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Friday, June 24, 2016

Commune 246 - here today, gone tomorrow

Side entrance of Commune 246, Minami Aoyama, Tokyo
Side entrance to Commune 246, Minami Aoyama, Tokyo
Omotesando is the centerpiece of the ultra-trendy Harajuku/Aoyama district. Omotesando intersects with Aoyama-dori which connects the area to Shibuya a little over a kilometer to the south-west. Very near the intersection, and just off Aoyama-dori is a colorful jumble of more or less permanently set up food and drink booths and stands called Commune 246.

Commune 246 is the successor to the 246 Common that occupied this spot until a couple of years ago.

The side entrance to Commune 246, Minami-Aoyama, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
The side entrance to Commune 246
The fairground look of Commune 246 is only what meets the eye. There are several parts to Commune 246 that deserve a little nosing around. The prefab-style Midori.so2 Gallery that hosts cutting-edge art exhibitions, a "free university" talk space, and even Caravan Tokyo, a trailer home for hire as a hotel, that make it truly "community" as opposed to just commercial. Commune 246's catchphrase is "Curate the City."

But, for the casual - and especially the non-Japanese speaking - visitor, Commune 246's food options will be the main attraction.

Under the big white dining arch at Commune 246, Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo.
Schmatz - subtitled "Fresh German Food" and "Beer Dining" offers a selection of German beers along with hearty but imaginatively created fusion-style morsels to accompany it like Schitzel Parmigiana (pork schnitzel with parmesan and tomato sauce), salmon carpaccio and wild boar sausages, to name just a few. Schmatz hours 11:30 am to 10 pm.

Antenna< >WIRED CAFE (there's another one in Shinagawa) is more of a regular cafe than a stand and is a place where you can hang out for a while. It has its 600 yen "open dogs": White Gravy Dog, Guacamole Dog, Indian Curry Dog, Kitsune Dog, and more, with tea or coffee for just 200 yen more, as well as smoothies, chocolate drinks, draft beer etc for around the 500 yen mark. Antenna< >WIRED CAFE hours 11 am to 10 pm.

Caravan Tokyo trailer home hotel in Commune 246, Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo.
Caravan Tokyo trailer home accommodation in Commune 246
Cori. Japanese Vegan Food ("No meat, no eggs, no milk, no animal seasoning") is just what the name says.
Hours 1 pm - 9 pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

Ichimame is all about soy: non-GM organic soy grown without agricultural chemicals, for delicious 700 yen soy milk smoothies like komatsuna and banana, strawberry and raspberry, mango and pineapple, and ginger and orange.
Schmatz and Fish Co-op stalls at Commune 246, Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo.
Schmatz and Fish Co-op stalls at Commune 246

There's Breton kushiyaki, with green salads on the side, and Tonpai Kitchen for "Thai Food and Beer," Bharat Spice Labo for great-tasting Indian food, Brooklyn Ribbon Fries with its cross between French fries and crisps and that come in a range of surprising (and surprisingly good-tasting) coatings and dips, Fish Co-op for deliciously prepared Japanese seafood, Avenue B Soup & Veggies
for organically produced vege soups, and more.

Main Entrance to Commune 246, off Aoyama-dori, Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo.
Main Entrance to Commune 246
True to it's catchphrase "Curating the City," Commune 246 holds a string of events throughout the year from book launches, to starlight markets, to loft parties, so check out the Commune 246 website to stay tuned.

Finally, all good things must come to an end, and Commune 246's days are precisely numbered: 159 days left as of today: clearly displayed at the top of the website. But 159 days is still plenty of time to enjoy lots more of this funky, happening - and welcoming - village inside the city.

Commune 246 is in Minami Aoyama 3-13, Shibuya ward, Tokyo.
Commune 246 is in Minami Aoyama 3-13
Getting to Commune 246: From Omotesando Subway Station, go right out of Exit A4, go up to the Omotesando/Aoyama-dori intersection and turn right. You can access Commune 246 down the first little alley on the right, which takes you to the side entrance after about half a minute's walk. Or, you can enter by the main entrance by taking the second alley on the right. The Commune gate is a little way in.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Uramado Exhibition

An exhibition by Julie Stephen Chheng and Thomas Pons.

Uramado Exhibition.


Uramado explores Augmented Reality in paper creations, by the way of a journey proposed to the audience. Through the screen of their smartphones, viewers can project themselves in fantasy or dreamy worlds ... which will suddenly come to life.

