Community, Photography

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Looking Up

Much of the time our focus is spent looking down at our smartphones, at a book or document, or even on young children? In keeping our focus downward, we often miss important details or sights above and around us.

Have a look at the following photo : –

Not one person in this photo is LOOKING UP at the splendor above them.

There is immense beauty above our heads, if we open our eyes to it.

This week on Friendly Friday I am asking you to join in and create a post sharing your interpretation of the prompt : –

LOOKING UP

Here is something I would have missed if my daughter had not LOOKED UP –

Unusual things can be found Looking Up.

Instructions for Joining In:

  • Write and publish a post, tagging the post ‘Friendly Friday’, and adding into your post, the URL link back to this Friendly Friday post.
  • Include the Friendly Friday logo, found below, in your post if you wish.
  • Copy the link to your LOOKING UP post, in the comments here, so we can find you.
  • Please note there are no deadlines for participating. New prompts each week.
  • To see participating bloggers’ version of the weekly prompt, please browse the links in the comments section. It can be quite interesting to see the other interpretations.

Find more Instructions on joining in with Friendly Friday here

Friendly Friday

Everyone is welcome to join in with the Friendly Friday Photography challenge.

The challenge is alternately hosted each Friday by the bloggers:
Something to Ponder About  and The Snow Melts Somewhere

Pingbacks – Needing help creating a link back or pingback to your post – click here

This guy who filmed that video must be glad he Looked Up, after the earthquake

Something Fun to Ponder About this Friday!

National garden Japan
Community

Friendly Friday: Photo Walk

Come and take a Friendly Friday Photo Walk with Snow from The Snow Melts Somewhere

My starting point for a walk. Overlooking Shinjuki’s Concrete jungle.

Snow and I co-host a Photo Challenge, Called Friendly Friday, alternately each Friday (Saturday for some time zones). Although I have linked the response to this week’s prompt of a photo walk, to an earlier walk I took through the Gyoen National Park in Shinjuku, Japan, this prompt from Snow was one I couldn’t resist joining in with again.

Hosts are allowed to join their own challenges, aren’t they?


Japanese know their horticulture and how to make it a work of art. The trees perfectly frame the pond and the manicured trees int eh distance. In a week or so, these trees would turn brilliant red. Oh how I would love have seen that.

A row of Japanese mountain Maple trees – more LOTR trees,

A fellow Aussie blogger liked my comparison of these trees to Lord of the Rings.

Here is some more, Chris!

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No problems to sit here for a while and absorb the ethereal light.

More spam of my absolute favourite Sycamore, (or Plane trees – thanks Manja)!

Proof it is a real kind of Photo Walk
Friendly Friday
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Community

Heavenly Gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen – Japan

Bolstered by the large and eventful breakfast, which I wrote about here, and visiting Tokyo in Crimson Leaves Season, we were keen to explore a traditional garden, on our first day in Japan. At the top of our list was the Gyoen National Garden, a green oasis that is completely amidst the busiest commercial district in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Garden
Gyoen National Garden, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Background of Gyoen

Originally a residence for one of Japan’s feudal Lord during the Edo period, the Gyoen National Garden fell under the control of the Imperial family in the twentieth century. Although much of the garden was then destroyed during World War II; you would never know it, as Gyoen is nothing short of a tranquil, well tended masterpiece of Japanese horticulture.

Traditional Japanese Garden Design at Gyoen

With the NTT Docomo building towering stoically above Gyoen’s tree line like an old world Imperial Guard, it is easy to remember the Shinjuku-Shibuya metropolis is never far away. However, the hard concrete lines of modernity are significantly softened by the more natural lines of the leafy foliage and traditional Japanese garden fixtures.

Very photogenic.

NTT Docomo Building from Gyoen

The Gyoen Guide Map offers us the chance to fully comprehend the scale of the park and orientates ourselves to ensure we see all the individual gardens and differing botanical features contained therein. Entrance, (with guide map in English), costs 200 Japanese Yen.

