We decided to take an exploratory stroll through our neighborhood on Sunday after The Professor made a quick stop at the university. Turning left instead of right upon exiting the school campus, we just walked with no destination in mind. Seeing what looked like a river in the distance we directed our steps toward it. It was a nice surprise to come upon a rather large river (Kandagawa River) so close to home, flowing through a deep channel with tall stone retaining walls and lined with now leafless trees. Crossing the river and on either side of it were city streets. There wasn’t a lot of car traffic but there were lots of people of all ages out strolling, enjoying the crisp fall sunshine. Beyond the river we could see more trees and old Japanese-style rooflines peaking out over a 10-foot tall stone wall. We followed a trio of young college-age boys in their tee-shirts, shorts and flip flops across the bridge and up some stone steps that lead up a steep incline through the trees, and past an old shrine in a clearing amongst some large trees to the left of the stairs. Turns out we had discovered the Shin-edogawa Park.
The boys turned left onto a walkway leading to a dorm-like building but we continued on up the hill. There were surprisingly large groups of people here and we soon discovered there was a small museum located just off the narrow street, back off the street under a thick grove of green-leafed trees. The sign at the entrance read Shunga.
The Professor saw the sign and announced it was a showing of ancient 17th - 19th century Japanese woodblock prints of porn. Apparently, it was all the rage for the nobleman of that time period to check out ancient forms of Shogun hanky-panky. We’re talking all kinds of hanky-panky. He had read that it was a really popular show and how there had been really long lines to get into this museum. Since there was only a short line, we decided to take the opportunity and check it out.
After paying approximately $15 each we entered the small museum and were directed up to the fourth floor to start the exhibition, and to work our way down to the ground floor. The reason for the long lines apparently was because everyone had to stop and first read all the cards, then slowly and painfully work their way down in a slow-moving line past all the prints. Luckily, the cards were also available in English but just like Playboy, you don’t really have to read the captions to figure out what is going on. I was surprised at all the older, staid-looking men and women in line, but it was definitely full of people from all walks of life (but no one under 18). No photos were allowed, but I accidently pushed the camera button and took one of a woman wrapped in the warm embrace of a giant squid. As luck would have it though, I’m interested in the study of cephalopods and will possibly use it for an essay on Global Warming.
After walking through the small museum we left and went back out onto the narrow street and kept wandering. Across the way we discovered the entrance to a beautiful little park area featuring a pond with a dirt path that followed around the pond, through lush greenery and past large stones with Kanji carved on them. While across the road at the museum there were crowds of people still milling about, ogling the prints and reading their descriptions, we shared the cute little garden area with only a handful of people who were quietly enjoying this little city gem with us. It was so serene and relaxing—one felt far away from the millions of nearby Tokyoites and their amorous cephalopods.
Monday, Nov 30
On the heels of a beautiful Sunday stroll in the park, we decided to go check out the Rikugien Gardens-another area listed in the Fall Foliage Report for Tokyo.
Getting off at the Komagome stop on the Yamanote line, we waited a few frantic moments for Google Maps to figure out which end was up. Once decided, it then guided us through the many winding streets away from the train station to the park. There are no recognizable directional signs on the streets to the park and it was at least a 15- 20-minute walk before we stumbled onto its entrance. This park though quite large is not noticeable from the busy streets of the city. Without the assistance of Google Maps, I’m pretty sure we’d still be wandering.
The normal hours of the park are until 5pm, but in the fall they keep the park open until 9pm-with last admittance at 4:30pm. We always like to push the envelope so we arrived a bit after 4pm. Paying the 300yen (less than $3 per person) we walked in and thankfully headed to the right. I say thankfully, because this direction leads one through the lushest part of the park’s paths, over multiple wooden bridges and through a much less crowded area. The only sounds in this part of the park were the loud caws of crows and a distant traffic sound muffled by the canopy of surrounding trees in greens, oranges, reds, and yellows. Also, because this part of the park is naturally darker because of the dense foliage, they close it off after 5pm and we would have missed it if we’d instead gone to the left upon entering.
Exactly at 4:30pm, the various colored floodlights started coming on in the park. White lights hidden in short pieces of bamboo lined the pathways and there were blue lights glowing over what looked like a creek bed. As the evening darkened, the lights became more impressive and soon the small lake, trees, and wooden bridges at the center of the park were all brightly lit, giving it the look of a fake diorama. It was very pretty and though there were lots of people milling around, the darkness helped to hide the multitudes. We were able to grab an alcoholic drink and sit, enjoying the darkness and the pretty lighted trees and bridges, and listen to the muted conversations going on around us. Again, it was very peaceful and worth the trip. We finished our drinks and reluctantly headed back down the hill to the cacophony of the city.