Urchin to Tilefish, (whatever that is), the menu lurched from one sea creature to another form of oceanic life. [With one token course that constituted a beef dish].
Me? I love seafood of all kinds. If it came from the sea, and is edible, I will eat it.
Miss Teen now an ‘Adult,’ on the other hand, would have none of it. She cannot eat seafood, or rather will not eat seafood. There was no forewarning of the menu contents, when we booked in at this Ryokan, so this was all a complete surprise.
On reading the menu, Daughter dear declared,
“Oh! I will just eat the rice!”
I dutifully opted for eating her untouched courses #1-3, but on re-examining the menu, I quickly realized I couldn’t possibly consume each and every part of the full eleven courses, for both of us.
I had to think. Which of the following options could I take for the rest of the meal?
Send her meal portions back uneaten
Tell the staff my teen is ill and can’t eat it
Apologise profusely and possibly insult the chef
Leave the Ryokan for other accommodation
None of those options sounded palatable, (no pun intended), and there were so many courses! To insult the chef would be rude, culturally insensitive and ungrateful. I also had to bear in mind, the Chef was to serve the rest of MY meal, which I was looking forward to eating.
What was I to do?
Michelin Food Disposal
I looked at the small bin provided in our room.
It would only handle paper and dry contents. I could not leave uneaten seafood portions there.
We were to catch an airport taxi and a 10-hour flight home to Australia the next day, so hiding it in my luggage would result in me smelling like a fish tank! Not the sweetest perfume de toilet!
I devised a plan. After the gentile kimono-clad room attendant/waitress, served up the next culinary marine delight and had left the room, I found a zip lock bag in my luggage.
It was similar to the ones they give you at the airport for storing toiletries, but that was all I had. Surreptitiously, I emptied the uneaten portions of daughter’s courses, within. It wasn’t easy. Those bags are meant for lip gloss and small hand creams. Not five courses from a traditional Japanese degustation style menu!
My subterfuge was very nearly discovered when the Japanese waiter returned, shortly after serving through the seventh course. Thank goodness she knocked on the door first. I would have had to fez up to ditching the food and how would that have looked?
Meanwhile Miss Teen Now an ‘Adult’ was by now, really hungry and looking forward to eating the course of rice. She suggested she might eat both our serves, as she was hungry. “Of course you can,” I reassured her.
Just before the rice was served, we were to be served tea. Green tea. At the mere mention of Green tea by the waiter, Miss Teen Now an Adult, shook her head vigorously to indicate ‘no,’ and eagerly awaited her bowl of rice.
The course of rice was then served – but to her dismay, one bowl not two, arrived, and was served to me only!
Miss Teen Now an ‘Adult,’ was completely forlorn. First all these serves of seafood and now no rice! The poor room attendant clearly had not understood. As soon as our door was closed again, I pushed the rice bowl towards her explaining I had more than enough to eat with all the sea urchins etc. and that she should have the rice.
If the truth be told, I’d have liked to try the rice as the Japanese are very particular about its quality. They do not like imported rice, and prefer the home-grown variety. Miss Teen Now an Adult, inhaled the whole bowl, before I had the chance to request even a small tasting portion. But that is okay.
Soup and Dessert
Strangely, a small bowl of miso soup course followed the rice – perhaps it aids digestion, or could it be that they think a person has consumed too much seafood, at that point? Remember there was now two bowls for me to drink, not one!
The Dessert course consisted of a Persimmon, times two, of course. I’d never eaten a persimmon before, so that was a novel experience and I confess to being quite partial to the sweet, delicate taste. I couldn’t get through the second one, so it also went into the baggie.
There was still my shady skulduggery of hiding food to address: about 5 courses of seafood and a half a persimmon sat in a zip lock baggie inside my handbag. It was 10 pm at night, I was in a Ryokan, in Japan and there was no rubbish bin in sight.
It was time to go out for a little walk.
Gion Bin Hunt and Geishas
Now in most countries, unless a G7 or Olympics were being held, it would not be too difficult to find a rubbish bin on the street, where I could discretely dispose of all aforementioned Michelin Chef scraps.
But this was Japan.
In Japan, each citizen is responsible for their own rubbish. Japanese people take home their used plastic drink bottles and empty food wrappers for recycling or dispose of them, to landfill. You must either pay for rubbish collections from your premises, or take it to the landfill, yourself. Thus, there are very few if any, public trash bins on the streets, in Japan.
