Photo stories 5

The rest of the second semester


Partway through the final term, Gakushuin’s clubs (or the Aikido club anyway) have some sort of exchange with Konan University in Kobe. This year we played host, so the Konan students came to Tokyo and, after a surprisingly small amount of shared training, we split up into year groups and went off to show the Konan students the highlights of Tokyo. The “highlight” we first-years chose was Japan’s oldest theme part, Hanayashiki.

Hanayashiki is in Asakusa, so of course we got photos at the temple there as well …
Hanayashiki doesn’t have a particular theme, but it’s nice to find a place which specialises purely in fun


In December I had a long-awaited visit from my family! Obviously it was great to see them, but this also meant I went to a few places I hadn’t yet been. Chief among these: Disneyland! The actual Disneyland, not DisneySea this time. I was curious how different it would be …

The answer: Much more Christmassy! Although there’s a slight chance that the time of year accounts for that
As before, I’m amazed at the sheer scale of the place
Heaps of fun stuff, including a surprisingly good Star Wars ride (not shown here)

The wait times were also mostly reasonable, with only a few rides having the 2-hour-plus queues Disneyland is infamous for.


Christmas in Japan is rather different to western countries. New Year is the time when families traditionally get together, so Christmas is all about couples (it’s like a second Valentine’s Day). Accordingly, I did some stuff with Jackie, as well as having a western-style Christmas party with the rest of the exchange students.

Oh, and we had an Aikido Christmas party as well. Just decorating the club room beforehand …

Jackie and I went to Shinjuku-gyoen, the big park I visited a hundred years ago in April. While there wasn’t much in the way of autumn foliage left, we did manage take lots of photos in the massive greenhouse. We also managed to get a turkey dinner (well, half of one; we didn’t book ahead) at a very nice Irish pub downtown.

I was trying to take a funny photo showing that this leaf is about as long as Jackie is tall, but I got a cute one instead … ah well

New Year

The most interesting thing we did at New Year was going to Hatsu-mode, a traditional countdown event held at temples and shrines across Japan.

It was … fairly busy
I’m surprised they were allowed to have this ceremonial brazier so close to the crowd …
I finally figured out what these are while my family was here — they’re barrels of sake donated to the temple. This company must have wanted a lot of blessings …

An aside: New Years’ cards

While it’s not traditional to send Christmas cards in Japan, New Years’ postcards are a massive thing. It’s a tradition which goes back a long way, which of course means that the Aikido club makes it of paramount importance. I ended up sending over 30, all of which had to be written out neatly by hand. Needless to say, this took a very long time and used up all the days before Christmas when I was hoping to write blog articles and so on. So I’m sorry about that.

Anyway, I’m posting two articles at once this time, so please continue on with me to Okinawa!