Category Archives: Ani Bradberry

A Farewell to Tokyo

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Quite suddenly, the time has come to say farewell. For our final days in Tokyo, we decided to visit some of our favorite sights.  First stop: Shinjuku. An absolute whirlwind of a neighborhood, Shinjuku has provided endless fascination with high-rising commercial buildings and tons of tiny dive bars. It is one of the most impressive, inspiring, fast-paced, exciting and slightly seedy areas in Tokyo. I love it.

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Next comes Shibuya. This photograph captures my favorite area of the massive expanse of Shibuya, which is one of Tokyo’s most iconic neighborhoods. I really enjoy all of the street art that lines the tracks of the JR train line.

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 Shibuya has some of the most diverse scenery in Tokyo, from the busiest street cross on earth to these mysterious canals lined with buildings.

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 Graffiti is plentiful and colorful, lining each street in a way that is indescribably fitting for the area.

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 On my walks to the Nakagin Capsule Tower, I would always pass this window display on the edge of Ginza. In my opinion, Japan will forever be the master of quirk and design.

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 A very special location is Nakameguro, which provided some of the most beautiful views of cherry blossoms I’ll ever see (not to mention excellent strawberry champagne and yakitori). 

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 I couldn’t help but have my favorite sweet: matcha soft serve.

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 It really is no wonder that the sakura blossom is such an icon of Japan. Even on a cloudy day they seem to shine.

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 As I traveled closer to home, I meditated upon some of my most precious views of my everyday commute. This beautiful tree will always baffle me.

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 Then, of course the Kitazono dormitory: my home for the past 3 months. I’ve been so incredibly lucky to call this building home. The dorm and the neighborhood are refreshing and lovely, I have always felt at home here.

 

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 The view from my room always made me calm and happy, especially when hearing the local preschool play each morning at the adjacent park. I have had countless mornings on my patio enjoying the soft street sounds and the park’s crowds, it has definitely provided some of my most peaceful moments.

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 Finally, my local FamilyMart. It’s been awesome, for lack of a better word, to have the high quality Japanese convenience store practically at my doorstep. From late-night snacks to morning coffees, this place (and all konbinis) has given me many good memories.

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 It’s difficult to write about the thoughts and emotions that have been gradually building up as our time has run out, but I will always be able to express my gratitude to my family and TUJ and my pure happiness at the thought of my experiences in this city. Tokyo will always be a home for us.

It has been a pleasure showing you all some of my views of Japan, I truly insist that you go visit!

Cheers,

Ani

 

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The Nakagin Capsule Tower: Saving a Monument

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The Nakagin Capsule Tower is one of the most fascinating and strange architectural wonders of our modern world. Build in 1972, this residential and commercial tower designed by famed Japanese architect Kurokawa Kisho is an icon of Japanese Metabolism. Essentially, the participants of this movement focused on the design of structures that allowed flexibility for growth and reduction (read more). While living in Tokyo, I joined a group to conserve this fascinating building:

http://www.nakagincapsule.com/

 

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Each one of the shipping container-based rooms is it’s own room, complete with a bathroom.

 

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The rooms are quite cozy and let in a good amount of light! Unfortunately the windows do not open. Originally, the windows were equipped with spinning blinds to shade the room from sun. Here is a glance of the view from the window, which shows a busy street in Shimbashi.

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 There are also some very interesting design features in the rooms, such as this desk that folds down from the wall.

 

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 Also, this built-in switchboard with light, timer and clock is certainly a flashback to the futuristic visions of the 1970’s.

 

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I particularly enjoyed the shape of the bathroom door, which reflected the compactness of the room as well as a tasteful design.

 

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As you can tell, the years have taken much of the original newness from the Capsule Tower. In fact, there has been so little attention to upkeep, many of the rooms are unsafe to live in due to water leakage.

 

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The exterior of the building is also quite shabby, showing a considerable amount of dirt from smog and water damage. Mesh covers the entire building.