It looked like we were in a long walk.
We walked the Gion with not a single bin, in sight. We passed several 7/11 stores along the way – no bins there either.
Around 10.30 pm we saw her.
A Geisha Girl in full attire.
The genuine Geishas are notoriously secretive and seeing a working Geisha in real life, really did make the whole rubbish disposal expedition, totally worthwhile.
In my excitement of seeing her, I fumbled for my camera, its carry cord becoming tangled up in the zip of my handbag, where said seafood was hiding. For a minute, I was completely distracted by the thought of a full-to-bursting ‘zip lock bag,’ spilling its unwanted Michelin meal contents inside my handbag, which would no doubt lead to me smelling like a tile-fish or sea urchin, for the next 24 hours! Meanwhile the Geisha was getting further away Ah!
An American tourist shouted at me to ‘run’ after the geisha, in order to get the prized photo. You can see him in the foreground. The Geisha, by then, had got some distance away. It was amazing how fast she moved in those traditional wooden shoes and maintained her poise. I got the photo. It is grainy, but one grainy photo is better than none.
You are told not to stop or ask Geishas to pose for photographs as they are considered highly skilled working ladies, who entertain guests through performing the ancient traditions of art, dance and singing and are handsomely paid for their time. And she did seem to be in a dreadful hurry.
Suddenly the fact that we had to walk further to find a bin, didn’t bother us as much. We eventually found one at the large Yasaka-jinja Shrine at the Gion. And we could both sleep easier for the rest of the night.
Miss Teen Now an ‘Adult,’ was really keen for breakfast, the next morning, but understandably so, don’t you think?
Most of us have heard of Michelin stars. That system of rating restaurants according to the results of reviews on consistency and presentation of food, quality and mastery of technique.
But Michelin stars can be a fickle thing. They come and go, as a famous French restaurant, formerly run by Paul Bocuse, found out recently when they were downgraded to two stars by Michelin, after holding the rating without interuption since 1965. Even celebrity chef Marc Veyrat, recently sued the Michelin guide over a lost third Michelin star.
To me, it is mostly irrelevant and might mean an expensive price tag. I wouldn’t refer to Michelin stars, or lack thereof when choosing a location to eat.
So imagine my surprise at the following events:-
Miss Teen, almost Adult, and I were on our final night of a 2 week trip to Japan. We had arranged to stay in a cozy and very traditional Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), in the Kyoto district before flying back to Australia.
In case you have not heard the term before, staying at a Ryokan means sleeping in traditional accommodation, on Tatami mats on the floor, bathing in a traditional Japanese tub and eating traditional Japanese food.
Staying at a Japanese Traditional Inn – Ryokan in Narita – 2008
Back in 2008, I stayed at an amazing Ryokan in Narita, which had been a former Shogun’s palace some 400 years before. Our accommodation included three emormous rooms plus a small toilet. The dining area was replete with Japanese style recessed dining table with comfy floor cushion and the sitting area overlooked a Carp fish pond and Japanese style garden courtyard set amongst topiary trees and bonsai. Idyllic. It was magical.
But no Michelin rated food was served at that ryokan. You see I’d ordered a Western Style breakfast which consisted of a lettuce leaf, (Japanese seem to be obsessed with the lettuce), a mandarin segment or two and a piece of onion. It was rather strange, but we dutifully ate it anyway, well one of the kids gnawed on the 1 slice of white bread that accompanied the salad breakfast of sorts, and the other reported that she wasn’t hungry… But it was still a great experience.
Japanese Ryokan – Kyoto
For this Japanese vacation, I wanted our last night in Japan to be rather special, so we booked a night at a traditional Ryokan, in Kyoto.
The location and decor really lived up to expectations. Shoes off and stored at the door, was a must. Upon check-in, there were lengthy instructions about how our night would go from the gentlemen dressed in a Yukata – a specific kimono worn in Ryokan, even when and, if, I should wear the Yukata.
I had, at this point, completely forgotten the accommodation booking included dinner.
“Dinner will be served at 8pm,” I was then informed.
“Where shall I go for dinner?” I tentatively asked.
“That will be explained,” the Yukata, clad attendant, stoicly advised.
It wasn’t explained, at all.
After showing us to our room, we decided to wait until 8pm and see what transpired. There seemed to be so many rules that I didn’t want to ask again! At precisely 8pm, there was a soft knock at the door.
