Happo-en Garden wedding venue
Picture Source: http://www.japanesegardens.jp/gardens/secret/happo-en.php
Friday 10 May 2019 - erev Shabbat
Today, Friday, we decided would be our day off. So we spent the day writing up the travel blog and generally relaxing. Don was feeling athletic so he, being a good boy, went to the gym. He found the Sheraton hotel health spa to contain a good variety of facilities including a large pool. He did not swim, but worked out with the exercise equipment.
This evening we walked to the Chabad for the Friday night Shabbat service. As usual they had to wait for a minyan (ten men). After the service we were all invited upstairs for a meal.
As expected, many more people appeared upstairs than prayed downstairs. The rabbi and his wife had prepared for fifty people and there were at least fifty there. The rabbi asked those for whom this was their first time there to introduce themselves. There were people from the US, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, Israel and a lady from Japan and her daughter. The lady had converted to Judaism and is now living on a moshav to the north of Jerusalem. Two of the people from Israel also live in Ra’anana, our home town.
The evening was very enjoyable. And as so many said, whenever one travels in a strange land, the Chabad experience is like being at home irrespective of whether you are religious or secular one is always made to feel welcome.
Saturday 11 May 2019 - Shabbat
Even with a ten o’clock morning start at Chabad we still managed to arrive ten minutes late. The Shabbat service was led by various visitors. After prayers we sat with the couple from Ra'anana for lunch. There were maybe only 30 of us total. During the afternoon service (mincha) the ladies stayed upstairs chatting. Then the men came up and we spent a further hour talking
Eventually six of us decided to go to a park called the Happo-en Garden wedding venue which was very near our hotel. What a glorious park with a big pond in the middle. Bonsai trees decorated the path. We walked around the path and saw two brides. One was resplendent in a traditional costume whilst the second wore a very modern bridal gown. Both brides were stunning.
We said goodbye to our Ra’anana colleagues - the long goodbye version - and then walked back to our hotel with the other couple, an American couple who had left their three children at home for a week’s break. I went upstairs for an hour’s sleep but wasn’t really awake enough to go back to Chabad for evening services. Don went while I stayed in the hotel and had a drink in the club room. He brought me back a snack from Chabad.
When we switched on our phones we found a Whatsapp message from a friend in Israel asking if we were ok. It would appear that during Shabbat there had been a 6.3 earthquake in the south of Japan but the earth hadn’t moved for us.
We had to pack a case which we are sending on to Kyoto. Then it was shower time and bed as our adventures continue tomorrow.
Some observations as we prepare to leave Tokyo tomorrow. It is very large, and yet strikes us as a clean and organised city. Along with well-marked pavements for pedestrians and often bicycles, there are bumpy yellow paths. These yellow stripes and boxes, including in the subway and train stations and at street crossings. are for blind people to feel with their sticks. Likewise different musical pieces play at each station, so that frequent commuters can easily recognise their locations. There are also ‘No Smoking’ warnings at street crossings, and we saw far fewer smokers everywhere than decades ago.
A final remark about our hotel here, the Sheraton Miyako Tokyo. It was one of the nicest hotel stays we have enjoyed in our travels. And the reason we chose this hotel? It was close to Chabad.
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