Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shinjuku Gyoen

If you like reading mysteries and other forms of fiction and even non-fiction, you'll eventually feel the pull of stories set in real-world locations. Over time, you'll perhaps want to visit that setting to see how closely the book matches reality. This kind of situation holds true for Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter fans that ultimately make the pilgrimage to England to see the "holy lands" for themselves.

However, this kind of thing is even more overwhelming for certain manga fans where the settings are in Japan. Especially since so many manga take place in one form of the real world or another. Such as it was for me and Shinjuku Gyoen.

A couple of months ago, I was reading the latest volume of "Yakushiji Ryoko's Strange Case Files", and discovered that the first chapter of the latest storyline was set in Shinjuku Gyoen. Gyoen translates to "Imperial garden", and Shinjuku Gyoen, as part of the Imperial family's lands, was completed in 1906. It was opened to the public in 1949. The gardens are popular in the spring for hanami (cherry blossom viewing), and it hosts a number of chrysanthemums that have been subjected to various display treatments (see examples below). It's located just a few blocks east of Shinjuku Station and costs $2 per adult to enter.

(Hunting for minnows)

In the "Strange Case Files" story, something causes all of the plant life in the park to die overnight. Since I walked past the park for 2 months straight on my way to and from the Japanese Language Center for classes, I figured that I should try going inside to see the setting for this particular story.

(One of several ponds in the park)

The park is about 1/6 the size of New York's Central Park, at about 1 kilometer by 0.75 kilometers. And, it's really pretty. It would take a major attack to have the effect described in the "Strange Case Files".

(One of the chrysanthemum displays; this one produced by pinching the buds when they form)

(A shot of the roots of one of the trees in the "Mother and Child" portion of the park)

(Display at the Shinjuku front entrance to the park)

(Cascading chrysanthemums - each cascade is from one plant, and is intended to mimic a waterfall)

(The 1000 flower chrysanthemums - each plant takes 1 year to to be coaxed into this form)

(Me in front of the Tea Pavilion. A Japanese passerby stopped and asked me if it was ok for her to shoot my picture with my camera. So this is the shot she gave me. The pavilion was the gift of Japanese living in Taiwan to the Showa Emperor for his wedding. Construction began in 1927.)

(From inside the pavilion)

(This is my new Windows wallpaper image)

(Always a classic - a shot of someone shooting flowers)

(Okido Gate Building - no longer used, at the opposite end of the park)

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