 

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With the lack of renovation, the dreams of the Metabolists are betrayed. Since this building was built with consistent change as needed in mind, the absence of upkeep has been detrimental to the theory and physical presence of the structure. Located right next to Ginza, one of the busiest centers in Japan, the demolition of The Nakagin Capsule Tower is highly favored by the company who owns it because of the extremely valuable land.

 

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The destruction of the tower would be a huge loss to the art, design and architectural communities, for it is a true monument of history. The  ideas surrounding the building have been extremely influential throughout the following decades of design. Even after staying in a capsule for a night in the less than perfect state of The Nakagin Capsule Tower has left me overjoyed.

 

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Demolition has been considered for almost a decade now, but thankfully several Japanese and international architects have spoken out against it in favor of re-purposing the building or renovating the capsules. While visiting the capsule tower is not met with warmth by the front desk (note the warning sticker posted in the elevator), I was extremely lucky to be able to experience the structure first-hand.

 

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 During my stay in Tokyo, I’ve become heavily involved with a non-profit movement to help save the capsule tower by purchasing as many capsules as possible with donated money. The Save The Nakagin Capsule Tower Project aims to halt the imminent destruction of the monument in favor of alternative options. Please visit our website and social media pages to help support the project!

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Save the Nakagin Capsule Tower Project

http://www.nakagincapsule.com

https://www.facebook.com/SaveNakaginCapsuleTower

https://twitter.com/SaveNakaginCT

Kumano Kodo Nature Hiking & Ise Grand Shrine Trip: Part 6

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 After enjoying Ise Shrine for a while, we had time to explore the surrounding area: Ise City!

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As we left the Shrine, we enjoyed a purification of our bodies and minds in the sacred river running through the Ise grounds. The water was clear and cool.

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The bridge from Ise Shrine to Ise City is an iconic marker of the shrine, for it represents the transition from our “real” world to the spirit world. The torii gates also signify the entering into sacred space.

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In Ise City we found a delightful mix of amazing street food and luxurious omiyage (souvenir) shops.

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Being hungry and tired from our busy day, we were primarily focused on the food. Ise is famous for its udon noodles. They were incredibly delicious!

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 The area was a lovely place, filled with small traditional Japanese buildings and beautiful artisan goods. I couldn’t get enough of this sod roof that had plants growing out of it. The trees were also just about to flower.

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As mentioned earlier, mikan fruit is a regional delicacy near Ise, so the juice was a common sight on the streets. It is so sweet and tangy, it tastes like an orange mixed with key lime. Very refreshing!

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There were also street carnival games set up for visitors! This game promised boxes of sweets to those who could knock them down with the pellets.

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We loved the little city, for it had a beautiful lively and traditional ambiance. This bridge reminded me of Japanese woodblock prints I had seen.

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Of course, we couldn’t pass up the matcha soft serve ice cream on our last day of the field trip.

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Kumano Kodo Nature Hiking & Ise Grand Shrine Trip: Part 5

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 Behold the majesty of the Kumano Sea at Onigajo! The water was so incredibly blue, the town looked like something out of a dream.

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This area is famous for the spectacular rock formations caused by wind and sea erosion. The texture is rough and porous with many tiny crevices.

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We were lucky to be there on such a sunny day. The sun made the sea sparkle and the mountains glow in the horizon. The sea spray felt amazing.

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As wonderful as the sea was, the rocks were just as spectacular! They were perfect for climbing because of their rough grip. Suddenly, we were on the bus once again and arrived at our primary location: the Ise Shrine.

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Ise Shrine has a massive area of beautiful grounds, including a lovely ponds and unbelievable trees.

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I will always be amazed at the beauty of the nature in Japan, especially when traveling outside of Tokyo (still, the city definitely has some nice greenery)! Koi ponds are very common around shrines. I’ve heard many different things that they may signify: beauty, good luck and triumph over adversity.

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The Japanese people certainly do not take the beauty of their country for granted, for it is celebrated across religious and cultural traditions. I just loved the way the stairs were built around the older cedar trees.