Our meal was served in our room by a gorgeous Japanese lady, dressed Geisha-style, at the Japanese style dining table provided.
Let me tell you sitting cross legged at a low dining table was less challenging for my knees, in 2008, than it was for the now age 50+ knees!
The presentation of the meal was glamorous. I was very impressed. This was our first course, and I was excited to taste it.
I didn’t know what it was and tasted it anyway. Miss Teen Now Adult simply played with the food. The second course was a delight for me, but the daughter was again unimpressed.
Again it was largely seafood. Prawn and Sea cucumber et.al.
Miss Teen Now Adult does not eat seafood – at all.
I had only given the menu a cursory glance, as it was delivered with the first course and I was simply too much in awe of the presentation, to read much of what was written there.
Dutifully, I ate Miss Teen Now Adult’s portion, as well as mine, for both the first, second course and the third courses. I wanted to show my appreciation for the care taken with the meal.
After the third course, I was tad concerned about what was to come and thus checked the menu again to see six of the 10 courses contained seafood. I suddenly realized I couldn’t eat all her serves, as well as mine. But I also didn’t want to be rude and refuse the food either.
With a rising sense of horror, I then read the information compendium in the room, wherein it mentioned that Chef Harada, was a celebrated Michelin 1 Star chef. Eeek!
Miss Teen Now Adult was refusing to eat a Michelin star meal!
So what did I do, then? I shall have to tell you that another time.
I can say though, that Miss Teen Now Adult, was happy with the breakfast served the following morning, and hungrily gobbled it all.
Even the lettuce!
Thank goodness breakfast was something for Miss Teen Now Adult to Ponder More About.
Almost every tourist to Copenhagen will visit the Tivoli Gardens, but if you want to experience an authentic Danish Christmas, you have to be around on December 24, as that is when the Danes and many Scandinavians, and indeed Europeans, celebrate Christmas. Danes might stay at home making and preparing marzipan Christmas sweets, and in the evening, celebrate Christmas with a hearty meal with family or friends, before dancing around the Christmas tree singing carols, (in danish of course), and finish the night playing Christmas games. It is all about creating Christmas Hygge!
The focus in Norway at Christmas, or Jul, is on food and lots of it. From the Rice porridge, or Rommegrot to seven types of Christmas biscuits or cookies, the Norwegian are into it. Trolls, Nisse and all.
Germany and Europe
Over in Deutscheland, and many parts of Europe, you might attend a Christmas market. It is almost compulsory and who wouldn’t want to, when there is delicous Christmas food, a festive atmosphere and Gluhwein in the offering.
The Swiss have long trumpet like horns that are played in the streets at Christmas time. In Lucerne, they also have enormous cow bells which are held in front of them and are rung, in a rhythmic march, whilst parading down the city streets. A very special Swiss Christmas.
Over in Austria, you might meet fairy tale characters in the streets of the Old Towns, such as these in Innsbruck.
However, the vibe is a little different in Austria and southern European areas like Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia or Austria, who have the tradition of the Krampus. Based on old Germanic folklore, Austrians, (not to be confused with Australians, who have the kangaroos), start celebrating Christmas on Krampusnacht,December 5. That is when Santa’s evil twin, the “Krampus”, a devil like figure with horns, roams the streets with his evil accomplice, brandishing a whip and stick to threaten naughty children who’ve misbehaved throughout the year.
Traditionally, young men dress up with the hairy ‘Krampus’ masks and walk the streets creating havoc, hitting people with sticks. That’s Austria. Luckily, when I met the Krampus, he was in a good mood and without his heinous accomplice!
Australia, the ones with the kangaroos and Crocodiles, (not Austria), has its own version of fun in the sun at Christmas time, because it is anything but cool, “down under.” Christmas Day, December 25 is often celebrated at teh beach.
Every shopping centres hosts Santa, where he sits posed on his gold throne, surrounded by fake snow, with children atop his knee, listening intently to wishes for Christmas. It is highly confusing for the smarter kids, as they can’t work out how Santa is able to be at every shopping centre at the same time!
Often there is the opportunity for official Santa photos, and now it is popular for beloved pets get involved too. The Schnauzer seemed to enjoy the experience this year.
Down in New Zealand, you will most likely have a Christmas tree (usually an artificial one), or more than one, if you are as passionate about Christmas as this kiwi.
