Nijo Castle Kyoto

Nijo Castle Must Visit World Heritage Site Kyoto – Part VI

NIJO Castle – Kyoto World Heritage Site

  • Kyoto residence of Japan’s top general in the Shogun era
  • Built using double protective layers and a “singing” floor design to alert in case of intrusion
  • World heritage site 20 minutes by train + 1 minute walk from Kyoto main Railway Station

For Kyomizudera see Kyomizudera In Kyoto Part I

Kinkakuji see  Kinkakuji In Kyoto Part II

Ginkakuji see  Ginkakuji In Kyoto Part III

Tofukuji see  Tofukuji In Kyoto Part IV

Fushimi Inari see Fushimi Inari in Kyoto Part V

 Nijo castle was the residence of the Shogun in Kyoto, This was the place that united the land once divided into numerous fiefdoms into one country that is Nihon -Japan. 

The Singing Nightingale

Japan was formally ruled by the emperor but power was concentrated in the hands of his .military general -the Shogun. Shogun set up his own administrative center in Nijo castle. Its where the he held his court. No wonder it was built to be secure as a fort with measures that included a surrounding moat and an outer and an inner perimeter fence. But the most unique feature of this castle was the state of the art defensive measure -the “singing platform”. Any potential assassin trying to tip-toe in would be detected as soon as he stepped on the floor as the floor would “sing”. This was a unique mechanism as ingenious in its engineering as scary in its message about the days political struggles.

Emperor, Shogun and the Ninjas

Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu was the first Shogun to have established himself as the supreme power in Japan. It was a time Japan was going through intense power struggle. Warlords fought for regional suzerainty. Hired assassins -the famed  Ninja’s – appeared in Japan’s history.  Known for their training in stealthy war craft Ninja’s were the greatest threat to Samurai lords. Nijo castle was built at this time, with this specific threat in mind. Inside the moat beyond the two perimeter walls, the inner quarters were built to alert the guards even if someone tried to tip toe on the floor. Erected from two separate layers with a series of metal spikes hanging in between , the floor would clank even under the gentlest push. This was the famous singing floor, a feat of engineering that survived through the ravages of time.

The watch towers and perimeter walls

The watch towers and perimeter walls

The Nijo Mae

The station next to Nijo castle is called Nijo Mae. “Mae” in Japanese means “in front”. So the easiest way to reach Nijo castle was to head to Nijo Mae station. Easy peasy, we thought. Unfortunately there are multiple surface,regional and subway lines leaving from Kyoto main railway station. Directions boards are there, but scant in number as compared to the number of lines and tourists. Moreover the entrance to the subway is a shoppers paradise. So if not careful one can get lost,like we did. Nijo showed up ts defenses even before we could approach!

In underground Google maps stopped working.. Shuffling through guidebooks, fumbling for the right word, taking to dumb charades – did all that to finally find our way to Nijo Mae.

Students with Notebooks

Way to the Tea Room

Way to the Tea Room

As we approached Nijo a further surprise awaited us. It was a school day. There were a bunch of kids in yellow caps at the crossing. As soon as the signal turned green a cockle of excited voices accompanied us to the entrance of the castle. A school excursion – explained one of the more curious kid eager to practise his English. It was to be the first of a series of interactions that day with the otherwise reticent bunch of Japanese schoolkids. It soon transpired that the kids were tasked to record visitor remarks also in their worksheets. In English. And this entire exercise was meant to make them less shy and more confident in dealing with foreigners! Japan was getting ready for Olympic 2020.  

Castle Quarters and the Courtyards

The castle entrance was via a bridge over a moat that surrounded the high walls. The gigantic doors opened into a wide lobby, guarded by towers. Attackers even if crossed the moat and made a successful entry would be pinned in this place by sharp shooters . Another layer of wall at its end secured the inner quarters. This is where the shogun set up his council.

Intricate carvings on wood and gold leaf

Intricate carvings on wood and gold leaf

Visitors from afar, the local land lords, the lower generals, the informers, the agents each had their separate visitor room inside the elaborately decorated wooden palace. Each room had its designated seating areas with the lord being seated guarded by body guards. The rooms were exquisitely decorated. There were real gold embossed paintings of cranes in lily pond or flying high amongst the clouds. The entire building comprising of visitor rooms private rooms store rooms was constructed in a rectangular fashion, with a central courtyard opening into a lily pond. 

