Story and photos by Doug Slaymaker, Tokyo City Organizer.
Walking in Tokyo today, near the end of March, one can see the early cherry blossoms. The full bloom canopies will come in a few weeks to fill the street with fragrance and color. Cherry blossoms: they are among the first things that one associates with Japanese streets, right? Indeed, they have been a symbol of Japan and Japaneseness for hundreds of years. Venerable cherry trees reach across the many rivers that cut through Tokyo; those rivers and their trees define the routes of walkways and boundaries of parks.
Our walk in Tokyo will occur after the blossoms have fallen, but we will pay attention to the layout these rivers and trees have given the city, with their layers of memories and stories, for centuries. Many of these trees reach from between the walls of new and not-so-new buildings, in areas that 100 years ago were open space, or had a very different look and personality. The trees and buildings, along with the blossoms, show us what is, and remind us of what has been. The first Jane’s Walk Tokyo will focus in on such stories in one neighborhood.
The initiative comes from a group of students and faculty of Meiji University, who will bring to these walks their study questions: What former buildings lie in shadow under the buildings we see? What ghosts and stories inhabit these streets? How did these plants and streets look under changing governments, in wartime and peace, in poverty and high economic growth? What animals were here? Come walk with us as we discover the layers of Tokyo by walking in sight of buildings new and old, streets stained and shiny--and, of course, in the shadow of cherry blossoms.