A lot happened this month, but one of the most memorable things definitely was my school trip to the Emperor’s palace with the international department. Our visit started at Tokyo Station, which is officially already on imperial grounds.
When we arrived on the site, we were not allowed to walk past a certain point. We didn’t know why at first but then we noticed that something was going out of the palace grounds : two carriages led by beautiful horses and escorted by cars were on their way out! Inside were probably members of the emperor’s family and we were just in time to see them off. Not exactly a sight you get to see ever day right? Lucky us!
We walked past the moats and headed to one of the numerous entrances to the gardens. There’s actually around 32 of these entrances, that were built in order to confuse invaders and break their momentum.
The international students, Teresa and I got to listen to many interesting and intricate stories at key locations throughout the day. We were very lucky to have Brent and Peter and our knowledgable guides! They were also willing to let us take the time to stop and take lots of pictures, which was appreciated.
Our visit ended at Yasukuni Shrine. Past the gates, the actual shrine felt very peaceful. There were dozens of chrysanthenums in blooms neatly lined up near the main shrine, along with some trees and ikebana. It was a nice relief from the ever so present noises of the city, which have been personally a bit hard to get used to.It was a very fun day and even though the areas we visited are probably going to be very crowded then, I’m still considering going back in the spring when the cherry trees are in bloom.
Lastly, I want to talk about a little about the one thing people associate with October in the West : Halloween! Although it hasn’t been celebrated here for very long, Halloween has been slowly but surely becoming more popular in Japan in recent years. Huge parties are held in the bigger wards and you see decorations everywhere, even in "konbinis"! In grocery stores, tons of limited editions of snacks and sweets with jack ‘o’ Lanterns pop up, neatly wrapped in cute orange and black packaging. That being said, while pumpkin is popular here during October, pumpkin spice isn’t so much, which is a big difference with the West. Halloween seems to be more cute than scary here, and more focused on dressing up and catering to children. So while grown ups definitely use it as an excuse to throw costume parties, you probably wont see people dressing up ( or parents dressing up their kids) as visual representation of puns or semi-obscure references to pop culture, which has become increasingly popular in the West.
See you next month!!