Uramado Exhibition, Tokyo.


The exhibition is two projects in augmented reality started during the artists' residency at Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto:

Animated Chronicles is an animated diary about day to day life in Japan.

Uramado is a series of augmented pop-ups with virtual contents inspired by Japanese windows. At night, these pop-ups become little lanterns and reveals other animations in augmented reality.

Uramado Exhibition.


* Thomas Pons is an animation director and Julie Stephen Chheng a designer. They are both graduates from Les Arts Décoratifs de Paris.

From 2016/05/26 to 2016/06/29 at the French Institute of Tokyo
15 Ichigaya Funagawara-machi, Shinjuku, Tokyo 162-0826

Uramado Exhibition.

Uramado Exhibition, Tokyo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ruins of Kira Yoshinaka's House

吉良邸跡

The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the defining tales of Japanese history, combining as it does so many seemingly quintessential Japanese traits and behavior patterns: suicide, loyalty (bushido), honor, patience, deception and vengeance among them.

Ruins of Kira Yoshinaka's House, Ryogoku, Tokyo.

The villain of the piece is undoubtedly Kira Yoshinaka (1641-1703), a corrupt official in the service of the shogun who insults Asano Naganori, the feudal lord of the Ako domain (in present-day Hyogo Prefecture). The enraged Asano draws his short sword on Kira within the grounds of Edo Castle and for this breach of the strict samurai code is sentenced to commit seppuku or ritual suicide.

Ruins of Kira Yoshinaka's House, Ryogoku, Tokyo.

As further punishment, Asano's domain is confiscated by the Tokugawa regime and thus his followers become masterless samurai or ronin. 47 of Asano's men, led by Oishi Kuranosuke, plot their revenge and after two years of planning and deception they storm the large mansion of Kira Yoshinaka on the winter's evening of December 15, 1702, killing him and placing his severed head on the grave of their master in Sengakuji Temple.

A small fraction of Kira Yoshinaka's once huge mansion is still preserved in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo with a small shrine dedicated to his spirit. There is also a small well in the grounds, a reminder of the original well, where the 47 Ronin washed Kira's head before taking it away.

Ruins of Kira Yoshinaka's House, Ryogoku, Tokyo.

Ruins of Kira Yoshinaka's House
3-13-9 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku
Tokyo 130-0026

The former house of Kira Yoshinaka is a short walk from Ryogoku Station on the JR Sobu Line.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Berrick Hall Yamate Yokohama

ベーリック・ホール

Berrick Hall in the Bluff/Yamate district of Yokohama is the former Spanish-style mansion of the British businessman B.R. Berrick (1878-1972). It was designed by the American architect J.H. Morgan (1868-1937) in 1930 and post-dates the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Berrick Hall is the largest pre-war foreign residence in Yamate.

Berrick Hall Yamate Yokohama, Japan.


J.H. Morgan first came to Japan in 1920 and is known for his steel-framed buildings, which were designed to survive the earthquakes to which Japan is prone. Morgan rebuilt the nearby Christ's Church, which had been destroyed by the tremors of 1923. Morgan was also responsible for the building of Yamate 111, as well as the grandstands of the Old Negishi Racetrack.

Morgan is buried in the Yokohama Foreigners' Cemetery, of which he designed the elegant entrance gate and gatehouse, where a small museum dedicated to the foreign influence in Yokohama is housed.

Morgan's wealthy client B.R. Berrick was born in London and first arrived in Yokohama in 1898 to join his family's successful import-export business. The Berricks exported Japanese lacquer, paper (washi) and silk as well as importing a variety of European goods in to Japan.

The first Berrick residence was destroyed in the 1923 Earthquake, hence the need for a new place to live. Interestingly, Berrick also served as the honorary consul of Finland during his time in Japan and the present Finnish Embassy in Tokyo occasionally holds events in the residence. Berrick and his family finally left Japan in 1938 when war with the West was seemingly imminent and relocated to Vancouver, Canada.

Berrick Hall Yamate Yokohama, Japan.


The interior of the mansion includes motifs and stylistic elements borrowed from Spain and the Islamic world as well as Japanese-style rooms and exquisite tile and iron work.

Post World War II, Berrick Hall was requisitioned by the occupying American armed forces. In 1956 Berrick donated his mansion to St. Joseph's International School and it was utilized as a dormitory by the school until 2000. The exotic design and lush gardens of Berrick Hall are now a popular venue for wedding ceremonies for both international and Japanese couples.

