September 24-25, 2017
We landed in Haneda Airport after a long flight from Los Angeles to start our “Walk Japan” tours. The Tokyo airport and subway system were surprisingly friendly for individuals who spoke only English and we soon found our way to the Asakusa (浅草) district to find our hotel. Asakusa is a popular tourist destination, in Taitō City in Tokyo which is famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple, and the many tourist shops at the entry to the temple. Unfortunately, we had difficulty finding the hotel since the individual streets were all in Japanese Hiragana characters, but we were soon introduced to the friendly way the Japanese people welcome strangers. A small group of students with t-shirts loudly pronouncing “ASK ME! AND I’LL SEE WHAT I CAN DO” quickly encircled us and after Googling our hotel, they took us directly to our hotel’s front door – after a few selfies. This welcome gesture happened to us throughout our travels whenever we stood in front of a sign or map looking confused.
September 26-27, 2017
Kyoto was once the capital of Japan and the residence of the Emperor from 794 until the Meiji Restoration of 1868, when the imperial capital was moved to Edo/Tokyo. It is a beautiful city and still famous for its numerous classical Buddhist temples, gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses. I was looking forward to sketching along our tour and our fabulous guide, Nami, assured me that there would be many opportunities. Our first visit was to the The kannonden at Jishō-ji, commonly known as the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku) - a Zen temple in the Sakyo ward of Kyoto. Unfortunately, it is also a popular site to visit and at the entrance I was greeted with this sign:
The current bridge is a non-descript 1950 concrete bridge, so I wanted my sketch to capture a view of the river front and one of the original giboshi (onion-shaped posts) that are also seen on many of the bridges, shrines and temples in Japan.
September 27 – October 7, 2017
The Nakasendō (with the Japanese characters: 中 山 道 – “Central Mountain Route”), was one of the five routes of the Edo period, and one of the two that connected Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto in Japan. There were 69 stations (staging-posts or post towns) between Edo and Kyoto, with a total distance of approximately 534 km (332 mi). We were scheduled to walk 10 days along the portions of the route staying in a variety of inns and hotels including a night in a classic post-town inn that had a history spanning 1,000 years. Many of the inns have been managed by many generations of the same family. Here is a map of the route that shows the post-towns we visited:
October 7-11, 2017
Our tour of Tokyo was led by Satoko and naturally started at the Nihonbashi Bridge – the start and end of the Nakasendo.