Rome in Tokyo


This is a strange find – is it is copy of the famous Capitoline Wolf statue from Rome, but it is in Tokyo, in Hibiya Park! Apparently it was a gift from Italy to Tokyo in the 1930s.
The real Capitoline Wolf statue is quite interesting because it is supposed to be an ancient Roman or even Etruscan statue of the wolf feeding the founders of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus. But actually the wolf is 11th or 12th century and the twins were only added in the 15th century.

The Emperor’s Music Room

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This very unusual building is called the Tokagakudo (peach blossom music hall) and it is the music headquarters for the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Probably most of the music played here is for the Shinto rituals and festivals that the Imperial family have to take part in. You can see it if you visit the Imperial Palace’s East Gardens. It was built in the 1960s for the former Empress and is 8-sided and covered in mosaics which are supposed to show flowers and stars, but look more like Tokyo Sky Tree to me!

Racing Boats


I’ve already covered horse racing and now we have boat racing! There are about 20 boat racing stadiums in Japan and this particular one is located in Heiwajima in Tokyo. About 95% of the onlookers are men of course, but surprisingly about 10% of the boat racers are women! Unlike horse racing where the horses simply run around the stadium from start to finish line and the fastest wins, here in boat racing there are different sections that the boat racers have to get through in a certain amount of time. So the racing isn’t just about speed but it’s also about timing and precision, especially when the boats go around the corners of the race track. Sometimes they cut the turns so tightly that you think they are surely going to crash… But somehow they don’t! Just like in horse racing you can bet on the racers (but this time my family and I didn’t). It is quite a nice experience and fun to watch!

Problems with Water


In Japan there is large prefecture called Saitama which is located north of Tokyo. This prefecture has lots of problems with flooding because the main part of the prefecture is in a kind of natural bowl in the ground and in this area there are 5 pretty big rivers which flood several times a year. So to stop this flooding problem they made a HUGE complex of tunnels under the prefecture and the rivers called the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel (quite a mouthful!) This discharge channel is connected to all 5 of the rivers which are the ones that flood, and if some of them do flood the discharge channel sucks the water in and then lets it out in a much bigger river just outside of the natural bowl the prefecture is located in. You can get a guided tour and go down into the huge water storage chamber of the discharge channel. Flood water isn’t clean of course so when the water clears from the chambers there’s a ton of mud left over and they actually lower a bulldozer down through the roof of the chamber so they can bulldoze the mud out again!

Tsukuba Space Rocket


Tsukuba is a city famous for its science universities, companies and museums and it is also the location for Japan’s Space Agency. There is a park near Tsukuba Station and in the park there is a real space rocket next to the Tsukuba Space Museum. It looks pretty impressive!

A REALLY Low Tunnel


This is probably the lowest car tunnel I’ve ever seen! It is north of Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station and it goes under all the train tracks (lots!) that lead out of the station. The lowest part of the tunnel (most of it!) is just 1.5 metres high. It’s also quite narrow so it is a one-way road plus a small path for pedestrians. The roof is so low that some taxi companies had to change the symbol on top of their taxis because it was too high and wouldn’t fit through the lowest part of the tunnel. Nothing higher that a normal car would have any chance of getting through. There are scrape marks on the beam where the tunnel goes low to show that some vehicles get stuck.
Something interesting is that I think it is too low for Japanese police cars to go through (they have a funny built up red light on the top of the roof) – so it would make a great getaway tunnel!!
Some people say the tunnel is haunted, though there were lots of people walking and cycling through it when I was there and I didn’t see anything strange at all. But there are said to have been accidents because of the tunnel being so low, for example people say that a motor cyclist actually died because he went into the tunnel too fast and because the lowest part of the tunnel is further in he didn’t see it till it was too late and he hit the edge where the lower part of the tunnel goes down. They even say that the force of hitting the beam made his head actually came off (pretty yucky!). It may just be a silly story of course…!



Chrysanthemum Show


In November some shrines and gardens have beautiful displays of chrysanthemum flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours. Some are just single flowers, and other are huge domes of hundreds of flowers (all from the same plant I think!). A shrine called Yushima Tenmangu (near Ueno in Tokyo) even has a scene with life size historical figures where everything except their faces and hands is covered in chrysanthemum flowers. Apparently these ‘chrysanthemum dolls’ have been made for hundreds of years. They do look pretty amazing!