Berrick Hall Yamate Yokohama, Japan.


Berrick Hall
72, Yamate-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0862
Tel: 045 663 5685

Admission: Free
Hours: 9.30am-5pm; July & August 9.30am-6pm; Closed: every 2nd Wednesday of the month (open if a national holiday), also closed over the New Year holidays.
Access: The nearest stations are Motomachi-Chukagai Station on the Minatomirai Line and Ishikawacho Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Negishi Line.

Other attractions in the Yamate/Bluff area of Yokohama include Christ Church, the Yokohama Foreigners' Cemetery, the British House Yokohama, the Museum of Tin Toys and the Yamate Museum of Tennis. The Ehrisman Mansion is also close to Berrick Hall.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Japan News This Week 19 June 2016

今週の日本

Japan News.
Chasing Hiroshige's Vision of Japan
New York Times

Japan's yen - the unlikely investment haven
BBC

Japan's dementia crisis hits record levels as thousands go missing
Guardian

Minor’s death sentence sees Japan media split on anonymity rule
Japan Times

Hope
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Cost to enter World Heritage Sites, in Japanese yen:

Byodoin Temple (Japan):  600 yen
Kiyomizu Temple (Japan): 400 yen
Tower of London (England): 4,620 yen
Versailles (France): 2,055 yen

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima To the Great Kannon Part II

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 6, To the Great Kannon Part II
Saturday February 6th

After a delicious lunch with mostly female company it was time to press on. As pleasurable as lunch was, it had taken almost two hours out of a very short winter's day, and if I was going to get where I needed to before dark I had to pick up the pace.

A kilometer or so up the quiet narrow lane and I arrived at the small village of Takinomiya where I enjoyed a drink while exploring the local Yasaka Shrine. Nearby was Takinomiya-an, a small hermitage and number 71 of the pilgrimage. The bell tower was moved here from the Yasaka Shrine when the government separated the Buddhas and Kami in early Meiji.

Approaching Kasagataki, Shodoshima.
Approaching Kasagataki, Shodoshima
I take the well signed footpath that heads up towards the top of the ridge. I have been climbing gently since mid-morning and so the last stretch to the ridge is quite quick. The ridge is very narrow and every now and then I pass a statue. As the trail starts to get steep I come upon a curious circular room of concrete and above it a statue of Fudo Myo. Down below, the valley I walked down on day 4 stretches away into the distance.

The trail now starts down the opposite side of the ridge. It is very rocky and the trail is not at all clear but it's fairly obvious where I'm heading. Soon I reach a wide path and a bell tower and then lines of statues. I've reached Kasagataki, the okunoin of temple 72, Ryukoji, which is located lower down at the base of the mountain.

Way up at the base of the cliff is a group of building set against the rock, obviously various caves/ halls, and on top of the cliff itself a tall, pagoda made of stone. Between me and the building is a huge, steep slope of bare naked rock. Not perfectly smooth, but with no steps carved into it, a handrail goes part way up. However, a yellow rope is strung across the base which would seem to imply that entry is forbidden. I slowly start to make my way up. Where the handrail ends there is a small cave off to the right which I go into and explore.

The main halls of Kasagataki, Shodoshima.
The main halls of Kasagataki, Shodoshima
The entrance is flanked by stone lanterns and statues and inside a small altar. From here there is a chain to help with the climb up to the main halls. I really want to make the climb but figure the doors are probably locked so instead I head back down. Following the path along I come to another section leading down that is just exposed, jagged rock. There is a handrail but here also a yellow rope suggesting entry is not allowed, but as I have come over the mountain rather than up the mountain from the temple below, there is no other way.

From the gate a long and wide flight of stone steps leads down to the road. Coming from below it must be one hell of a climb up to Kasagataki. I follow the country lane down into the village where I find Ryukoji, a substantial temple and one of only a handful on this pilgrimage with Nio guardians. I walk along the hillside through the village and head north east towards the Daikannon. First I stop in at pilgrimage temple number 73, Guze-do.

Entrance to the Great Kannon.
Entrance to the Great Kannon
From here the bright, white, slender figure of the giant Kannon statue becomes visible rising from the hillside ahead. I take what seems to be the most direct route towards her, but come to a stream with deep concrete banks and so must head back towards the main road before finding the entrance.

