Category Archives: Japanese national holiday

Just another day in Tokyo

2 windchimes

May 4th is みどりの日, or Greenery Day. A national holiday, and part of the string of holidays known as Golden Week. We have been having some wonderful weather recently, the kind of warm, sunny days that in the UK in August would make a lovely summer. I spent most of today at home, with all my windows open. I did some laundry, I did a bit of spring cleaning, I just enjoyed being at home.

My neighbours were also at home. Now, I have lived here for almost seventeen years. I have never had a conversation with any of the people who live next door, but I am aware of their activities daily. Their house is quite large, and an elderly woman lives on the first floor. The second floor is home to a couple in their fifties, I assume either the son or daughter of the elderly resident downstairs, and their spouse. They are sometimes visited by their son, a man in his late twenties, and his toddler daughter. I am wary of these people, because they can be inconsiderate to the point of being quite antisocial. I have seen the visiting son try to start a fight with a delivery man. Last year they arranged to have their house encased in scaffolding during Golden Week, with no notice given to neighbours. Someone regularly plays the piano after 11pm and uses a hairdryer at 2am.

One of the things that makes the second floor residents happy is wind chimes. The photo at the top of this blogpost is their balcony, and you can see that they are well into the swing of summery behaviour already; plenty of greenery, a mosquito-repelling implement and wind chimes. Wind chimes plural. Because if one wind chime can enhance a summer’s day with a pleasant, occasional tinkly sound, then surely more wind chimes will enhance the day even more. Last week the first wind chime was up. Today I opened my windows and noticed that there was clearly more than one. I went outside to conduct surveillance and confirmed that we had moved into plural wind chime territory. Today was not really wind chime-friendly weather, since it was quite a blustery day, and so the soundtrack of my day was the frantic jangling of these wind chimes. Their record is five, we clearly have a way to go yet.

Tokyo Tower May 4th

I went out to church this evening; Monday evening means Evening Prayer and our newly-founded Rosary Group. A calm after the wind chime storm. Tokyo Tower was lit up on Greenery Day in every colour except green, and as usual there were a lot of people taking photos. Because it was a national holiday there seemed to be more tourists than usual and the area was quite busy.

As I was closing the church doors I noticed a couple sitting on the steps in front of the building, and someone approached them and asked if she could take a photo of their dog. Wondering what was so special about this dog that made it photo-worthy I looked closer and realised it wasn’t a dog at all. It was a goat. Even better, it was a goat wearing a wedding dress. I went back into church to tell my friend. ‘Come outside, there’s a goat wearing a wedding dress.’

I, too, asked if I could take a photo. I also asked if I could pet the goat and was told it was safe to stroke her back, but to not try to touch her head (which was adorned with a rather fetching floral arrangement perched between her horns). I learnt that the goat’s name was Mero. So I patted Mero’s bum, and took a photo:

Mero the goat

Neighbours with an over-fondness for wind chimes, Tokyo Tower lit up in a rainbow of colours, and a goat called Mero, wearing a wedding dress. Thank you, Tokyo. Especially for the goat.

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Tokyo Snow Day

January 14thAt church yesterday a fairly new Tokyoite asked us about winter here. How cold does it get? About freezing, we answered. And snow? Oh no, we assured him, we hardly ever have snow, and when we do it doesn’t settle.

Twenty-four hours later, and . . . oops. According to an app on my phone the temperature is 1 degree celsius but ‘feels like -7’, and according to a tweet from the UK ambassador we had 3 inches of snow in 3 hours. The transport system is affected; many flights out of Haneda are cancelled and some train lines have stopped. I watched the snow get deeper and deeper this morning and by early afternoon I decided to go for a walk, since we very rarely have a day like this.

Fortunately, today is a national holiday; the second Monday in January is Coming of Age Day (成人の日). It used to be that the ceremony was only for people who had already reached their twentieth birthday, but in recent years it has changed and is now for anyone who has turned or will turn twenty between April 2nd last year and April 1st this year. Also, it used to be held on January 15th and so was a moveable feast, but in 2000 the Happy Monday system was introduced and four National holidays, including Coming of Age Day, were moved from a specific date to a specific Monday every year, to create some long weekends, and therefore, happy Mondays. So, good for most of us, it means we don’t have to work today, not so good for all those new adults who have been trying to get somewhere to mark the occasion. Traditionally, they are invited to the city or ward office to listen to speeches and be congratulated, and then go out with friends or family to celebrate. Men can wear hakama (袴), formal kimono for men (and very smart, too) but can also wear a western suit. This photo, of a bride and groom, actually, will give you an idea, since the groom is wearing a hakama.

Shinto bride & groomWomen traditionally wear a long-sleeved kimono called a furisode (振袖). They are beautiful and elaborate; usually hairdressers advertise months ahead of time that they’re taking bookings for women to go in early on Coming of Age Day to be dressed in a kimono and have their hair and make-up done. The kimono is accessorised with zori (草履) sandals. Beautiful but not easy to walk in if you’re not used to it, which most young women aren’t, and today must have presented even more of a challenge. I saw these two young women walking gingerly along the road near the station:

Coming of Age Day 2Apart from them, I saw quite a lot of people out in the snow. There were some university students chasing each other along the road having a snowball fight, and a primary-school-age boy came out of his apartment building dragging a bright red sled with a look of absolute delight and chattering excitedly to himself about the wonders before him.

I walked across the railway tracks and saw a train waiting at the station. A little further along I saw the two young women in kimono. Just a few metres past them, the pachinko parlour was open, and one of the employees was hosing down the road in front. I saw a lot of shops and other businesses trying to clear the bit of road in front of their building, but usually with a shovel or a broom. This was the only place using water to blast the snow away, but with temperatures hovering around freezing it seemed like a recipe for disaster.

I walked along the shopping street as far as the supermarket. By then my toes were cold, so I was happy to find it was warm and toasty inside. I didn’t really need to go shopping today, but I bought some mikan (tangerines) and extra vegetables and tofu to add to my green curry this evening. On the way back it seemed like the snowflakes were a little smaller and wetter, but there was an icy wind making everything feel colder. Back across the railway tracks, and the same train was still at the station, with announcements being made that one of the lines had stopped, at least.

I trudged back up the hill to my apartment and was relieved to get home, have a mug of hot chocolate and settle down to write this post. I thought I could hear that the snow had turned to rain, but when I went outside to check I found it’s still snowing but it’s quite wet now. Tomorrow we’re all back at work, we’ll have to see if everything freezes overnight and what effect that will have, but for now I’m going to stay warm and snug at home.

January 14th