My visit to Ueno Park

I recently visited Ueno Park with a good friend to take in some of its sights and attractions. It a must see for any tourist to Tokyo. This was my first time and my Japanese friend gave me a tour.

We strolled through the park chatting and taking in the lovely park grounds. It was a lovely sunny day and the park was full of people strolling about. There are a lot of things one can do at Ueno Park. There are many museums and even a zoo one can visit. We decided on seeing the Art Deco Show on exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.

We enjoyed the exhibition spending a few hours taking in the artwork and installations. It was interesting and what intrigued me the most was the Josephine Baker film loop on display. She was captivating on film dancing topless to an exotic number. It evoked the Paris of the twenties.

photo by <a href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/35528613@N06/3407943574/' target'blank'>johpat eros</a>
photo by johpat eros

We then paid a brief visit to the Kiyomizu Temple. It’s a beautiful Shinto temple, a replica of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. As I felt adventurous, so I purchased my fortune and discovered thanks to my friend’s translation that it was a good one. I had been told that you leave behind your bad fortune by tying it to a stand dedicated to that purpose and you take the good fortune with you. I was mistaken. My lovely friend told me it was the other way around. She said: “If you take away the good fortune, the Gods would forget it.” And so, silly me tied my fortune to the temple stand.

As we were exiting the park on our way to the Ueno market across the street to grab something to eat, we came upon an information booth. Here I learned more about the tragic fate of Japanese nationals kidnapped by the North Koreans. The number of kidnapped are estimated to be in the hundreds and not in the tens as reported by the press. If you didn’t know, North Koreans arrive in their submarines off the Niigata coast. They land on shore in the cloak of darkness and kidnap any Japanese nationals they come across who are then taken to North Korea to teach North Koreans the Japanese language. Regrettably, this issue doesn’t get much press if any in North America.

The market was teaming with people. There were so many restaurants and food kiosks that it made picking one difficult. We tossed a coin and decided on a sushi restaurant. It was great. I highly recommend a visit to Ueno Park and the Market and more so in the company of others. It’s a lovely way to spend a day!

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a breath of fresh air and is a beautifully landscaped and maintained park. It has a long history that can be traced back to the beginning of the Edo period. The grounds were the first residence given to Kiyonari Naito, a hereditary vassal of the shogun, leyasu Tokugawa. It was in the Meiji period that the government established a Naito Shinjuku Experimental Station to promote modern agriculture on the land. The Station was used to study western methods of growing fruits and vegetables, silk raising, and stock farming.

The area, in 1906, became the Imperial Garden. In 1949, the garden was opened to the general public and named the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and is controlled by the Ministry of the Enviroment.
the park contains an English Landscape Garden, French Formal Garden, and a Japanese Traditional Garden. Besides gardens there are some interesting architectural finds and facilities as well.

The Kyu-Goro-Tei (Taiwan Pavilion) was built in 1928 to commerorate the wedding of the Showa Emperor(Emperor Hirohito). It’s an authentic example of Chinese Minnan style architecture and was named one of Tokyo;s Historical Buildings in 2004.

The Kyu-Gokyu-Sho was built as a rest house for the imperial family in 1896. It’s wooden design is based on American Stick Style architecture, popular during the late 19th century. In 2001 it was designated an Important Cultural Property.

The Rakuu-tei is a tea house located in the Japanese Traditional Garden and you can enjoy a cup of tea while taking in the beauty of any season.

Of note is the Shinjuku Gyoen Eco-House. The design of this facility is environmentally-friendly and has its own solar panels to generate electricity. The halls of the Eco-House include exhibits that aim to promote environmental awareness.

There is also a spacious restaurant located within the Shinjuku Gyoen Eco-House facility.

The Greenhouse is currently under reconstruction.

The park is open during all seasons and something to offer in each. In Spring, there are 75 different varieties of cherry blossom and a giant yulan magnolia tree said to date from the Edo period worth seeing. In Summer, the French Fomal Garden and water lilies bloom among the songs of cicadas. Autumn brings a change in color of all the tress and an annual Chrysanthemum Exhibition. Winter offers bird watching and the sweet smells of narcissus flowers.

Hours
Hours 9am – 4:30pm
Closed: Mondays(Tuesdays when Monday is a national holiday)
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is closed for New Year from December 29 to January 3.
Open continuously including Mondays during:
-March 25 thru April 24 for cherry blossom viewing.
-November 1 – 15 for its crysanthemum exhibition.

Admission:
200 yen if over 15 years old
50 yen for 6-14 year olds
Free for under 5 year olds
Group discounts start at 30 persons

Access:

Parking is available from 8am-8pm

-to the park’s Shinjuku Gate from JR Shinjuku Station (south exit), about 10 minutes walk; Shinjuku Gyoen Mae Station, exit 1, on the Marunouchi subway line, about 3 minutes walk; Shinjuku San-Chome Station, exit C5, on the Shinjuku subway line, about 5 minutes walk.

-to the park’s Okido Gate from Shinjuku Gyoen Mae Station, exit 2, on the Marunouchi subway line, about 3 minutes walk.

-to the park’s Sendagaya Gate from Sendagaya Station on the JR Sobu line; Kokuritsu Kyogijo Station on the Oedo subway line, about 5 minutes walk.

