September 1, 2017

Disaster Prevention Day

September 1st is “Disaster Prevention Day” in Japan. This day commemorates the Great Kanto earthquake that occurred on that day in 1923. There were many victims of fire partly because it occurred just before noon.

On the disaster prevention day, the extensive drills that assume mainly earthquake and fire are held in many schools from kindergarten to high school, local governments or community, public transport, etc. It is to learn procedures and routes of evacuation.

Many office buildings and commercial facilities also regularly conduct emergency drills, in order to prepare for unexpected catastrophes and to keep improving their emergency restoration measures.

In addition, during the period from August to October Japan is frequently hit by typhoon. These several years, natural disasters including torrential rain, floods are increasing. The importance of preparation against disasters is growing more and more.

Providing is preventing. If you are prepared, you do not have to worry. Koto-city has a facility that you can experience and learn earthquakes, named “Sona Area.” If you have time, why don’t you go and experience there?

For more information:

   The Tokyo Rinkai Park, in Koto-city, is a great disaster prevention facility with an experience center and a learning center. Once a big disaster occurs Tokyo and the suburb region, this is supposed to become one of emergency restoration activity centers.

(by Junko)

August 19, 2017

Fukagawa Hachimangu Shrine Festival

Getting soaked to the skin, happi-clad men and women in unison carried omikoshi or portable shrines through the streets in a major summertime festival in Tokyo recently, turning their procession route into a spiritual energy site.

The festival, commonly known as the Fukagawa Hachimangu Shrine Matsuri in the capital’s eastern city of Koto, is one of the three grand feasts in Japan’s metropolis. It is also called a “water-pouring festival,” in which onlookers pour buckets of water over omikoshi and its bearers to purify them. Some children use a toy water-cannon while local firefighters sprayed water with hoses at fixed spots along the route.

On the festival day, the god is believed to move to omikoshi temporarily from the main shrine. Fifty-three portable shrines shouldered by turns  paraded over a distance of an 8-kilometer (4.4 mile) route under the scorching sun.

The festival dates back to 1642, when son and heir to the third shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu was born. The feudalistic Edo period under the reigns of Tokugawa lasted from 1603 to 1867, when Japan took a course toward modernization. The shogun’s capital was called Edo, then.

By the early 18th century, Edo had a population of more than 1 million, making it the largest city in the world, surpassing London’s and Beijing’s. The Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine in an area popularly called Fukagawa is  about 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) east of the Imperial Palace ground.

The shrine was the venue for the promotional sumo tournament held for the first time to raise funds to repair shrines or temples during the Edo era. There are stone monuments of yokozuna or grand champion, ozeki or champion, and more to see in shrine precincts. It’s worth a visit.  Sumo is a national sport of Japan.

About 350,000 people were out in Sunday’s major festival, held once in every three years, according to the shrine and police accounts.

Japanese shrines are regarded as a sacred site where people often visit to pray for the safety of their families and the prosperity of business as well as whatever proper for them like success in the entrance examination.

(by Kozo)

August 6, 2017

The Festival Eve tour -- to fully enjoy once-in-three-years grand parade

It's the festival season. And the once-in-three-years big mikoshi parade is coming to Koto-ku, Tokyo!

More than fifty beautifully decorated mikoshi, or portable shrines, will parade through the town on August 13th, Sunday, with big splash of water thrown on them from water trucks and fire hoses.

To help fully enjoy the festival, we will have a special walking tour the day before, on August 12th.

The day before the parade, mikoshi
visit the shrine for purification
With the whole town already in full festival mode on that day, you will have a chance to have a close look at each mikoshi, visit the base stations serving sacred sake (and beer), and talk to local people behind the parade. You may even have a chance to experience water throwing (please be prepared to get wet).

Watar thrown on mikoshi
by firefighters
Our guides, all from local areas, will show you around the main shrine and the parade route, guiding you to the best spots to watch the parade. After the tour, how about a glass of locally brewed beer with our guides?

Here is the tour detail:
Meeting time: August 12th, Saturday, at 2:00pm. The tour takes about 3 hours.
Meeting Place: Just outside No. 1 exit of Monzen-nakacho Station (T12) on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line. Find the Red Gate of Fukagawa Fudo-do temple  (look at the picture and map here)
Cost: free of charge
Note: Hot and humid day is expected. Make sure to bring water and wear comfortable outfit for about three hours' city walking.
Have a closer look at the
beautiful mikoshi!
Booking: Please fill in the form in our Web site. Choose "Course M: Monthly course", and note "Festival Eve" in the Additional notes section.
If you have any question, please feel free to contact us using the form.

August 1, 2017

A mini 'Panama Canal' in Koto City

the front gate of the Ogibashi Lock
When you want to go by boat from the west side of our city to the east side through the Onagigawa Canal, you have to go through two lock gates, mechanism of which is similar to that of the Panama Canal.
You might think it odd that there are locks to control the level of water in this flat land of Koto City near the Tokyo Bay.