Palace Gardens

Beyond the functional purpose of administrative head office, Nijo castle was also a show piece, a platform to demonstrate aristocratic finesse that only the shogun could summon. A court yard from behind the living quarters opened in to Japanese garden, with its flowing stream, and stone bridges. Walkways lined by maples and cedars meandered around the castle, During autumn, fall colors painted the area in red and yellow. A tea room at a corner at the far end, under the shadow of old cedar trees, offered a feel of peace and tranquility. Couples in Kimono walked by. A stepped path from here went up towards a terrace. The entire greater Kyoto with its blue tinged mountain ranges came into view from there.

The Quintessential Japanese

The stone bridge over to the Japanese garden

The stone bridge over to the Japanese garden

Maples in garden

Maples in garden

This embrace of nature, this surrender to  the ephemeral and eternal contrasts sharply with the identity of Nijo, as the war lords lair. This combination of power and renunciation is what defined the Shogun era Japanese psyche. Its the one common thread that runs through the defensive fabrication of the fortress, to the intricate gold leaf drawings on palace walls,  And this contrast captured in its highest form in Nijo distinguishes it as a World Heritage Site. Yes its a must visit site.     

 

The castle quarters with the blue mountain ranges in the horizon

The castle quarters with the blue mountain ranges in the horizon

Link to official web site for further info on latest opening times and ticket details

Nijo Castle Official Website


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Autumn in Kyoto – Part V Fushimi Inari the Shrine of Hollywood Fame

 

Fushimi Inari

  • 15 minutes by JR NARA line from Kyoto
  • Shrine of Hollywood fame
  • Series of red Torii or wooden gates are its main attraction

For Kyomizudera see Kyomizudera In Kyoto Part I

Kinkakuji see  Kinkakuji In Kyoto Part II

Ginkakuji see  Ginkakuji In Kyoto Part III

Tofukuji see  Tofukuji In Kyoto Part IV

From Tofukuji the next station is Fushimi Inari. We started from Kyoto station. Stopped at Tofukuji. Got back into the next available train in the same direction for the next stop at Fushimi. Could we have walked ? Cycled perhaps. But the journey in the small toy train like train itself was also fun.

 

As you cross the road, a wide paved path leads the way through huge red wooden gate. This red vermilion colored Torii is what distinguishes the Fushimi Inari from others around. FushimiInari is known for Torii. It is not just for this one but  for the hundreds that follow. The path leads to the pavilion of the main temple complex. Then moves uphill.

FushimiInari main temple

FushimiInari main temple

The Prayer Hall

The Prayer Hall

The Toriis stand shoulder to shoulder one after another all the way up.

Toriis that brings the shrine its Hollywood fame

Toriis that brings the shrine its Hollywood fame

Each Torii has a story. A prayer ascribed to it by the family that erected it in remembrance of someone loved. The ancient belief continues.

A light for the soul on the journey up

A light for the soul on the journey up

It was originally an obeisance to the foxes that protected the harvest from small pests. But faith outgrew its genesis transforming into a tradition serving a larger purpose. The legend of Fushimi Inari was born.

Link to official website Official website

The Shrine of Hollywood Fame

Unlike Tofukuji Fushimi Inari is a busier stop. Tofukuji retains quaint Japanese temple town characters. But Fushimi Inari is a tourist magnet, well known as the location  for Hollywood movie Memoirs of a Geisha. The station as a result enjoys better documentation in English.

Inari temples however abound in Japan, even in Tokyo. http://www.couchflyer.com/fox-god-inari-and-the-environment/

So does Toriies in many Shinto shrines. Its of course the most famous Inari temple made famous by its association with Hollywood. Not otherwise nearly as pretty as compared to the richly decored Kinkakuji or blessed with fall colours such as Tofukuji. So unless trying to tick a destination off your list there is a chance one may feel underwhelmed! Beauty after all lies in the eyes of the beholder…


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Heritage city of Kamakura

Heritage city of Kamakura in a Day Trip from Tokyo

Visiting heritage city of Kamakura in a Day Trip from Tokyo

Just an hour away from Tokyo, Kamakura is an ancient heritage town. With a sea beach and an island thrown into the mix, it has something for everyone. So for our first day trip out of Tokyo we headed to this Heritage city Kamakura to cover what maximum we could in one Day Trip from Tokyo.