More info can be found here:
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – English site

Let’s get Obama to Pledge Really Green Public Works

blue_goals_spotWith the new pledges in Public Works that Obama is making there are no new ideas. Converting government buildings to green buildings is a step in the right direction to saving energy, but it’s not a new idea. Maintenance of roads and interstates are not going to solve any global warming issues. It’s just more of the same. We need to invest in real infrastructure change. A large scale project such as commuter Bullet Trains that connect each major city would have the biggest impact on helping to curb emissions and protecting the environment. It would also set up central hubs that smaller state projects could tie into and that opens the door to suburban commuter trains, which could truly lessen our dependence on oil and help us be free of more cars. In Japan, automakers are seeing a decline in automobile sales due to the fact that the younger generation is not buying cars! It’s no wonder, if you go to any major city in Japan, you will see a great mass transit system. And better than that there are bullet trains connecting all parts of the country and major cities. Why not invest in this instead of bailing out so many failing automakers in America? Better, instead of a bail-out give these failing automakers the contracts to build the trains and create this infrastructure, while modernizing their industry. Or give it to the failing airline industry and lets start taking domestic trains instead of domestic planes.

Share your thoughts with the President on how to improve the economy. Submit your thoughts here.

Leave your comments below and share your ideas.

The new view on Urban planning

blue_goals_spotWhat most mayors are realizing is that they have too many people and no way to get them in and out of the city efficiently. The world of the automobile making us mobile is over. It now is only a main source of frustration and congestion in most cities. And the automobile does nothing but hinder, pollute, and worsen the air quality for most city residents that don’t own a car. It is now the time to start planning for people not cars. Start rejuvenating our cities by turning old parking lots into gardens and places to park bikes. Make bike lanes and put sidewalks along roads for walkers. Add in some mass transit such as buses, trains, and subways. Then connect these cities together with high-speed bullet trains instead of highways.

It’s been proven in places where buses, subways, and trains are built that people make the switch from cars to mass transit. So what are we waiting for again? The traffic to clear?

Planet Earth is blue and there is something you can do

blue_goals_spotHere’s a short list of things you can do to live a greenier life and reduce your CO2 footprint.

  1. If you don’t have allergies try to hang your clothes outside on a line.  And if that is for some reason banned in your community you can get help here…Project Laundry List’s-Stop the Ban!
  2. Use CFL’s, compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  3. Adjust your AC.  Try a setting 10 degrees cooler than the day’s high temperature.  You’ll save 3 percent on your energy costs for every degree raised over 72 degrees. Or raise the temperature and use a fan to save even more.  
  4. Draw the blinds and curtains during the sunniest and warmest times of day. 
  5. Cut back on single-serving foods and beverages.  Buy items in bulk and portion them out into reusable containers.
  6. Buy concentrated household items, like detergent and cleaning supplies, so you get more product per package.
  7. Look for packing made from recycled materials.  The higher the percentage of recycled content the better.
  8. Plug your entertainment electronics and more into power strips so you can cut their power drain in standby mode. Miscellaneous appliances are just as guilty of pumping out greenhouse carbon dioxide when not in use.  So plugging them into a strip that you can cut off will save you money on your electric bill while and prevent the CO2 from being added to the atomosphere.
  9. If you water your lawn, set the sprinkler to a setting that gives off large drops low and close to the ground.  Water early in the morning, which will ensure the water soaks into the soil instead of evaporating.  Position the sprinkler so that all water falls on the lawn and not the sidewalk or driveway.
  10. Stop charging your cell phone overnight. The longer a battery is charging, the longer it’s exposed to heat, which can wear it down. Most cell phone batteries fully charge in under two hours, so as soon as all bars have been restored, unplug your phone. And while you’re at it, unplug the charger, which constantly drains power even when it’s not juicing up your phone.

In one word – Grain

blue_goals_spotGrain prices are increasing and reaching historical highs. International food aid flows are being slashed because of it. Added to that fact, there is water and land scarcity, so higher crop yields are getting harder and harder to achieve. The number of hungry people will possibly soar, if something isn’t done. The responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture was food security, but it has lost its power to control grain supplies as the United States has discontinued setting aside cropland since 1996. In a world where cropland is scarce decisions are more important. Decisions made by governments on the production of crop-based automotive fuels are already affecting grain supplies and prices. What other decisions will be made in developing or developed countries that will affect the hungry and poverty stricken?

Everything is really a decision, when the size of car you drive to the supermarket is starting to effect the size of your grocery bill.

Don’t keep me on standby…

blue_goals_spotIs it time to get a more energy efficient TV, stereo, or computer?

As of 2007 the estimated share of electricity used by appliances in standby mode worldwide is up to 10 percent of total electricity consumption.  

Some governments are capping the amount of standby power used by products at 1 watt per appliance.  Is yours?

excerpts taken from Plan B 3.0 by Lester R. Brown

Energy Efficiency

blue_goals_spotMany people know that CFLs (those wonderful new light bulbs) use only one fourth as much electricity as incandescent light bulbs, but did you know other household appliances have a similar range of efficiencies?

Among industrial countries, Japan’s Top Runner Program is the most dynamic system for upgrading appliance efficiency standards. In Japan’s system, the most efficient appliances today set the standard for those sold tomorrow. With this program Japan planned to raise efficiency standards between the late 1990s and the end of 2007 for individual appliances by anywhere from 15 to 83 percent, depending on the appliance. This is an ongoing process that continually exploits advances in efficiency technologies.

excerpts taken from Plan B 3.0 by Lester R. Brown