We don’t want to miss anything!

Gyoen’s Shinjuku Entrance Gate

chrysanthemum shows

The small fee we pay to enter the garden is truly value for money, as the day we visit there is also a special floral display of cultivated chrysanthemums, which attracts the attention of many Japanese citizens.

How glorious are these?

Light rain only enhances the organic beauty around us, as the raindrops linger on the leaves. This delights my daughter as it makes for excellent photographic opportunities.

And we have the ubiquitous, clear-plastic umbrella to shield us. Very Japanese.


“Maple trees can be seen in large numbers around the Japanese garden and Momijiyama (maple mountain) on the [Gyoen] park’s eastern side. The colors typically appear from mid November to mid December. “

Tokyo Tourist Guide
One small Maple tree showed its Crimson coat. In a few weeks time, the others would too.

Our arrival is a week or so early to see the majority of crimson leaves in Tokyo, for the temperatures are unusually warm. Despite this, I find the trees are magical and remind me of a medieval Northern forest, or a scene from a Lord of the Rings novel.

The leaves are still golden and green, but soon to be crimson red.

Pavilion

Each path within the garden invites in us, a different mood, vista and experience.
You can see hanging bouquets of chrysanthemums in the display in the background.
Despite the overcast conditions, the Pavilion was a place of tranquility and reflection, in more ways than one.

The carp pond

No Japanese garden could be complete without a Carp pond – and Gyoen has one.

Again the city reminds you it’s not far too away.

Carp pond – Gyoen National Garden
A serene spot to reflect, meditate and rejuvenate in Gyoen. Lucky Carp fish.

Autumn avenue awesomeness

However, for this sub-tropical Australian resident, the ultimate heavenly experience is yet to come when I discover the avenue of Sycamore trees, a feast for local photographers. It is such a delight for me. I truly am in awe of these trees and their burst of colour.

Photography
What photographer wouldn’t want to capture this?

This is Autumnal earth, resplendent in shades of sienna, brown, rust, bright yellow and green, all coalescing in an intense and harmonious collection of wholesome organic beauty.

The child in me wanted to run and kick up the fallen leaves, throw them in the air, rake them into a pile and jump on top of them. An Autumnal experience that exists only in my dreams.

Gyoen national park is a Japanese treasure, particularly if you visit at Crimson Leaf Season
Stunningly picturesque

Never before had I seen an avenue of trees that captivated me in such a way and I didn’t want to leave. [You have to remember we don’t have such deciduous trees in my home zone, so I’m super excited.]

sendagaya gate

Reluctantly, after several hours exploring and a gazillion photographs taken, we walk towards the park’s Sendagaya gate and find yet another magical path through the trees.

There is a special light through here. It is hard to define and see in the photo, but it is there.

Gyoen National Garden – A perfect spot to sit and ‘Ponder About Something.’

Linking to Friendly friday photo walk a challenge hosted by me and Snowmeltssomewhere

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 #aroundtheworldWP

Community

Eat Like the Japanese

It seems like the only people I have seen in Japan carrying extra kilos, (Sumo wrestlers notwithstanding), has been more often than not, Australian tourists – like me! I was thinking that there was something in this. Perhaps it should be a wake up call for Aussie lifestyle and diets.

At breakfast the morning after our arrival, the reason why Japanese appear so lean was becoming obvious. But first we had to make it to the breakfast restaurant.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm, or Does It?

Factoring in that there was two complexes that make up the Washington Shinjuku Hotel, I became a tad concerned about how busy the restaurant might be, particularly at breakfast time.

Arriving promptly at the buffet restaurant at the allotted time, would be the best way to stay ahead of the crowds all wanting breakfast at the hotel in Shinjuku, or so I thought. But this is Japan.

Booking.com photo credit

So when the lift doors opened to the 25th floor, it seemed that my concerns were totally unfounded. Only a few people were waiting at the restaurant’s entrance. They had even provided a couple of chairs for us. How thoughtful, I mused.

