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    Explore: Yoyogi

    Among the urban jungle that is metropolitan Tokyo, lies a part of the megalopolis, which instead of being dominated by concrete and glass, is populated with a sea of trees and grass. Yoyogi is an area surrounded by the glitz and glamour of 21st century Tokyo but is set aside to honor not only the past of Japan but to promote rest and relaxation for all visitors and guests of the eastern capital.
    Yoyogi, which means “generations of old trees,” stands on the former site where the first successful powered aircraft flight in Japan took place on December 19, 1910; the area later became an army parade ground. After the end of the World War II, the site housed the military barracks known as the “Washington Heights” for U.S. Officers during the Allied occupation of Japan. In 1964, the area was used for the Tokyo Olympics, housing the main athletes village and the distinctive building, which was designed by Kenzo Tange, hosted swimming and diving, with an annex for the basketball. In 1967 most of the area north of the gymnasium complex and south of Meiji Shrine was turned into Yoyogi Park for use by the general public.
    Visitors to the area will take the JR line and disembark at Harajuku Station, staying on the station side of the street and moving past the exit towards the bridge that separates the flashiness and crowds of Harajuku from the quaint reflection and peace of the park area. After crossing the bridge, visitors will see a split in the walk way. The left walk way will lead to the main entrance of Yoyogi Park.
    At the entrance, particularly on a Sunday, the Tokyo Rockabilly Club meets up and performs dances for the crowd entering the park. Past the entrance, various food trucks are set up serving both traditional Japanese food staples like yakitori as well as western ones such as crepes and pizza.
    The park measures more than 134 acres and is the fifth largest park in Tokyo with more than 10,400 trees including black pine and Sakura or cherry blossom trees as they are called in the west. Upon entering the central field, which encompasses a third of the park, visitors can sit on the grass for picnics, enjoy the site of cherry blossoms during peak season and walk through the woods. Many different clubs meet up to either run the park, play sports or practice juggling. Towards the back of the central area is Dog Park where owners can bring their pets to play in the park unfettered. Towards the west side of the central area is a row of food vendors serving Japanese street fare to visitors and an observation bridge to allow guests a larger view of the park.
    To the east of the central area is the sample garden which features flowers from around the world from countries that participated in the Tokyo Olympics. Twenty-two nations brought with them typical species from their countries. Today, fifty-one plants of ten species remain, including Norway spruce, Bhutan pine, white birch, and European larch. Next to the garden is the park’s bird sanctuary. While it is off limits to guests, the birds that occupy the enclosure can be viewed by the general public.
    To the West of the park lies Meji Jingū (Meji Shrine), a Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the first ruling emperor after the end of the Shogunate, Emperor Meji and his wife, Empress Shōken. The shrine is surrounded by a 170 acre forest and the main shrine was completed in 1926. The original shrine was destroyed during the Tokyo bombing raids in WWII, but was rebuilt with public funding in October of 1958. Large torii gates are at every entrance to the park and the path to the main gate has both wine and sake barrels sent for blessings. The Nian is the inner part of the temple with a Shinto shrine and a treasure house consisting of artifacts of the Emperor and Empress.
    Yoyogi is an area of the city that allows visitors who are overwhelmed and frustrated with hustle and bustle of modern life to escape for a little bit of time and relax in a natural environment. Away from the noise and lights of ultra-modern Tokyo, you can enjoy the serenity that Japan can offer, while Meji Shrine allows visitors to connect with the past in a way reading about it will never allow.



    Date Taken: 04.01.2018
    Date Posted: 12.04.2018 01:09
    Story ID: 302125
    Location: TOKYO, TOKYO, JP 

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