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The shrine structures themselves were breathtakingly beautiful. (Unfortunately pictures were not allowed, so I cannot share the images of the shrine).

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A regional specialty are these mikan fruits, which are delicious sweet orange-like citrus fruits. There were trees all over the Ise grounds.

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Kumano Kodo Nature Hiking & Ise Grand Shrine Trip: Part 4

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 Finally it was time for the main event: the longest hike on the Kumano Kodo route, which is a series of ancient pilgrimage paths that are over 1,000 years old.

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 The entrance of the path began with this lovely torii gate, signifying our entrance into a scared space.

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 After walking through heavy forest, we were suddenly in wide open fields of farms and quaint little houses. The weather was unbelievable.

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 We were lucky to be on the path during cherry blossom season, for the wild sakura trees were in full bloom. Everyone loved it!

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 There were several of these small rock sculptures casually sitting on tree stumps along the pathway. It was so nice to see evidence of other visitors.

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 We even saw the giant torii gate we had visited earlier in the trip! As you can see, even from so far away the gate is spectacularly large.

 

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Also marking the path were many of these stone markers, which I presume are gravestones of some sort (I’m not exactly sure, though). On each of these, there were piles of rocks stacked on top and around the base.

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 It was beautiful view after beautiful view as the path wove through forests and open spaces. This view was one of my favorites, especially because of the wild sakura trees and the hazy blue mountains in the horizon.

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After a few hours of hiking, we reached the shrine, which has an emblem of a three-legged crow.

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 We were lucky enough to see some Shinto priestesses and priests in a procession!

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 The shrine was absolutely beautiful. It was a perfect, peaceful conclusion to our day of hiking.

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Kumano Kodo Nature Hiking & Ise Grand Shrine Trip: Part 3

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Off we went back on the bus, hungry and ready to relax. To our delight, we stopped at a sushi conveyor belt restaurant. It such a fun experience! The sushi was very good quality too. We were each allotted a certain amount of plates, which as you can tell, we took full advantage of.

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Back on the bus we went, but it was never a boring ride. The views of the mountains and rivers were gorgeous, especially the unbelievably blue fresh water.

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We made a pit stop at Kawayu onsen, which is a famous location for hot spring water on the riverbanks. Digging in the dirt on the bank results in a fresh pool of extremely hot spring water. We had a lovely bento lunch and warmed our feet in the water.

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  Then, we arrived at our lodgings! The location was lovely, complete with a wide river and pleasant forests.

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  The cabins were also amazing! They were quite luxurious.

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  Inside, the cabins were Japanese-style, complete with tatami mats, futons, and a very comfortable bath.

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  It was also wonderful to find that bikes were provided along with the lodgings! Since we had a good amount of free time, we rode around the area and explored.

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  We also played a bit in the river that ran in front of the cabins. It was shallow and the rocks were comfortable on our feet. While the water was cold, it was invigorating.

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  Finally, it was dinnertime. The lodgings had perfect barbecuing tables outdoors. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a hot dog!

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Kumano Kodo Nature Hiking & Ise Grand Shrine Trip: Part 2

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The top of our first hike was a wonderful treat, for shrines and a large temple are at the peak. The roofs are some of my favorite parts of these buildings.

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 There were impressive spiritual statues as well. This figure was outside of the largest Buddhist temple, looking upon each of the visitors as they passed.

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 In celebration of spring and good future for children, these koinobori (carp flags) are strung up to fly in the wind. They’re adorable and so happy!

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 Continuing through the temples, we spot a beautiful waterfall in the distance. The large pagoda was also a spectacular sight.

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 After walking towards the waterfall, TUJ took a break for some tasty matcha (powdered green tea) soft serve ice cream: a perfect refreshing treat after hiking.

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  Back on the trail, we headed towards the waterfall. The journey was just as fantastic as the final destination, for the amazingly tall cedar trees were a monumental sight!

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 Still, the waterfall was one of the most beautiful scenes I have seen in Japan. It seemed to fall so slowly from the top of the cliff, watching it was hypnotizing.