Then it dawned on me. Chairs? How long could the actual wait time be?

It was as if they were reading my mind, because an attendant quietly placed a cardboard clock on the counter, indicating a wait time of 30 mins to be seated for breakfast. Oh!

But it must be wrong I thought, as there was only one couple ahead of me, wasn’t there?

Several minutes later, we were ushered into a specially assigned waiting room…. full of guests waiting for breakfast. Water, mints and reading material was provided. This was a little concerning! When was breakfast?

All was good though, because a mere 20 minutes later, we were invited to enter the restaurant. I was still impressed by the Japanese organizing capabilities. A waiting room – great idea!

JAPANESE ORGANIZATION


We were given breakfast cards to keep and use at our table. An ingenious concept that I had not seen before. Just flip your card depending on your status, ‘Having a meal’ when you take one or those,’ more please,’ trips to the buffet and ‘End of Meal’ when you leave.

No confusion or wasting table space with empty tables waiting to be cleared of dirty dishes, in the restaurant. Such a clever idea. So Japanese and so organized.

Breaking the fast

Endless varieties of lettuce featured at the buffet

As well as a slight obsession with fresh lettuce, (so far the single most recurring food theme of this holiday), an array of pro-biotic fermented foods such pickled kelp, mustard greens, dried plum and leeks featured significantly at the breakfast buffet.

I was starting to see more reasons why Japanese have a healthy diet.

You had to be super quick if you wanted to try these Deep Fried Fish Balls and the cooks could not keep up with the demand for Gyoza. Two foods that are probably not that good for the waistline.

I wasn’t sure what the above delicacies were. Apart from the greens, it looked like leeks, some kind of breakfast cereal on the left and beans and pasta in the middle. Any ideas?

I focused on the pomegranate juice; (at least I think that is what it was), but I could not altogether resist the American style donuts and had to satisfy my curiosity with a Japanese Sweet Potato Cake, ( bottom left in the photo below). Yes I was satisfied – but the cake was a little too sweet to eat for breakfast, but still quite delicious!

The view from the buffet window might have taken my breath away, but it did nothing to assuage my appetite. Plenty of walking was scheduled for today, so that would work off the donuts, wouldn’t it?

No wonder the Japanese are lean.

More about our day, walking over 15 kilometres around Shibuya next time.

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Community

The Contrasts of Japan

Think of Japan, and what comes to mind? The perfect symmetry of Mt Fuji, the controlled calm of a Tea Ceremony, Kimonos, or Sushi? Japan is all that and more. This East meets West paradigm can be a place of extreme contrasts, as we found out not long after settling in to our hotel in Shinjuku, west of Tokyo.

From our hotel, the contrast between concrete jungle and green space of Chuo Park, is obvious

Shinjuku

With 20 tracks and 12 train links, Shinjuku Railway station is the busiest railway station in the world. Each day, up to 3.5 million commuters pass through its gates.

Given the vast metropolis that surrounds them, Japanese are fortunate to have a green oasis Shinjuku Chuo Park, a few steps away.

Chuo Park

This tribute to Zen incorporates gardens, a children’s, playground, waterfall and contrastingly – smoking cabins!

SMOKING cabins and Tai Chi

As I walked through this delightful park, I thought the smoking cabins seemed counter-intuitive to the objective of tranquility and Zen. Yet that did appear to be the objective of not only, the Tai Chi group, but also the gentleman playing the bamboo flute. (Even with the slight off key notes). This is Japan!

Again, we found it hard to believe another world was around the corner. What a contrast.

And if that wasn’t enough of a contrast, for us, we were about to discover the Pachinko phenomenon.

Pachinko MADNESS – What is it?

To the novice, Pachinko parlours are without doubt, a full on assault to the senses, bordering on sensory overload. But if Ikebana and Shinto Shrines are where Zen reaches its ‘zenith,’ Pachinko parlours must represent the flip side as leisure pursuits.