The original city of Kamakura was established as a fortress town, naturally guarded on three sides by hills, approachable only from sea. Over time this town grew in importance as the top religious and social center on the east coast of Japan, second in influence only to capital Kyoto.

Now Kamakura is one of the busiest tourist town. As one gets down at Kamakura station, the station decor and the adjacent  spacious tourist office indicates the importance of this place as a tourist center. There are several tour circuits covering a cross section of the Buddhist and Shinto shrines. It is quite impossible to visit all the popular shrines in a day,or even in two days. So we decided to pick two routes covering the most famous of Kamakura shrines, with a quick hop to Enoshima island, if time allowed. We took the Odakyu line with Kamakura Enoden free pass.

Odakyu Enoden Line. Source credirt Odakye

Odakyu Enoden Line. Source credit Odakyu

  1. Odakyu website
  2.  Kamakura City Tourism website
Kamakura Day Trip Itinerary

Kamakura Day Trip Itinerary

Leg 1: Dai Butsu and Hase Dera

First on our list was Dai Butsu and Hase Dera temple. Dai Butsu, the Big Buddha, is iconic of Kamakura. And Hase Dera traces its origin back to seventh century arrival of Buddhism to Japan. This back ground, coupled with the fact that there is a direct connect to Hase by the narrow gauge Enoden line helped us choose this as our 1st destination. 

Enoden line  has its own charm. Its is a small train that goes snaking behind terraces and kitchens, sometimes like a tram right in the middle of road, sometimes right by the sea side. Its an experience on its own. Especially for children. 

Dai Butsu- The Big Buddha

  Getting down at Hase station, we crossed the rail line heading towards Daibutsu. The narrow road divides at a point where the left lane goes to the great Hase Dera temple. We headed straight. First target was Dai Butsu. Traditional art and crafts shops crowd into the pavement. Shortly the entrance way shrouded in bamboo groves and maple and cedar trees appear in front.

Kamakura Dai Butsu

Kamakura Dai Butsu

We queue for tickets. Ticket jackets describe the story of Daibutsu – the great Buddha. Its a gigantic bronze statue that survived many a tsunamis and earthquakes. Now it is surrounded by manicured Japanese garden, with shaded rest areas. As one walks through the garden past the ancient cedars, the Buddha in meditative pose comes fully into view.

We walk further close, up the stairs, past the incense stick stand. The Buddha had his hands folded into a mudra, eyes closed deep into introspection. There are shades  with wooded benches on all three sides. Sitting there were devotees with rosaries in hand, serious photographers, curious tourists. We walk around. Step into the garden. Garden of cedars and junipers. Shaded, calm and quiet. There was a hillock close by, with a small wooden temple at its foot. On a side there is a souvenir shop. Visitors bought incense sticks to offer with prayer.  Pretentious human existence suddenly appeared so small.  

There was this tunnel beneath the Daibutsu statue. It led inside the statue. A few narrow dark steps ends at a small platform. There was nothing much to see. Just satiated curiosity. We stepped out and sat down on the wooden benches under the shade. Let go of the tiredness. Started early in the day, packing, rushing, huffing and puffing boarding the train at Shinjuku station. Then squeezing into the Enoden train. Finally following the crowd to Dai Butsu. At last we are there. Read about it, always wanted to see. 

Hase Dera

From Daibutsu we headed back walking towards the junction where the road forked. This time took the one heading to Hase Dera. This road was narrow, claimed both by pedestrians and cars and tourist buses. So had to stop and go. There were craft shops, antique shops and restaurants all jostling for attention on the two sides. The ambiance changes once you walk up to the gate of Hase Dera.