The base of the statue, which is more than 50 meters high, contains a temple and after paying my entrance fee, go in and explore. An elevator ascends up inside the statue to the viewing platform. The small windows looking out are the jewels in Kannon's necklace. The views to the front look down on the valleys and mountains I previously walked, and the view from behind is the coast of Shodoshima and views towards Okayama and other islands. The sun is close to setting and there is a bus stop just in front of the Daikannon entrance, so its a good point to stop for the day and catch the bus back down to Tonosho.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 6 Part I

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Top 10 Japanese Flowers & Flowering Plants

Japan is home to a huge variety of flowering plants and one of the joys of visiting this verdant land is to experience its varied flora.

Certain flowers and flowering plants define the seasons in Japan. Depending on what time of the year you visit, you will encounter these plants in abundance whether in parks and gardens or part of a traditional Japanese festival.

Plum blossom (ume) heralds the approaching spring.
Plum blossom (ume)

Plum Blossom

Plum trees (ume) blossom in late winter in Japan and are a sign that the cold months are nearly over and spring is on the way. The plum tree was introduced to Japan from China and today there are many varieties of plum blossom in Japan and in a number of different colors. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in north-west Kyoto is particularly famous for its plum blossom. The plums themselves are used to make umeboshi (pickled plums) and umeshu (plum wine).

Japanese tea field Sayama, Saitama.
Japanese tea: a variety of camellia

Camellia

Camellia (tsubaki) is seen everywhere in Japan especially in hedgerows lining sidewalks and apartment buildings. Camellia is an evergreen, displaying glossy green leaves throughout the year and bright, red showy flowers that drop suddenly when over. The tea we all know and love (ocha in Japanese) is botanically a variety of camellia (Camellia sinensis) and can also be seen planted in neat rows throughout the Japanese countryside especially in Shizuoka Prefecture, which is famous for its tea production. Izu-Oshima Island has Japan's largest camellia garden.

Cherry blossom in Tokyo, Japan.
Cherry blossom (sakura)


Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom (sakura) is the flower most associated with Japan and its culture. During the cherry blossom season, usually around the beginning of April (though later in the far north of Japan) people flocks to public parks, temples and shrines for hanami - cherry blossom viewing - an activity that often involves picnics and a fair amount of drinking and merrymaking. The brief bloom of the pink leaves before they fall to earth represents the finite nature of existence and was, and is, a recurrent theme in the literature and sensibilities of the Japanese people. The sakura motif can also be seen in many Japanese arts and crafts and goods for sale. Sakura blossoms appear on the reverse of the 100 yen coin.

Azaleas in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Azaleas (tsutsuji)


Azaleas

The azalea (tsutsuji) flowers following the cherry blossom and, like the camellia, is often found in hedges along sidewalks and in private houses. The season when the azealeas are in bloom is one of the best times to visit Japan - before the rains of the wet season and the heat of the summer. There are over 300 varieties of azalea in Japan and they have been cultivated here since the Kamakura Period. Nezu Shrine in Tokyo is particularly famous for its stunning azaleas.

Iris at Ota Shrine, Kyoto, Japan.
Iris (ayame)


Iris

The beautiful purple or, less frequently, white iris usually blooms for a short period in May in Japan. The Japanese iris (ayame; Iris sanguinea) grows in damp, wet conditions and can be found close to ponds and small lakes in Japanese temples and shrines. Ota Shrine near Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto has a wonderful meadow full of purple irises, a truly wonderful sight when in full bloom. Nearby Kyoto Botanical Garden also has a remarkable Japanese iris garden.

Wisteria in Ashikaga Flower Park, Tochigi.
Wisteria (fuji)

Wisteria

Wisteria (fuji) is endemic to Japan and grows in thick vines often supported on a trellis in Japan's parks and gardens. Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture is especially famous for its wisteria. The kanji for fuji (藤) appears in many common family names, the wisteria flower features in many family crests, and fuji-musume, or "Wisteria Daughter," is a time-honored theme of Japanese painting and drama, specifically kabuki.

Hydrangeas (ajisai) bloom during the rainy season in June and July.
Hydrangeas (ajisai)

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas (ajisai) bloom during Japan's rainy season, in June and July. A number of temple and shrine gardens are well-known for their hydrangeas including Meigetsu-in in Kamakura, Fujimori Jinja Shrine in Fushimi in Kyoto and Tofukuji also in south-east Kyoto. The hydrangea is native to south and east Asia (China, Korea, Japan, the Himalaya region and Indonesia) as well as North and South America.  There are over 70 species throughout the world, and Hydrangea serrata is the variety native to Japan and Korea, of which there are several different cultivars. Hydrangea leaves are generally toxic if eaten, but mountain hydrangea have a natural sweetening agent that is used to make what is called amacha tea.