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 After our first hike, we traveled on to the largest torii gate in Japan. These Shinto gates mark the entrance to a sacred place, symbolically marking the transition from our world into a more spiritual one.

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 It was MASSIVE (note the tiny person on the right)!

The Closest Beach Town to Tokyo: Kamakura

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 With my mother and my brother in town for a few days, we decided to go to one of the best locations for a day trip outside Tokyo: Kamakura!

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Kamakura is a very charming place filled with pretty knick knacks and lovely town scenery, not to mention a lovely beach. It is most well known for being a famous location for Buddhist temples and beautiful hiking paths.

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There are dozens of temples around the town, one of which contains an incredible graveyard of monks and notable figures.

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Each grave is individually ornamented with a beautiful stone and lovely fresh flowers.

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There were also some more specialized grave sites, such as this humorous and charming beer and cigarette offering.

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Regardless of the individualization, each grave was kept swept and manicured to emphasize the beauty of the stone statues.

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Each grave is incredibly beautiful and mysterious, thoughtfully incorporated into the surrounding nature.

IMG_7390The bamboo forest was breathtaking, especially with the light breeze. We visited on a perfect spring day.

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The sakura trees were blossoming throughout the entire neighborhood!

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My family and I went through some incredible hiking paths, where we were able to see a view of the Pacific through the trees!

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The main event was certainly the Daibutsu at the kotoku-in temple. Weighing approzximately 93 tons and measuring at almost 14 meters high, this statue is a monumental bronze sculpture of the Amida Buddha.

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It was incredible to behold.

Kumano Kodo Nature Hiking & Ise Grand Shrine Trip: Part 1

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Taking the night bus to Mie (approximately 400 miles away from Tokyo), those attending this TUJ trip awoke in the morning to find a lovely beach!

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Even though it was around 5:30AM, the sun and sea was refreshing and energizing (not to say we all didn’t nap after getting back on the coach).

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  After a bit of driving, we arrived at our first hiking site. It was a short trek up the mountain, very enjoyable for an early morning walk.

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  The trees were absolutely incredible, rising far above us but still allowing sun to dance around.

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  We discovered that the cedars were sacred objects themselves, most over 800 years old!

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  As we went further on, we found many other people making the pilgrimage up to the shrine at the peak. White is a traditional color to wear when making this pilgrimage.

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  The weather was perfect for hiking with a cool breeze and warm sun all day.

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  The peak offered a beautiful view of the valley, with cherry blossoms blooming and blue mountains fading into the horizon.

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  There were a surprising amount of people at the peak’s temple! Everyone was thankful to have completed the numerous amount of stairs leading up.

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  Each temple offers a stream of fresh water accompanied with a series of bamboo ladles to cleanse the hands and the spirit. There is a particular ritual of scooping and rinsing the mouth, which left me feeling cool and refreshed.

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Hanami: Flower Viewing

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We are so unbelievably lucky to be in Japan during the spring. This is arguably the most beautiful location to experience the changing of the seasons!

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This is the view from my window! All of a sudden our neighborhood is filled with huge, blossoming cherry trees.

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The early morning is my favorite time to take walks on the edges of the canal by the Kitazono Dormitory. There are sakura (cherry blossom) trees lining both sides as far as the eye can see.

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 It feels like a dream to find such unbelievable flowers at every corner.

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It’s amazing how beautiful the city contrasts with the flowers. Tokyo is the largest metropolis on Earth, but there are blossoms everywhere!

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 This was the view from the train track as I stepped onto Naka-Meguro station. This neighborhood is known for it’s great blossoms and delicious street food.

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There were so many people celebrating the hanami (flower viewing) season!

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As the wind blows, the blossoms drift down into the streets and the canals. After a few days, the ground will be filled with petals.

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These lanterns lined the edges of the canal, enhancing the pinkness of the blossoms as night fell.

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Carolyn and I had such a lovely time enjoying the sakura trees; it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.