Friday, 24 December 2010

Tokyo Emperor Akihito's Birthday Speech, The Edo Museum and a Boat Ride Home

Our Feet are Aching, Our Backs are Stiff, but still we carry on.

Today was going to be a day for resting our feet, but as usual the day opened up ahead of us and we followed as fast as our limp plates of meat would carry us.

It was 9.30am as we entered the city centre. The sun has been glorious and in the shadows of the high office blocks the sky seems bluer than I have ever seen it. The temperature is a perfect 18 degrees and the stiff warm wind makes walking a lovely experience. We had read that the Emperor of Japan, Akihito, gives his birthday address to his subjects within the grounds of his palace on the 23rd December each year and we thought it only right that we should pop along to thank him in person for a lovely holiday.

Many thousands of us attended the first sitting at 10.30am. The organisation was amazing and also very respectful of the people (something that the UK police could learn a thing or two about). From each corner of the surrounding garden we are guided in towards the single bridge that enters the private palace grounds. The palace is beautiful in it's simplicity and show no over the top pomp that you would see in European palaces.

The mood of the crowd was one of respectful excitement. We had all been handed flags to wave on the way in by the Japanese cubs, scouts and other helpers, but it was noticable that these we not abused by the public. Only upon the opening of the interior curtains and the first step into view of the 77 year old Emperor did the grounds erupt with joyous screams and mass waving of flags. The moment that the emperor set to speak the crowd silenced and listened intently to the gracious words of an aging Emperor. Flags waved again at the end of the speech, plenty of waving from the royal family and the an orderly emptying of what seemed to be around 50'000 or more people ... in time for the next sitting in half an hours time.

Next we travelled across town to visit the Tokyo Edo Museum. A massive collection of reconstructions of different periods in Tokyo's history. You couldn't help to be drawn into the different models and architectural reconstructions that were so complex and accurate, yet hold an amazing sense of human interaction by way of the inclusion of many thousand tiny people within the models.

In all, this museum took us 3 hours to complete, including watching a professional story teller perform in front of the reconstructed Kabuki stage. (We are off to see real Kabuki tomorrow ...)

It's a shame we can't stay a little longer to experience the excitement of the opening of the Sumo season in January, but visiting the stadium and surrounding city you get a sense of its importance over here. I stood for ten minutes and managed to spot several young trainees heading off for their training massgaes, towels in hand.

After all this plodding it was time to get the crusie boat back towards home. We've got the hang of the Metro system now and can easily whizz from one side of the city to the other, but there's something nice about a boat cruise ... dozing off ;-)