Hase Dera Entrance

Hase Dera Entrance

Stepping inside Hase Dera

Stepping inside Hase Dera

Tera or Dera means (Buddhist) temple. Legend has it that in the eighth century a monk dreamt of a log floating in by the sea. He actually found that log in the morning and enshrined it as god. Over time its fame spread.

Right inside past the entry gate, a Japanese garden, with a stream and a lily pond, welcomes you. Through the floating leaves colored fishes swim by. A bridge crosses the stream to the base of a stone stair. The steps lead to landing, with a small temple, then goes further up to the main temple complex at the hill top.

Traditional Japanese garden in Hase Dera

Traditional Japanese garden in Hase Dera

Colored fishes swimming in Hase Dera stream

Colored fishes swimming in Hase Dera stream

The temple was originally by the shore, but over time residences cropped up all around. The view from the top though is still beautiful. The entire shore comes into view,  with fishing boats here and there and few hazy outlines of ships in the distance.

 

Buddha in meditation -statue in garden

Buddha in meditation -statue in garden

Temple with a prayer wheel

Temple with a prayer wheel

A giant prayer wheel is there in an adjacent hall, with its own Japanese garden, lily pond, little bridge and stone paved path. For the curious, and untired, there are some more but smaller temples a little walk away towards the rear boundary. And there is a cave too, walk-able up to a distance.

Goldleaf Buddha in Hase Dera

Goldleaf Buddha in Hase Dera

We explored around for sometime. The sun got stronger. In summer the sandy sea side heats up quickly. We step inside the main temple hall. It was dark, torched partially by the hundreds of candles lit. The golden Buddha is silent deep in meditation. Occasional drum beats, gong of the temple bell, flickering candle light, all helped bring up an imagery of a thousand years gone by. You don’t need to be a believer. The ambiance sweeps you in.

Leg 2: Hachimangu and Hokokuji

From Hase station we head back to Kamakura. The road out of the rail station crosses the city bus stop. This time our destination is Hachimangu, Its walkable from station. So we cross the bus stop. And merge into the central arterial road of Kamakura. This road has been there for some thousand years at least. Emerging from the sea shore it heads straight on to the stairs of Hachimangu, dissecting the city into East and West. The city life revolved around this temple.

Tsurugaouka Hachimangu Shrine

Hachimangu was the cultural and social epicenter. The stairs of Hachimangu have seen major power struggle and blood letting. The East and West sides had traditionally been strongholds of two opposing Samurai clans. Stories of their valor and struggle made these portals of Hachimangu part of Japanese lore. There are lily ponds on the two sides of Hachimangu, named after the two clans.

Hachimangu Temple

Hachimangu Temple

None of the old are there any more, but it’s history as the power center and the family temple of Shogun has bestowed an unmistakable aura to Hachimangu. The city of today still centers around it.

But in last few centuries there have been major events that shook Japan. Meiji revolution, world war. Fall of the shoguns, rise of the emperor, Japans rise as colonial power, followed by eventual fall. Somewhere through this the once glorious Kamakura lost out. So did Hachimangu. The huge complex that was there once upon a time is barely discernible now.

Rickshaws for tourists Kamakura

Rickshaws for tourists Kamakura

Tourists have replaced the devotees. Flashy souvenir shops, upscale restaurants and travel operator signboards adorn the two sides of the road to Hachimangu. The main thoroughfare takes a boulevard appearance as it heads out from the station. Tradition is still valued, and followed, but packaged in a very modern getup. Rickshaws still ply, only if as tourist attraction.

Lily ponds of Hachimangu

Lily ponds of Hachimangu

In about ten minutes we reach the shrine entrance. Vermilion colored Tori gates. Old stone bridge. The main temple visible at a distance ahead. We make our way through the crowd. Foreign tourists, locals, busy taking selfies. Occasional claps follow a reverential bow.

Some festival was going on the day we went. There were a few shops selling traditional gyoza (dumplings) on the two sides. From the main approach road a street forks out to the right. Priests quarters. A red bridge on the left leads to a lily pond. We headed straight towards the stairs.