This Lady of the above house in Wellington loves decorating, makes all her own decorations and has no less than 15 trees in her house. It is always tastefully done, albeit a tad obsessive, but in the nicest possible way! Dianne collects a gold coin donation from visitors and the money raised is donated to charity, so there is method in her madness.
Some of her trees were really creative. She had even created seasonal trees – in tones of Spring, Summer Autumn and well, winter of course.
At the opposite ends of the world, in the far north of Sweden, you might be building a snowman or sliding down a snowy slope on a mattress at Christmastime. Or digging out your car, if the snow is heavy!
In Eastern parts of the world such as Japan, you might not really celebrate Christmas at all and instead, focus on the bigger celebration of New Year. Mind you, the growing tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on December 25, is oddly popular, for some reason. I would most likely starve if I spent Christmas day there.
You may even be someone who dislikes the hype around Christmas and prefer not to celebrate and that is okay too. Wherever you are and how ever you choose to see Christmastime, may you find Joy in your day and peace in your heart.
Living in the wide open spaces of Australia, taking a “day trip” is something so commonplace, it is almost obligatory, but rather than showcase my own backyard, I have chosen a recent day trip in Japan, for this week’s Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Day trip.
Making our way to Yoyogi Park via the highly efficient Tokyo Subway system, we orientated ourselves at the entrance to Tokyo’s Harajuku station. The Station building has a rather old world feel about it, dating, I believe, from the 1930’s.
It is clearly a busy station, but one must remember this is Japan, a country of over 125 million people, so perhaps this was actually a quiet day.
Directly opposite the station, we found Takeshita Street!
The Mecca for youth and Japanese craziness and shopping.
Think sideshow alley on steroids with an Asian twist and you have Takeshita Street.
It is noisy, crazy and colourful. Be prepared for sensory overload.
In Takeshita Street, the crowds are so thick you can easily get up close and personal with the Japanese population and a whole variety of tourists.
The average Japanese citizen is around my height, so for once I felt quite comfortable and not amongst the shortest in the crowd perusing the shops. Miss Teen, now Adult, however towered over the heads of the shoppers like a Blonde German Supermodel.
“What a beautiful girl from the beautiful sky,” was what one shopper regarded her as we strolled past.
Tokyo’s Meji Shrine is not that far from the Gyoen’s (The National Garden in Shinjuku), Sendegaya gate, but heavy rain might hamper your ability to navigate there correctly on foot. It will be particularly difficult if you’re holding a tiny Japanese umbrella over two people, and trying to navigate using your smartphone’s apps at the same time.
You have had fair warning.
9:00 am: We had begun the day at the Gyoen National Garden, a photographer’s dream, well before any rain started.
If you want to know more about visiting that spectacular Garden, click here.
We worked out that taking a wrong turn isn’t always a bad thing, in Japan. Some of the streets are really quite interesting and surprisingly devoid of traffic. Which is really unexpected, in a city of 38 million people.
1pm: After the wrong turn or two, we spotted the enormous Torii gate which signals the entrance to the Meji shrine. Having advanced knowledge that the Shinto shrine is located well inside Yoyogi Park, and given it was raining heavily, we looked for temporary cover before entering in the hopes the rain would abate.
Our vain attempt to shelter under the eave of the guard’s box at the entrance was met with howls of protest from the guard himself, that I interpreted as, “No standing here, – you must keep moving.”
And move we did, passing through the Torii gate and taking the long, now dismal, walk up to Meji. This is normally a pleasant ten minute stroll through Yoyogi park when the sun is shining, but can be a miserably cold trot if it is teeming with rain, and it was teeming with rain.
Despite the inclement weather, I noted that the gardeners was highly focused on the task at hand, which was commendable, but I pondered if it might have been a religious penance of sorts to continue sweeping the leaves with a primitive straw broom amidst a torrential downpour?
In any case, I admired his resilience and fearless immunity to discomfort, despite the heavens opening up. No down time for outdoor workers in rainy Japan, it seems. And we complain about poor working conditions here…. gulp.
The Meji Shrine, itself, dates from 1920 and being a Shinto shrine it is considered the resting place of the souls, but not the earthly remains, of Emperor Meiji, and his empress.
The Meji period marked the beginning of Modern Japan, transitioning as it did, from a feudal power to centralized control under the Emperor, and therefore this shrine is significant, in Japanese history.
It is also worth mentioning the surrounding Yoyogi park contains over 100,000 trees that originated from donations from throughout the whole of Japan.