The reason is that we have areas lower than the sea level because of heavy pumping of ground water for industrial use by large factories established late 19th century when modern Japanese industries began to grow, until mid 20th century when they are moved outside of Tokyo.

the back gate of the the Ogibashi Lock
As a result, a large area sank below sea level. People living there repeatedly suffered from flooding from heavy rain or storm surges.

Now the lowland areas are protected from flooding by floodgates on all internal canals. Locks are built for pleasure boats, canoes, barges or other boats to go through. The water level of the lowland is always kept 1 meter below the lowest tide of the Tokyo Bay.

When you want to go by boat from the Sumidagawa to the Arakawa River on the Onagigawa Canal;

Arakawa Lock Gate
1)You pass through the front gate of the Ogibashi Lock and wait until the front gate closes and the water level is lowered enough to the same level with the internal canal.
2) Then the back gate of the lock opens and you can go on.
3) Soon you will reach Arakawa Lock Gate. You will repeat the same procedures in 1) and 2). But this time the water level is raised and you can successfully go onto the Arakawa River.

If you are interested to see the lock gates, please refer to the access maps in the following URLs (written in Japanese).

(by Hiroshi)

July 29, 2017

Let’s go to Ryogoku not only for Sumo but also for Ukiyo-e !!

Ukiyo-e is Japanese art, painted on wood blocks depicting everyday life and interests of
common people.
Sumida Hokusai Museum

There are many Ukiyo-e museums all over Japan, however the newest Ukiyo-e museum was built last year near Ryogoku in Tokyo. The Sumida Hokusai Museum, they have a collection of many works painted by world-famous Ukiyo-e artist Katushika Hokusai (1760~1849).

He left behind a large number of outstanding piece of work, while spending most of his 90-years within Sumida city near Ryogoku. Hokusai’s works have crossed the ocean, and are said to have influenced many artists, including Van Gogh and Monet.

On the way to the Sumida Hokusai Museum from Ryogoku station, you can drop in some unique places along the Hokusai –Dori St.

“Hokusai-Dori Sento Spa EDOYU”

You can enjoy “Edo-era Sento known as a public bath” such as Hinoki cypress bath with Hokusai’s Ukiyo-e “Aka Fuji” reproduced on the wall in men’s bath. There is also a Japanese restaurant “Hokusai”. You can taste the Edo specialty of Soba, freshly cooked Tempura, Ryogoku specialty of Chanko-nabe. Sweet menu, Anmitsu and Kakigori is also available.

“MERIKOTI” “Traveling footwear Shop”

Many colorful footwear called “Zori” are displayed. You can use this footwear as room shoes. Traveling footwear is knitted by jersey material. You must be amazed by such a large selection of colorful footwear. If you want experience it, you can participate in workshops of “traveling footwear”. You can make your own footwear for 5000yen.

Have fun in Hokusai-Dori St. in Sumida city near Ryogoku station.

(by Izumi)

“The Sumida Hokusai Museum”
“Hokusai-Dori Sento Spa Ryogoku EDOYU”

July 13, 2017

Summer Festival is coming soon!

   The picture below is from website of Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Fukagawa area of Koto city. The website ( is only in Japanese but you can tell what you will be able to see during summer festival next month. 

   The festival is on August 13th. 
   We will NOT have the tour on that day. 
   BUT we MAY have some special tour before the day like 3 years ago(
   So you have to check our website on the tour (no guarantee we will have the special tour this year) ! Or simply come to Fukagawa area on August 13th! 

By Yoshi

June 28, 2017

Wild flowers

From April till now, I often found various wild flowers blooming while I was taking a walk. Most wild flowers start blooming in April. One of my favorite wild flowers is orange poppy, called long-headed poppy.
Long-headed poppy
 Long-headed poppy is not Japan native, exotic species. It was observed 1961 in Japan in first time. The reason of its seed vigor is powerful and in full of vitality, long-headed poppy spread in a moment. From middle of April to end of May, I could see it everywhere. In my opinion, blooming long-headed poppy means the arrival of blight sunny season as well as beginning the time of viewing cheerful wild flowers. The reason of my favorite of orange puppy is its color of petal. Compared to the common color of flowers, such as pink, yellow or purple, orange flower is rarely observed. Orange is my favorite color, too. 

Even my favorite color is orange, I also have a lot of fun to see lily pink wild flower. This primrose is called daytime primrose.
Daytime primrose
Generally speaking, primrose blooms in night time, though this flower bloom in daytime. It starts blooming everywhere from end of April to June. Due to its lily pink color, densely blooming of daytime primrose at open space, such as public park or roadside of coastline, make them to be gorgeous and attracts many people.  

Now it is end of June, the middle of rainy season in Japan. The fun time of observing wild flowers is almost end.

 At last, I will show you the representative flower of rainy season, hydrangea. Personally, I don’t like hydrangea so much. Against with the other blight color flowers, most hydrangeas are blue or purple. Densely bloomed petals, those form a large one flower, gives me messy, bizarre impression.
 Hydrangea starts blooming early June till middle of July, it is almost the same time of rainy season.


The end of blooming hydrangea is synonym for the end of rainy season, which brings us a sunny, blight, hot and humid summer. I am looking forward to coming summer!  
by A.C