Oasis in Omotesando

A while back, I heard about this really intriguing concept cafe in Omotesando. It was a cafe inside a flower shop, but it wasn’t just a few tables thrown in amongst buckets of cut flowers. It went a step further and I was eager to see it for myself. Continue reading “Oasis in Omotesando”

Shinjuku’s French Garden

After years of walking past bare, brown hedges not even worth a second glance, I finally managed to visit Shinjuku Gyoen when the roses were actually in bloom. Hooray!

The French Formal Garden is one of the three main areas within Shinjuku Gyoen – the others being a wide open English lawn, and a Japanese garden and pond. This section of the enormous park has its turn in the spotlight every May, when 500 rose shrubs splash a multitude of colours throughout the lush, green landscape.

There are around 100 varieties of roses here and it’s just as much fun finding out what they are called as it is admiring the flowers themselves: Playboy, Jude the Obscure, Lavender Dream, By Appointment, Sexy Rexy, Honey Bouquet, Princess Aiko and Glamis Castle, just to name a few!

May is such a nice time of year. It’s not too humid yet, nor the sun too intense. The hectic start to the new work and school year in April as well as the craziness of the cherry blossom season has died down and the pulse of the city has slowed to a steady beat. It’s a great time to do things like sit under a tree reading a book, have a picnic with some friends, or stroll around a garden. And Shinjuku Gyoen is the perfect place to do so.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy Place

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir, American naturalist (1838-1914)

Coincidentally, just last week I was looking back at a photo taken of me in Hakuba (which I wrote about in my last post) – I had the biggest smile and it made me think, this is definitely where I’m most content. Warm sunshine and fresh air. Beautiful flowers of all colours. Lots of trees and possibly even a waterfall… Yep, my happy place is being in the great outdoors, the wilderness. Whether it’s while hiking through the mountains or strolling around a city garden, I always feel a boost in energy as soon as I’m immersed in nature. Problems and stress dissolve and I’m left in a peaceful state.

For this week’s Photo Challenge, I’ve selected pics from different locations in and around Tokyo.

Thank you Krista for this week’s Photo Challenge theme.

 

A Scarlet Sea in Saitama

Red spider lilies are on everyone’s lips right now! These gorgeous, bright red flowers signify the start of autumn and are now in full bloom.

Interestingly, these flowers are actually also associated with death in Japan. You’ll see lots of spider lilies around graves, where they represent the souls of the dead. Also, farmers make the most of the poisonous bulbs by planting them around their fields to keep pests away! But, as is the Japanese way, they like to celebrate everything, even if it’s a flower symbolising death!

Wednesday was Autumnal Equinox Day, a public holiday here in Japan, so to make the most of this day off work, I met up with a friend and headed to the most famous place in the country to see these lilies.

Kinchakuda is a park in Hidaka, Saitama prefecture, about an hour north-west of Tokyo. A cool, shallow river runs around the circumference of the park, in a horseshoe-shape, almost making it feel like an island. While the outer edge of the horseshoe is dense forest, the inner edge is packed with a sea of scarlet! It is an absolute crazy sight!

Five million spider lilies, in fact, cover the park like a warm blanket. The flowers themselves do remind me of spiders with their long, lanky legs! Butterflies and dragonflies fluttered around from flower to flower. The afternoon sun flickered through the forest canopy, lighting up the bright green stalks of the lilies. The sea of red flowers made for the perfect photo shoot background, and we saw many ‘photo shoots’ going on! I loved one couple in particular, dressed in cosplay – the guy reminded me of the Mad Hatter, and the girl of Little Red Riding Hood. The perfect couple, maybe!?

After wandering around the park in a daydream, we picked up some delicious yakisoba from one of the many local produce stalls and sat by the river, feet in the water, cool breeze washing over our faces. It was a great day!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close Up

I’m a sucker for Close Up photos! It’s fun to get right in there, up close and personal, and show a different perspective to things we have seen many times before. It’s a chance to bring the finer details, that you’d normally not take much notice of, into the spotlight.

My favourite subjects to take ‘macro’ shots of are flowers and leaves… this is probably because I know they can’t run away from in front my lens! I need something that will stay still long enough for me to figure out what I’m doing!

I find the veins on a leaf or the texture of a petal are fascinating, and trying to capture them in an interesting way is always a challenge. But living in Tokyo with so many parks around, I’m never short of chances to practice. These are a few of the close up pictures I’ve taken in the past year.

maple leaf

plum blossom waterdrop

grasshopper

Thanks Brie for this week’s theme!

 

Tochigi’s Mystical Hydrangea Shrine

For the Weekly Photo Challenge, Brie has got us thinking about what is our muse. Without a doubt, my biggest muse is nature itself. I am always inspired by flowers in particular and can spend hours walking around a garden taking photos!

Yesterday, I visited a shrine called Ohirasan Jinja which sits on top of a mountain. To get to the shrine, you walk through a forest and up a path that consists of 1000 stone steps! By the first 100 steps I would say the sweat was already starting to pour out! But I felt like reaching the top was an achievement, and the view over Tochigi city was beautiful.

Not only is the view nice, but the hike up is also part of the attraction. The stairs are lined with thousands of hydrangeas which burst open in the rainy season. I spent about 1.5 hours in total meandering my way up and back, stopping every 2 metres to admire this spectacular little corner of the world. I’ve taken a million photos of hydrangeas before, but I never get tired of them. I’ve also been experimenting with water drops recently, and have been trying to take macro reflection photos (without much luck yet). There’s so much hidden beauty in nature. It’s fun to try and capture things from a different point of view!