Marriage ceremony at Hachimangu

Marriage ceremony at Hachimangu

From a distance we could hear traditional musical instrument playing. A marriage ceremony was being held. Social ceremonies are held in the ceremony hall at the base of the stairs, facing the temple entrance. Tourists with cameras were recording the proceedings. Bride, groom and their guests in bridal best were seated on the two sides. The head priest in the middle was chanting shlokas. Offerings of fruits and sweets were kept on a table facing the temple pulpit.

The old bridge of Hachimangu

The old bridge of Hachimangu

We stopped for a while, then took the stairs up. Stepped past the Tori gate into the inner sanctorum. A ceremonial function was being held in an adjacent hall. It was certainly some auspicious day. Police were controlling the crowd. Most of the heavy wooden doors around leading to the inner halls were closed to ordinary visitors. An open side pavilion stood there, with a display of richly decorated mikoshis, kept ready for special occasions.

Offerings and prayer -Hachimangu

Offerings and prayer -Hachimangu

We stepped out. Into the open space at the top of the stairs. A wide angle view of the entire complex is available from this point. Perhaps hundreds of years ago here the Shoguns stood, addressing followers from this very step!

We take a side walk on the way down. The marriage ceremony was over by then. Guests in their ceremonial dresses were still sticking around taking a few more snaps. Wandering further to the left we reach a tree-shaded area, covered with Japanese maples, cedars, and bamboo groves. A small rivulet, with a wooden bridge, comes into view. We were short of time otherwise would have loved to spend some more time there.

We moved on crossing the bridge, not quite sure going where but carried on to see what follows. The passage wound its way out into an opening that ended at a lily pond. One of the two belonging to the warrior clans. Colored fishes here were comfortable with tourists, eagerly posing in front. Almost jostling for the best location. Same goes for the flocks of pigeons that flew down from somewhere. None afraid of human presence. Rather expected to be fed, petted, photographed. A practice perhaps for over a thousand years.

Hokokuji

Next on our list was Hokokuji. Famous for its tea house housed in a bamboo grove. The tea house is at the end of a cobbled stone walkway that winds behind the main temple. It passes by a zen garden. Passes by an area where from you can see old caves on the hill side. Now prohibited, separated by wire mesh, but perhaps a thousand or so years ago these caves were humble dwellings for the temple hermits. This temple traces its history to the time the original settlers established the town of Kamakura. It was extended and taken care of by later era Shogun clans who converted it into their family temple.

Entrance to Hokokuji

Entrance to Hokokuji

Moss covered garden Hokokuji

Moss covered garden Hokokuji

Neighborhood entrance at Hokokuji

Neighborhood entrance at Hokokuji

Unlike Hachimangu, Hokokuji is somewhat off the tourist center of Kamakura, being reachable only by bus. But rather than being a disadvantage, that has perhaps helped preserve its originality. The walkway to the temple is through a rustic neighborhood. Seems to be just waking up from its village past. The path way to the temple is rather narrow. Traffic sergeants at the two ends warn tourists when a car approaches. Moss and fern covers some portion of walls of the neighborhood houses. Hasty patches of cement work covers others that gave way under age.

But once inside the temple gates, one forgets all that was left outside. Velvet green moss covered garden, with a Buddha, beckons. Japanese maple branches curl up around stone boulders. Spring water dribbles down a water fountain. Wooden ladles kept to wash oneself before entering the inner precincts..

The caves at Hokokuji

The caves at Hokokuji

Moss covered statuettes of hermits

Moss covered statuettes of hermits

Past the ticket gate, the Zen rock garden comes into view. The walk way bends here and there. Goes past stone statuettes, covered in green moss. At one point one can see the caves on the hill side. The walkway makes its serpentine way further ahead. Now through a bamboo grove. Ends at a tea house. This is Hokokuji.

We spend some time here. Allowing our imaginations a free run through time. Who were the folks who came for prayers here, over the past hundreds of years? Celebrating their life events – birth of a child, marriage, death. Generation after generation. Would somebody from amongst my descendants also come visit this place one day? Would he or she realize that I was here, and imagined about him/her coming back to this place?

Bamboo grove Hokokuji

Bamboo grove Hokokuji

The tea room at Hokokuji

The tea room at Hokokuji

Hunger breaks the stupor. It was already well past our usual lunch hour. We rush back,to grab a quick grub.