Water lily leaves and a lotus in Japan.
Lotus (hasu) and water lily (suiren)

Water Lilies & Lotus

Water Lilies (suiren) and the related lotus (hasu) bloom in Japan's hot and humid summer months. The lotus flower is associated with Buddhism and Buddhist temples. Lotuses can often be seen in temple ponds. Shinobazu Lotus Pond (不忍池), on the western edge of Tokyo's Ueno Park, is a large pond full of lotuses, said to have been first planted here in the early 17th century during the Edo Period. The image above is from Hokongo-in Temple in Kyoto.


The chrysanthemum (kiku) is one of Japan's unofficial national flowers.
Chrysanthemum (kiku)

Chrysanthemums

The chrysanthemum (kiku) is an unofficial "national flower" of Japan taken from the Chrysanthemum Seal (kikumon) of the Imperial family. Originally from China, the chrysanthemum blooms in autumn and can be seen at flower exhibitions across the country, as growers compete to produce the perfect bloom. The Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum is Japan's greatest honor, bestowed by the Emperor, and similar to France's Legion of Honor. The stylized chrysanthemum motif appears on the Japanese passport.

Cosmos in Huis Ten Bosch, Nagasaki, Kyushu.
Cosmos (kosumosu)

Cosmos

Cosmos (kosumosu コスモス in Japanese) originated in the Americas and has spread throughout Japan since the early Edo Period. The cosmos appears in autumn with beautiful pink, purple and white flowers. Cosmos can be found in meadows, river banks and, increasingly, in parks and gardens, like these beautiful petals pictured at Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki Prefecture. Koganei Park in Tokyo has a huge number of cosmos and there are cosmos viewings at Hamarikyu Gardens, Akirudai Park, Shinagawa Hanakaido and Symbol Promenade Park in Odaiba - all in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Lost Kokeshi Mystery

Twice I have traveled to the Tohoku region of Japan and it is definitely a favorite of mine. While in the north, I began to gather kokeshi and formed a small collection of the folk art at home in the US.

Izushi Castle in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture.


On a recent trip to Shimane Prefecture and beyond I was accompanied by three of my kokeshi. Long, long ago, in a public university far, far away, I earned degrees in art, with a concentration in creative photography. The kokeshi inspired me to create a series of 15 photographs which I sincerely hope appear creative. Upon completion of the set, I thought perhaps I could return with the kokeshi to their native land and attempt to capture a few interesting/strange/different kinds of images. The catch was that I had to shoot them on the quick, because I was uncomfortable drawing attention to myself and my daughter; therefore, forethought was not a large part of the equation. I'd pull out a kokeshi or two (or sometimes inadvertently, a tube of chapstick) and begin taking pictures. All was well until one evening in the hotel room when I dumped out the contents of my bag. There were only two kokeshi instead of three. The little kokeshi was missing.

Kijiyama Sisters.


I wasn't upset but wondered how and where I had lost her. We had last seen her on the grounds of Izushi Castle in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture. My daughter the writer couldn't resist creating a scenario: "According to the Kijiyama sisters, the little kokeshi is young and naive, and she doesn't understand the ways of the world. Little K-chan will suffer a poor fate, and never find her way back to the Tohoku. It cannot be helped." But this is what I think: "If you visit Izushi Castle, I'll bet you'll find the little kokeshi propped up on a bench and waiting patiently to be found. Doesn't that seem right?"

The Lost Kokeshi Mystery


Buy original Kokeshi from Japan

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bluff No. 234

山手234番館

Bluff No.234 in the Bluff/Yamate district of Yokohama was built as apartments for foreigners in 1927 after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.

Altogether there are four apartments in the two-story property, which is somewhat unusual as houses on The Bluff tended to be single units. The apartments were part of the reconstruction of the area following the earthquake.

Bluff No. 234, Yokohama.

The interior of the building has been restored with lovely period furniture, wooden floors and mantle pieces. There is not much English explanation within the property on the wall panel displays.

The property was requisitioned by the US army after World War II and the building was in use as apartments until 1975. The house has been open to the public since 1999.

Bluff No. 234 interior decoration.


