Friday, May 18, 2012

Asakusa/浅草 and idobata-kaigi/井戸端会議

Have you ever heard of Asakusa/浅草, Tokyo? Many tourists, regardless of nationality, like to visit there since the area has an old town atmosphere. If you walk around there, you will be able to get a glimpse of ordinary people's lives and customs which have been handed down especially from the Edo Period (1603-1867) or the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Tokyo has been the capital of Japan since the start of the Edo Period in1603, although Tokyo was called Edo during this era. I think that you'll find the area more interesting if you visit during the sakura/cherry blossom season.

In Tokyo, the Imperial Palace is one of the best sites to view Sakura.Sakura trees there are well laid out, gorgeous, and fabulous because of historical reasons (Click here). Every time I see them, I'm overwhelmed by the beauty. I feel like they are what we really appreciate and a sort of work of art. The sakura trees always take center stage. In contrast, the sakura trees along the Sumida River in the aforementioned Asakusa area, another best site to view sakura, allow you more freedom to enjoy them. You can have parties/picnics under sakura trees if you want. Since Tokugawa Yosimune(徳川吉宗), the eighth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo Period, planted these sakura trees so that ordinary people also would be able to enjoy viewing sakura, I feel like that these sakura trees are there to make ordinary people feel happy. Needless to say, the sakura there are very beautiful, but I feel that rather than the sakura, ordinary people are the focus of this site. Could you please see the pictures below?

As for the 5th picture, it reminds me of old days and the expression "idobata-kaigi/井戸端会議”. 井戸/Ido means water well, and 端/bata means beside. 会議/Kaigi means meeting or conference and so on. In the Edo Period, although the waterworks system was built in many areas of Tokyo, needless to say, ordinary houses didn't have any water supply. Ordinary people used public water wells near their houses. Women spent a lot of time beside the water well to wash things and so on (Click here). They always made small talk while doing housework. Because of this background, 井戸端会議/idobata-kaigi means that women gather without purpose and make small talk or gossip.

The tall tower in the last picture is the Tokyo Sky Tree with a height of 634m, which is one of the world's tallest. The tower is located near Asakusa and will open on the 22nd of May. Although the Asakusa area has attracted many tourists for many years, it has recently become less popular especially among Japanese people because young people prefer modern places like Shibuya. Because of this, the area expects the tower to draw more people.