Leg 3: Enoshima

Post lunch, we again board the Enoden train, this time getting down at Enoshima station. Our day pass is used to its maximum. As we walked down towards the beach, the roadside characteristics gradually change. From the heritage temple town to hip and happening US West. Most houses looked like they were lifted straight out off some American soap – the red bricks, the curved railing etc. Even the trees were no longer maple or juniper but palms – beach side palms!

The main road running by the beach was wide. Seafront apartments with balconies could easily give one the impression of being in California, Florida or Hawaii. Orange hued stone walled restaurants greet tourists with “Aloha” in neon. Surfing boards dry on the sand. Beach side shacks play music, dish out seafood with beer. Young guys and gals on skate boards zoom past. 

Checked the time. It was 3 o clock in the afternoon. Just in time for the last ticket sale for the dolphin show in the sea life park – the enoshima aquarium. Famed for its Dolphin show, but its collection of sea anemones, jelly fishes, sting rays and sharks are also varied. For kids there’s a touch and feel section, to experience how it feels to touch a sea cucumber or a star fish! There is also a deep water submersible that was once used by Japan for ocean research. Outside the halls, in the open deck overlooking the ocean shore, there are telescopes to view ships anchored in the distance. Certainly the aquarium merited a whole day on its own but we were short of time. So sped through from hall to hall, to finally flop down for the dolphin show.

Enoshima Aquarium website

By the time the show ended, evening was setting in. Evening glow reflected in the sea. Restaurant lights came up. We walked along the beach. Reached the bridge that connects main land with Enoshima island. 

Evening glow on the Kamakura beach

Evening glow on the Kamakura beach

  Surf boarders, sail boarders were heading home after the day’s play. We crossed the bridge. Reached the point where from a road goes up an incline to the temple at the island top.  The two sides of the street are lined with souvenir shops. And eateries. Fresh grilled food. Ice cream. The usually colorful Japanese fan and handbag shops look more colorful in the evening light.

Kamakura Shonan A.K.A Hawaii

Kamakura Shonan A.K.A Hawaii

Further into the island there were caves one could visit. But it was already late evening and the chill in the air set in. Sea gulls were hovering above for the last bits before retiring for the night. It was a long day. We were tired. But it was a memorable day well worth a second visit. In a little while we were speeding down in super express train zooming past the suburban stations. Half asleep half deep in thought as we headed back home to Tokyo. Hectic, but memorable one day trip to Kamakura.


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Galaxcity galaxy full of fun for kids day out in Tokyo

Galaxcity Is Galaxy Full of Fun For Kids Day Out In Tokyo

 Galaxcity Is Galaxy Full of Fun For Kids Day Out In Tokyo

Touch wood Tokyo weather is generally pleasant. But there are days when it’s cold and rainy. Now what do you do if it’s cold and rainy, and you have kids who so looked forward to a days outing on weekend. It’s tough. For such hard times GalaxCity comes to your rescue. It’s indoor but Indoor does not mean video games. No, nope. It’s full of activities, like scaling up a rock climbing wall, learning about planets and space, making creative use of paper and stuff. in short, as the name says, its a galaxy of fun for kids day out in Tokyo. And it’s all provided courtesy city municipality. Read on if you are interested.

Learning about space and asteroids

Learning about space and asteroids

The Planetarium

Rin and Paku, the two kids separated from their family. They were born in tough times. Like just when young Rin flopped out of her egg shell, she was attacked by a hungry Tyrannosaur! Thankfully mom reached just in time!. But mommy had to mind a cackle of kids. So Rin soon again found herself lost. winter setting in there was little that Rin could do. After all the place was Alaska, known to have particularly severe winter. Luckily she found Paku, a member from her brood. Together they braved some really tough winter. And a deadly encounter with another monstrous Tyrannosaur. Rin was picked up hanging by the jaws. Just in time Paku the braveheart came running and lunged at the tyrant. The blow threw the mean beast into cold icy water. Then spring came. Good times followed.

This was the story projected on a huge planetarium wall. Mixed with oodles of knowledge bits on evolution of earth and the solar system, how seasons change with earth’s orbit, and about evolution of life. Which kid do you think would not love it?