Bluff No. 234
234-1, Yamate-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0862
Tel: 045 625 9393

Admission: Free
Hours: 9.30am-5pm; July & August 9.30am-6pm; Closed: every 4th Wednesday of the month (open if a national holiday), also closed over the New Year holidays.
Access: The nearest stations are Motomachi-Chukagai Station on the Minatomirai Line and Ishikawacho Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Negishi Line.

Other attractions in the Yamate/Bluff area of Yokohama include Christ Church, the Yokohama Foreigners' Cemetery, the British House Yokohama, the Museum of Tin Toys and the Yamate Museum of Tennis. The Ehrisman Mansion is just across the street.

Bluff No. 234, Yokohama, Japan.

Tokyo Candlelight Vigil for Orlando Shooting Victims

フロリダ州オーランド銃殺事件の追悼集会

Preparing commemorative posters in Hanazono Nishi Koen Park, Shinjuku, Tokyo,  for the victims of the Orlando Pulse mass shooting.

At 8 pm on Tuesday, June 14, dozens of LGBT men and women assembled in a small neighborhood park in Shinjuku, Tokyo, to remember and mourn those murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.

Participants included a lot of people who, like me, came alone, drawn by the need for community in the face of one of history's most harrowing reminders that homophobia kills.

"Stand up for love": candlelight vigil at Hanazono Nishi Koen Park, Shinjuku, for Pulse nightclub, Orlando, shooting victims.
"Stand up for love"
By 8:30 pm, the few dozen had grown to several dozen. Commemorative posters were drawn up, rainbow flags readied, and candles passed around and lit. Fortunately what had become an overcast sky by evening did not turn to rain, although gusts of wind did make keeping the candle alight difficult at times.

"Tokyo in solidarity with Orlando": commemorative posters at candlelight vigil for Pulse nightclub shooting victims, in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.

The names of the victims of the massacre were read out by one of the organizers - feelings of grief evident both in his delivery and the wordless voices of those listening -  followed by a minute's silence.

The press presence was evident, if not overwhelming, with at least a reporter from the Japan Times, one or two photographers, and a TV camera emblazoned with "Reuters."

"Descansen en paz mis hermanos y hermanas" poster at candlelight vigil for Orlando shooting victims, Hanazono Nishi Koen Park, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
"Rest in peace, my brothers and sisters"
During the preparations in the park, numbers swelled to the point where - another vigil participant told me - the organizers posted on Facebook that the upper limit for staging a march had been reached, and no more people could join.

The march around the neighborhood was subdued and respectful. Being nighttime, passersby were relatively few - but our presence on the streets of the city was nonetheless a powerful symbol that Tokyo was thinking of Orlando, that people half a world away shared that feeling of belonging.

Candlelight vigil for Orlando victims, listening to speakers, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.

About 15 minutes after setting out, the procession entered Naka-dori, the main street of Shinjuku Ni-Chome, where it met up and joined forces with another vigil being held. A lone trumpeter played "We Shall Overcome" as the combined mourners of a tragedy yet celebrants of an undying love wended their way back to Hanazono Nishi Koen Park.

Procession through Shinjuku Ni-chome commemorating victims of the Orlando shooting, Tokyo, Japan.

The last hour, between 9 and 10 pm, was when emotions ran their highest, as speakers from among those gathered rose to address the rest with impromptu messages: a school teacher who related how he was able to broach the tragedy with a class of 12 year olds and add scope to their understanding of how people should treat each other, a social worker who mourned the death of a social worker - someone on the same journey through life as herself, two former residents of Orlando, one of whom mourned the passing, too, of Pulse as a haven for gay men, particularly black and Hispanic, among many others who shared their grief. The strongest message was that fear had no place in the reaction to what had happened and that strength and love formed the only path forward.

Trumpeter plays "We Shall Overcome"  at candlelight vigil and march for Orlando shooting victims, Shinjuku, Tokyo.
"We shall overcome"

Being on a site surrounded by apartments, the crowd kept its reactions quiet, responding to speakers with fingersnaps rather than handclaps.

An LGBT crowd listens to speakers at the end of the commemorative candlelight vigil and march for Orlando shooting victims, Hanazononishi Koen Park, Shinjuku, Tokyo.

It was an evening of solidarity between both friends and strangers in Shinjuku, Tokyo, last night - three hours that, through all the heartbreak they sought to mend, shone a light that will glow for a long, long time to come.

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