Pachinko parlours are full of loud, colourful and very noisy fantasy games. By day or night, grown men, mostly wearing suits, obsessively shove thousands of tiny beads into the hungry mouths of their electronic fantasy machines. Here is a taster: –

Not familiar with Pachinko? That might be because, to my knowledge, the game is purely a Japanese phenomenon.

As Gambling for cash is restricted to horse racing in Japan, the Japanese play for tiny beads, which can be exchanged for cards or tokens, redeemable at a separate location. At least, I think that is how they play it. To me these grown men were terribly reminiscent of teenage boys addicted to W.O.W or Fortnite! Crrrazzyy…

Thinking it is a harmless pastime of little consequence? Think again. “In 2015, Japan’s Pachinko market generates more gambling revenue than that of Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore combined.”[2]

The Pachinko Parlour at the Shinjuku Washington Hotel operates seven days a week from 10 – 2300, and boasts 500 seats and a SMOKING section!

Note: Smoking in public places in Australia has been banned for many years and to do so immediately relegates one to some back alley or rooftop alcove, usually beside large air-conditioning units, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that the Pachinko parlour lists the smoking room as one of their assets!

Another contrast for me to ponder about!

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Turning Japanese

How do you spend two weeks travelling Japan, with a teenager in tow, during the season of the ‘Crimson Leaves?’ By seeing incredible nature and having numerous experiences, good, bad, funny and serious, but all of them, unique. In fact, sometimes I felt like this old eighties song:

Leaving Australia

I was a little unsettled by a shaky start when we arrived at the check-in counter at the airport for our departure. Miss Teenager Now Adult suddenly realized she had left her passport at home.

“Why didn’t I check this myself?” I chided myself inwardly, as we made a frantic phone call to a family member, who lived nearby.

They came to the rescue with a hasty trip to the airport ‘drop off’ zone! Lucky they live so close, I thought! Apparently even flight attendants occasionally forget their passports, (and it’s usually at Christmas time), at least according to the Airport Ground Steward we chatted to.  He did not seem especially sympathetic to forgetful Staff, but was a tad more reassuring for Miss Teenager Now Adult. She responded to this kindly reassurance by slipping back into the standard mode of ‘parents are so embarrassing / awkward teenager,’ reproaching me sharply with a instruction to, “Stop Talking Mum,” albeit in hushed tones, so the Steward would not hear.
However, her surly adolescent mood was placated when confronted with a chirpy and upbeat check-in clerk, who offered us a Business class check in, as a thank you for trialing their new facial recognition software. “I hope this new software isn’t costing jobs,” I gently admonished as we zipped through passport control.

First Impressions

This wasn’t my first trip to Japan; although it had been some time since I had been in Tokyo itself, so I was anxious to see how much had changed since my visit 14 years before.

On touching down in Narita, we were escorted to a luxury limousine electric van, the comfy, serene interior of which made for a silent sixty minute glide/drive to Shinjuku, our destination for the next three nights.

As bedazzling as the metropolis outside the window was, I felt certain the quiet interior of the limousine belied the sounds outside. Endless streets of high rise skyscrapers, a sea of commuters on the streets and buildings lit up like Christmas trees wizzed by our window, in a never ending parade.

Inside the glass encased megaliths, I could see Japanese citizens still working hard at their desks, even though it was 8.30 in the evening. A diligent population!

Food


Miss Teenager Now Adult was not at all keen to eat anything for dinner. For some reason, she seemed to have lost her appetite on the plane. Rationalizing that she needed to eat something to sustain her energy levels for the following day of planned walking, we ventured down to the main streets of Shinjuku, and found convenience stores variously called: ‘Family Mart’ or ‘Ministop’ or a little ironically, ‘Lawson.’ I let out a sigh of relief when we bypassed the temptations on offer in the street vending machines. It seems that Japan has brought that range to an absolute art form, as you can see in the photo.