As for the kids parents, the low low prices were an added surprise. A full planetarium in the middle of the busy Adachi city. screening various shows on space, rockets, animals, adventure etc etc. for a coin! Yeah one felt Happy to have paid taxes, for once.

Net Athletics Zone

The Galaxcity Net Athletics Zone

The Galaxcity Net Athletics Zone – full of fun day for kids in Adachi Tokyo

But this planetarium was just an added bonus, Icing on the cake. If your kids love to play, jump, run, then you should first hit the central hall. It’s a three storied high world made of nets. Nets make the first floor, the second, the third. Connected through chutes, made of nets. Kids can jump a la trampoline style. Go up an incline and slide down. Or simply lie down like on a hammock and enjoy the vibrations courtesy others.

The Climbing Wall

The Climbing Wall

The Climbing Wall

If this is not enough, then go for the climbing wall. Three story high, with safety harness, helmets, belaying cable. instructors using laser pointers to guide the young mountaineers to the next best hold.

Digital Play

Or, if your kid is still too young for climbing, how about some learning through digital play? There’s a room with two screens for engaging the younger ones. On the first, letters fall from a tree, like leaves in fall. The kids have to catch the letters that make up particular word. The word is shown in the beginning. Hang on, it’s not just that. The word is not written as it is but a picture is shown. The kid has to get the word and then catch the falling letters in sequence. As is expected the letters fall all over the place, just like fall leaves on a breezy day. So kids need to move/jump/run a bit to catch.

Digital Play

Digital Play

The next screen projects a collection of colored shapes. The more active the kid standing in front, the more colors come up.

For The Creative Ones

Next out there, there are a couple of painting and craft making rooms. The creative ones will love the bright spacious rooms, with several tables in each. Parents and children are free to pick up the art objects or craft items. Instructors are there, too.

Art and Craft classes

Art and Craft classes

There is still one more – a baby’s play pen. Secure, colorful, soft matted, with plenty of space to crawl about.

Essential Bits

Now Do you agree all the above makes for a cool day out? If still wondering about stuff such as food, then worry not, that also is taken care of nicely. An attached restaurant right outside serves yummy dishes like curry rice, chicken rice, pasta, sandwiches in a well lit colorful setting. Of course vending machines are there at every floor, as you would surely expected.

One caveat – you need to reach early and buy tickets early otherwise space fills up soon. Secondly, socks is a must everywhere. And thirdly no skirts/frocks only trousers. Oh yes its not so touristy so Nihongo dake de onegai shimas (guides speak only Japanese) …

For booking and latest shows refer to the website

http://www.galaxcity.jp/

More Choices

The one thing about this Galaxcity is that it’s slightly off the main Tokyo city amusement / shopping areas. If you wanted to combine shopping then check Sony ExploraScience or Panasonic Risupia in Odaiba. Or full play and only play, then head to Children’s world in Shibuya. On the other hand if a day full of learning is the demand, then check out Science Museum. Did somebody just say what to do it’s raining on a weekend …?


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Tree climbing as a sports in Tokyo

Tokyo Climbing Up with Tree Climbing Hitting as the Latest Sports Craze arriving in Tokyo

Tokyo Climbing Up with Tree Climbing Hitting as the Latest Sports Craze

Tree climbing as a sports in Tokyo

Tree climbing as a sport arrives in Tokyo

Tree Climbing as a sport arrives in Tokyo

They are everywhere – clambering up, swaying from a branch, or just hanging. Waving at the viewers below. Boys and girls, young or err no so young. Everybody trying their hands, and legs, at tree climbing as this latest craze hits Tokyo.

Gone are the days when one would scan  the neighborhood trees for ripe fruits on the way to school. And launch assault on the way back. Cuts and bruises were part of the game. The odd broken limb was when things didn’t work to plan. That was it, simple pleasures of simple times.

But times changed. Sophistication has changed the approach if not the urge.  Apparently tree climbing  is still fun. Lots of fun. Provided you are part of a registered organization with necessary safety gear and licenses to operate. It’s a recognized sport.

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