K- Tokyo is home to 35 million people so I was expecting chaos when we arrived there. However, it is also built for 35 million people with wide roads and pavements so surprisingly we never felt the craziness I expected. Even at Shibuya junction, the worlds busiest cross street which services 100,000 people an hour (!) it did not feel that busy - probably because the zebra crossing was about 15 feet wide.
Although we spent some time exploring the city and enjoying the neon displays our visit to Tokyo turned out to be all about cherry blossoms and of course hanami - cherry blossom parties. We had arrived in Japan at prime time but the season was late and I was increasingly worried that we were going to miss out. Every place we visited we were tantalized by little buds but no actual blossoms. It was getting pretty desparate and I was threatening to spend our final Saturday on the train back down South where the season was well under way.
But phew- the blossoms finally emerged with a bang just as we arrived in Tokyo and it was party time! The flowers themselves are stunning - hanging
like snowflakes everywhere. However the real point of cherry blossom season is what happens to the Japanese people....they basically let loose.
On Thursday we headed off to Ueno Park - THE spot for hanami and we couldn't believe our eyes. There were picnicers everywhere and many of them had certainly been enjoying the festivities. Whilst we had met many wonderful and friendly people in Japan this was the first time we had seen a 70 year old man hugging a tree so as not to fall down.....and he was not alone! Unfortunately / fortunately, depending on your perspective, karaoke has now been banned from the park so it was relatively quiet, just filled with a great buzz and lots of laughter.
As the afternoon progressed we saw the older groups head off home to be replaced by groups of business people and couples. It was a little little surreal seeing the usually so serious (at least to our eyes) dark suited, salarymen sitting on blue tarpaulins drinking sake with their colleagues but on the "if you cant beat them, join them" principle we bought a few sandwiches and beers ourselves and sat under the beautiful white and pink
blossoms people watching as the sun set and the lanterns lit up. A great evening.
The following night we headed off to the suburbs of Tokyo. We had met Ichero in our hostel in Aso a couple of weeks earlier and he had invited us to his home for a hanami. He had also invited a couple of Swiss travelers and we had a great time barbecuing under the cherry tree chatting (or trying to) with with his family, friends and neighbors. Ichero travels alot and when in Tokyo he bases himself at his parents house - they are certainly a very tolerant couple as the evening ended with 6 of us plus Ichero sleeping on futons in their lounge.
The following day was our final day in Japan and indeed our final day in Asia. There were several things we could have done but we couldn't resist the lure of the blossom and so after a bit of light gift shopping we headed back to Ueno park. And we couldn't believe our eyes. It had been busy on the Thursday but now it was mobbed. There were people everywhere, many in fancy dress and all partying like
it was 1999! Now I believed there were 35 million people in Tokyo - it felt like they were all in Ueno park having a picnic! Fabulous. We found a couple of feet of grass, threw down our coats and enjoyed our 3rd hanami! Please scroll down for more photos
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