Tokyo Apartments Rent Blog - March 2013

Hanami

2013/3/26


There is an old saying which goes, when in Rome do as the Romans do.  Well, that saying can be applied to anywhere.  So, when in Japan do as the Japanese do and celebrate the arrival of spring with a hanami party.  Hanami, or flower viewing, is the traditional custom of sitting under a cherry tree and enjoying the soft elegant beauty of cherry blossoms.  The practice itself is said to have started during the Nara period sometime between 710 and 794 when people would marvel at the beauty of plum blossoms.  For whatever, during the Heian period, from 794 to 1185, public interest shifted from plum flowers to cherry blossoms.  It was Emperor Saga who first came up with the idea of having a feast and getting drunk under the cherry tree.  Since then, the tradition has lived on to this day.
 
A typical hanami party consists of gathering a group of family and friends, bringing food and alcohol, and having a picnic in the park underneath the falling blossoms. The practice is so widely spread that when the flowers are in maximum bloom it can be difficult to find an open patch of land to lay your blanket.  So if you decide to indulge in the simple joy of picnicking under the warm cascade of petals it’s a good idea to go prepared.  Here are a few tips that can help.
 
1. Stake out a good location.The most popular places to have a hanami party are Ueno Park, which has 1000 cherry trees, Shinjuku Gyoen, which is one of Tokyo’s largest parks, and Yoyogi Koen in Harajuku.  Other popular hanami spots are Chidorigafuchi in Kudanshita, Sumida Park in Asakusa, Inokashira Park in Kichijouji, and Aoyama Cemetery in Nogizaka.  All of these places, even the cemetery, will be packed to the gills.  If you like squeezing in with a billion other people then your hanami this year will surely be a spectacle. If, however, you prefer a quiet and more intimate environment then it might be a good idea to check out cherry blossoms in some of the less traveled neighborhoods.  Cherry trees are everywhere around the city so just after they start to bloom take an afternoon to look for places that are more residential or off the main roads.
 
2. Get there early, I mean really early.  Getting a good spot under the perfect tree is a lot like getting good seats at a concert.  It requires that you go early and stake your claim to the spot you want before someone else comes along to claim it.  It’s hard to say how early is early enough but I guarantee you that if you show up at 6 am there will already be few squatters in the park with their blankets and thermoses of hot tea.
 
3.  This one is directly related to number 1 and 2.  Try to find a spot that has easy access to a public restroom.  After all the beer and soda you will be so happy you did.
 
4.  Bring plenty of food and drinks.  I know this one goes without saying but you’d be surprised how quickly supplies run out during a daylong picnic.  Once they do, you will have to step over countless blankets and bags of chip just to get to the edge of the vast picnic area so you can sprint to the convenient store for more beer.
 
5.  Bring garbage bags.  It is very important that you clean up after yourself when the party is over.  People who come to Tokyo marvel at how clean the city is.  Well, it doesn’t get that way by magic.  Everyone does their part to help keep it clean by picking up after themselves.  Make sure that you bring enough garbage bags to separate the burnable trash from the non-burnable as well as bottles and cans from all the rest.  There is a trash deposit area in the major hanami spots.  It’s a good idea to locate those before the park gets too crowded.  If you are in a not so popular park then be sure to take your trash with you when you leave.
 
6.  Bring a jacket.  Spring weather is unpredictable.  It might be nice and warm on the day of your hanami or it might be super chilly.  It’s best to be prepared by bringing a warm jacket or sweater.
 
Hanami parties are a great way to enjoy spring and participate in one of Japan’s oldest and most beloved tradition.  Have fun.
 
Photo by Marcellus Nealy

Why Tokyo Is the Best Place to Be

2013/3/8


So you have decided to move to Tokyo or you have been here for a while.  Either way, congratulations!  You are in one of the best cities in the world.  That is no exaggeration.  I have been to almost every major city and all of the continents except Africa and Antarctica.  So far, my journeys have all led me to the same conclusion.  There is no place on earth that’s quite like Tokyo.
 
For starters Tokyo has the best and most efficient train and subway system in the world.  It goes everywhere, always arrives on time and is so clean you could practically lie down on the floor and take a nap without worrying about catching some sort of parasite or being bitten by vermin.  Speaking of sleeping, the train is the best place to get a quick nap between meetings or parties.  I have heard horror stories of people falling asleep on the train in other towns and waking up a few pounds light of their possessions.   It always pays to be on guard but in Tokyo, if you fall asleep on the train you will, unless you are extremely unlucky, wake up with all of your belongings and unmolested.  If your wallet falls to the floor or your cell phone slips out of your hand and onto the seat these items will magically remain where they are or find their way on your lap when you wake up.
 
This leads me to the next point.  Tokyo is the safest metropolis in the world.  In fact, the Huffington Post ranked it the number one safest city followed by Singapore and Dubrovnik, Croatia.  There are no real “rough parts” of town in Tokyo.  The neighborhoods Japanese people call rough, like the Sanya area near Minami Senju Station, are clean, well kept working class communities that have almost no violent crime.   You will never be mugged, attacked, or murdered in Tokyo.  While it does happen once every five years or so, the chances of it not happening are astronomically in your favor.  Since Astronomical rhymes with gastronomical let’s talk about the third reason why Tokyo is the best city in the world, food.



Michelin, the world’s foremost authority on fine dining haughtily made Tokyo the reigning champion of good eating by awarding her restaurants more stars than any other city in the world.  They made this proclamation 6 years in a row.  At present, Tokyo has more three-star restaurants than Paris, New York, or London!  Even the places in Tokyo that don’t get stars can be miles above other cities’ establishments in terms of cleanliness, freshness, nutrition, presentation and taste.  You can also find cuisine from most places in the world, China, Thailand, Korea, France, Italy, Spain, India, Morocco, Senegal, and the US.  You can find it all in this town.  The only down side is portions are smaller so if you like being a glutton then you will have to order two of everything to get your fill.
 
The service in Tokyo is also unmatched.  You don’t have to be in a place that serves truffles or hundred-dollar sushi to get great service.  Even at the local hamburger shop the staff is always pleasant and eager to help.  Everyone does their job with absolute professionalism.  From the sandwich maker to the master chef, from the train conductor to the old lady who cleans the toilets, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who shows their bad attitude or slacker side to the general public.
 
It really is the little things we take for granted that make the experience worthwhile.  Tokyo is famous for being futuristic, colorful, full of manga, architecturally inspiring, fashionable and often bizarre.  All of that is well and good but being able to experience it all in comfort, safety, and with a belly full of great food makes this city truly one of the best places to live in whole wide world.
 
Photos by Marcellus Nealy