Helen’s birthday surprise

It’s a lovely season at the turn of April in Japan, with the weather picking up, and the cherry blossom blooming, and Helen is lucky to have her birthday bang in the middle of it. Two years ago she visited me in Tokyo and we saw the blossom in Inokashira-koen in Kichijoji, last year we had a little sojourn to Hainan island province in China, and this year I treated her to a lovely day out in biggest city in the world.

For a long time in Hong Kong she’d been wanting to go for afternoon tea in one of the nice hotels, so the first part of the day was a trip for lunch at the Fortnum and Mason’s restaurant in Nihombashi. Highly recommended by one of my students, it’s tucked away at the bottom of Mitsukoshi department store and offers a traditional afternoon tea, along with teas, cakes, biscuits and a special lunch menu.

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We of course went for the full whammy and had Queen Anne tea with a selection of sandwiches, scones and our choice of cakes. If my memory serves, we had prawn and avocado, salmon, cheese and ham, and roast beef sandwiches, all of which delightful; the scones were out of this world, with fluffy whipped cream and jam – it’s been ever such a long time since I’ve had a scone – and the cakes were delicious too. It evoked strong ideas of being on the veranda in the height of the Indian Raj with our coolies surrounding us, catering our every whim!

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After a lovely lunch, we headed towards Kudanshita to view some more cherry blossom, in another highly recommended area around the Yasukuni shrine. The Yasukuni shrine has been in the news recently as it’s where all the Japanese war dead are remembered, and many (including several war criminals) are buried, which is causing a bit of conflict with the Chinese and Koreans who aren’t that happy about it, but we didn’t know any of that when we went so were walking around blissfully naive.

By chance we happened to wander the wrong way at first and crossed the road into another park towards the top of the Emperor’s Palace, near the Budokan where the Beatles played many moons ago and which still holds martial arts tournaments. The entrance to the gardens were high above a lovely lake, surrounded by cherry trees, which made for a lovely view.

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We had a little wander around the park before trying to make our way down towards hiring one of the boats on the lake. By the time we got there, there was an hour and a half queue for the boats, and we had a time limit on the third part of the surprise day, so sadly we couldn’t hire a boat this time.

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Slightly disappointed, we crossed back over the road into Yasukuni proper, and had a lovely walk around the gardens there.

Luckily, despite the forecast, the weather was beautiful all day, which was a great bonus. Having done a lot of wandering, we were getting a little peckish, and decided to head over to our final destination of the day, an event so crazily mindblowing it deserves its own post soon!

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