I arrived in Japan on Tuesday, and I have to say that it’s a lot more foreign than Malaysia. On the bullet train from Tokyo to Nagoya I felt just like Harry Potter on the Hogwart’s Express when the trolley lady arrived with the refreshment trolley; I had absolutely no idea what anything was, and as she spoke no English and I speak no Japanese, there was no way of finding out. I scanned the boxes desperately, looking for a clue, but there’s no English writing, and everything is triple-wrapped, so you can’t even see what’s inside the box. All I could do was select one at random, and once I’d fought my way into it, it turned out to be a beef cutlet sandwich – perfectly fine, but not necessarily what I’d have chosen. At least I don’t have specific dietary requirements or food allergies; that would turn a difficult situation into a nightmare.
But once I arived in Nagoya, I had two very nice surprises:
1. I have a hot bot loo, complete with washing and drying programmes
– it’s great fun – but you have to make sure you sit right at the back, unless you actually want to wash your jumper at the same time.
2. I live within walking distance of the castle and castle park in Nagoya, which are the places for cherry blossom in town, and it’s the peak viewing time for cherry blossom here at the moment, which is something that’s been on my bucket list for ever.
So on my free day yesterday, of course I strolled down to the park to enjoy the sakura –
I was thrilled to see the families and groups of friends all sitting enjoying a picnic under the blossoms, just as I’d been told they do –
I was surprised to see that some groups were obviously work colleagues who’d come to spend their lunch hour sitting on a tarpaulin under the trees in their suit and tie. Apparently some firms give their employees time off to go and picnic under the blossom – the event even has its own name – Hanami.
But having already spent time in Asia, I wasn’t surprised at the number of photos being taken. I soon got the hang of the requirements – you either hold a blossom-laden branch close to your face –
or you pick a few flowers and put them in your hair –
And if you haven’t brought your own photographer, there’s always the tried and tested selfie to fall back on –
or – for a bit of one upmanship – why not choreograph your very own cherry blossom dance? …
She kicked off her shoes and leapt onto someone else’s picnic tarpaulin, that the poor man was trying to sweep clean, and then proceeded to twirl with abandon while her adoring husband filmed her.
It was all getting too exciting in the park, so I went off to see the castle.
It was built by a shogun in the 17th Century, but flattened in 1945, so it’s mainly a reconstruction – although some of the towers seem to be original, judging by the rickety stairs I climbed up to get a view from the top floor –
The Palace, which is inside the castle walls, was refurbished and reopened at the end of last year. We all shuffled around in our socks admiring the beautiful painted screens and cloisonne work –
I was interested to note that the castle has a Ninja of the day –
and I saw one of them – or at least I think I did –
– but looking a lot scarier than on the poster.
I discovered that the hardcore cherry blossom posers were all inside the castle grounds too –
I just hope those kimonos are warm, as there was a very cold wind blowing.