We were later to learn that it is customary to purify your hands and face prior to entering a Shinto shrine.
What every tourist needs to know:
After washing your hands and face, be sure to let the dirty water drain outside of the stone basin and tip the blessing bucket up so that clean water runs down the handle, so that it is clean for the next person.
This is Japanese custom but also altruism and thoughtfulness.
Respect for others. I like that.
You do not want to pollute the clean water in the vessel…….
How to Purify Yourself at a shinto shrine
Take the wodden dipper in your right hand and scoop up some water. …
Wash your left hand. …
Change the dipper to your left hand, and wash your right hand. …
Change the dipper into your right hand again, and rinse your mouth with your left hand. …
Wash the handle of the dipper by letting the water run downward …
Put the dipper back on the basin, scoop side down. ( The Japanese always think of the next person)
Meji Shrine1:30 pm:
Like the many other tourists caught in the downpour with or without umbrella, we sat for over 60 minutes, waiting again for the rain to abate, as we were sure it would. It didn’t.
We sat meditating – watching the cleaner; watching the white zig zag shaped streamers fluttering in the breeze wondering of their significance; watching the rain; watching a wedding couple posing for pictures; watching the rain; watching the other tourists sitting and waiting for the rain to stop. We were patient. We watched and meditated 🙂
The rain Gods were not happy with us.
The deluge became heavier.
Another tip: There’ s not a whole lot to do at Meji Shrine, once you have taken some happy snaps and checked out the shrine. No cafe on site, No souvenir shops. That is a good thing, I think, however not such a fortuitous thing, if you are waiting for rain to stop.
A roving street vendor would have made a killing that day.
Meji Shrine 2.25 pm:
There were some beautiful blossoms to admire whilst the rain fell. I got some great pictures.
We also got up close and personal with the cleaner going about his sweeping.
I noted he had updated his broom – a modern design, this time.
An hour and a half later, we decided the rain wasn’t going to stop.
Meji Shrine 2.45pm:
The rain continued. We decided to make a run for it.
Later than night, I researched the Shinto zig zag streamers that we had seen hanging at the Shrines. Their purpose was to encourage the Shinto Nature spirits to, of all things, bring a plentiful rainfall – to ensure a good rice harvest. Rice needs so much rain….
No wonder it was raining at Meji. The Zig zag streamers were hanging everywhere.
At least the shinto gods were swiftly responsive. After that day, there was one thing I was sure about – there’ll be no shortage of rice this year in Japan.
It doesn’t take long for the uninitiated to get their head around the rather logical Japanese transport system, however it’s negotiating the myriad of entrances and exits, at the stations themselves, that can be daunting for the novice traveller.
Entering the wrong one, can leave you lost or disorientated.
Google maps appears to work really well for getting in and out of some of the busiest stations in japan, as it gives you directions and even platforms numbers.
There are also various apps that are useful, such as MapswithMe, (can be viewed when offline) and Hyperidia, or you can go old school with a free tourist map, but remember it is essential you have 20/20 vision to read the small print and they are hard to read at night.
Shinjuku station, seen below, which is really five stations in one, has over 200 exits.
3.5 million people pass through Shinjuku station daily.
Shibuya in Tokyo, is renowned for being the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, and that was where we were headed – if Google was leading us correctly. Following a sign leading up from the Shibuya station platform that indicated the Hachiko exit, we ended up in a large and busy shopping mall, so when I spotted a large window, I looked out to see just where we were:-
It looked like we were headed the correct way – I could see the famous Shibuya Starbucks.
And here we are taking it all in, not yet game to cross. Looking this way and that.
Sometimes Japan can give the traveller sensory overload. But in the nicest way.
Everyone in Japan, is so polite and respectful.
Are you ready to cross Shibuya? Here we go….
And a view from the top – kind of magical really!
Do you use Google maps or some other navigation app?
The ancient Egyptians are believed to be the first to invent a four-legged seat with a back,… The earliest examples have been found in tombs dating as far back as 2680 B.C”
The most common theories are that the chair was an outgrowth of indigenous Chinese furniture, that it evolved from a camp stool imported from Central Asia, that it was introduced to China by Nestorian missionaries in the seventh century, and that the chair came to China from India.
Thanks to Snow for this week’s excellent prompt for Friendly Friday. I’ll be back next week with a new prompt. Be sure to check out all this week’s participants linked in the comments section on Snow ‘s blog.