Little Miss chose to eat noodles and potato chips, [surprise, surprise], which certainly required her to use a few detective skills to discover which flavour might be similar to her Aussie preferences. Of course, she remained unconvinced Green tea flavored Noodles or Matcha Potato chips would be welcomed by her thoroughly Australian digestive system.

To our surprise and delight, she was so impressed with one flavour, (something akin to sour cream and chive flavored potato chips), she promptly posted a ‘Two minute noodle and chip review,’ on Snap chat, her favorite social media platform. They must have been impressive, I guess.

It is all about the Lettuce in Japan

As for me, I grabbed a humble ‘sanger,’ featuring a large amount of lettuce. Being a former vegetarian, I loved the tribute to green matter on the Family Mart sandwich. Basically it was a lettuce sandwich with a tiny amount of ham and cheese, rather than the reverse! Yay for lettuce! I was later to discover lettuce and greens were a recurring culinary theme on this vacation. No wonder a Japanese diet is considered healthy.

Hotel Shinjuku Washington

Our Hotel room was most likely large by Japanese standards, but adequate for two of us. We were perched on the 23rd floor, so the view was nothing short of spectacular.

Our view

As with most hotels and indeed traditional Ryokans, Japanese accommodation comes with almost everything one needs, so you can ‘go light’ with your luggage. As well as complimentary disposable guest hairbrush, hair ties and toothbrush, Q-tips, Nail files and other hygiene tools for personal use, we were supplied with complimentary slippers and Pajamas.

But be warned the pajamas/yukata, supplied, are unlikely to feature in a fashion magazine any time soon, so they ARE for personal eyes only…. hence the reason I didn’t take a photograph of me wearing them! [Think time warp to retro hairdressers of 1950’s and you would not be too far off].

Having said that, the pajamas and the Washington hotel itself, was extremely comfortable and provided us with a good dose of our required beauty sleep, only surpassed by breakfast the following day. But more of that, another time.

Washington Hotel Shinjuku

Close to Shinjuku station, Meji shrine and Gyoen National Garden and Metropolitan Government Building

Chome-2-9 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan

Described on Google as a “straightforward hotel offering a refined steakhouse & a posh restaurant with city views.”

Fancy that: We had breakfast in a posh restaurant. Something to ponder about.

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trondheim manor garden
Community

Proverbial Thursday – Global Words of Wisdom

proverbial-thurs

I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking. 

I hope you will too.

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The events in the United States, have over the last twenty four hours, dominated our media. I don’t intend to shy away, but rather to embrace this issue, in a different way, on Proverbial Thursday.  I feel these few words reflect my thoughts and feelings, no matter what your political leanings.

The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour. – Japanese proverb

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“We do not have to like them, we only have to understand them.”

An unknown radio commentator

The proverb has held to be true many times over. But do you agree with it?

The quote, is a comment in reference to understanding a culture different to one’s own, and yet I think it is even more profound if we were to use it to refer to one’s enemies, for the ultimate greater good of the world.

Our one world, in which we all live.

Do you agree?

Proverbial Thursday – something profound to ponder about.

Japanese gardens
Community

Proverbial Thursday – Global Sayings

I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking. 

I hope you will too.

This week the proverb comes from a country I have not featured previously on Proverbial Thursday:

Life is a candle before the wind – Japanese Proverb

God has no religion – Gandhi

Does the Japanese proverb ring true for you?

What do you make of Gandhi’s words?

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Something Proverbial to Ponder About

Environment

Tokyo Tower – 33 Years on …Now and then

The first two photos were taken from the Tokyo tower in  2004, and I guess there are a few more skyscrapers now…. and then I found another photo from 1971 and could not believe the difference…..

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And here taken in 1971. The comparison is remarkable. Look at all the green space that has become concrete… and all the low buildings that have been enveloped..

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The perpective of time, that has passed here… 33 years….

Sort or makes you ponder what your city will be like in 33 years from now…