Tokyo, THE return: Episode One

tokyo sumo training

Sumo Training in Tokyo

After living 7 in Tokyo (10 years for Kiwi) and 3 years after having quit Japan, we finally returned for a long weekend.  I love to read the impressions of travelers to Japan, who describe unique aspects of Japan or the Japanese that I used to experienced every day, and I was wondering how we would feel to be back. Would we be tourists captivated by the uniqueness of Japan and the Japanese and eager to capture the now unaccustomed sights and sounds of nippon with new eyes (and a new camera!) or would we be stepping back comfortably in to the scene of our daily lives of many years? It seemed I was quite keen to be back though as I started speaking Japanese to the taxi driver… on the way to Hong Kong airport!

sumo training tokyo

Recovering after the training

sumo training tokyo

Stretching at the end of the training

We started our weekend early on Saturday at a Sumo training in a quiet area of Tokyo. We had already been to a sumo tournament and often watched them on television (good viewing!) but never experienced a training session at a sumo stable. I was enthralled, we were able to feel the intensity of a sumo wrestle close-up and experience the daily lives of the sumo wrestlers regulated by the rules of hierarchy and tradition. During the tournaments we get to see the stars and not realise the work that goes into reaching their level and from a young age… one of the wrestlers at the training was 15 years old and very lean!

Here is one of my first Voyagista vidéos for your viewing pleasure – enjoy! What do you think? (sorry for the French there…)

Back into familiar Tokyo surroundings, we continued the day with a less touristic activity: A picnic and an afternoon in (what I regard as) the best park in Tokyo: Shinjuku Gyoen.

shinjuku gyoen

Walking in Shinjuku

Shinjuku Park is a an ideal location to lie around on the grass in the company of trees  – a little bit of nature in the middle of the concrete jungle. It is a park appreciated by families and lovers. A lot of Japanese come here but (except for periods such as the season of the cherry blossom) there is a lot of space for everyone to enjoy. It is our favorite place for a picnic, read a book in the grass, watch the kids play… it is a space not to be missed if you want to relax a bit with the locals.

shinjuku goyen

shinjuku goyen

We installed ourselves near the “English Landscape Garden, which offered a lot of grass space for the kids to runs around on, but if you make it to the garden make sure to do a little tour around all the gardens including the Japanese part.

shinjuku gyoen

Our first day back in Tokyo passed quickly and when the music started at the park to announce its imminent closure it reminded me how early night fell in Tokyo. What were our plans for the rest of the long weekend? Lookout for our other Tokyo adventures on the blog …

Voyagista’s Tips

  • The sumo training is held early in the morning and lasts for several hours. Not all “Beya” welcome visitors and you should generally call the day before (or ask your hotel to do so) to verify that the training will be taking place. Note that during tournaments or weekends there is usually no training. During the training silence is required… we had to take turns at the training while the other entertained the kids elsewhere!

  • We went to the training of the Arashio stable, easily accessible from our hotel. Arashio has a website in English. You can watch the training from the street through the windows, which was fine with us as we had to manage the children also.

  • Shinjuku Goyen has two entrances. We tend to use the Sendagaya gate, which is easier to access from the JR station and is not as busy as the Shinjuku entrance (especially during the cherry season).

  • Entrance to the park is 200 yen (2 dollars), which helps minimize the crowds. Bring a picnic! The park closes relatively early at 16:30 and from 16h you will hear the music typical of closing time in Japan encouraging everyone to pack up. Shinjuku Gyoen is closed on Mondays.

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