Wednesday 25th October 2017

Today we planned to go to Tokyo's Imperial Palace and so we wanted to be up bright and early since it would take around an hour to get there from our hotel. Well, we managed to get out by 10:30 which is miles better than the 15:00 of previous days. The only problem was that it was raining... but in great British tradition we soldiered on, not letting a bit of rain spoil our fun.

Alyssa & Ben outside the Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace grounds are vast and we seemed to be walking with a long line of Chinese tourists - a sea of umbrellas bobbing along beside us. We had barely made it through the gates before I had had enough, I'm not a fan of rain.

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We saw the famous Nijubashi Bridge and took the obligatory selfie, but it just didn't seem as impressive as everything else we'd seen so far. So we then walked to the Imperial Eastern Gardens which also seemed to be miles of gravel roads with not much to look at. I'm sure it's wonderful on a lovely sunny day but not great when it's chucking it down, your legs are wet and your umbrella keeps getting caught by the wind and turning inside out.

Since the Imperial Palace is still used as a residence (like Buckingham Palace) this was about as close as we were going to get.

Imperial Palace gates

Inside the Eastern Gardens is a section called Ninomaru which was very nice and helped you forget about the constant downpour. It had windy paths, a pagoda, a large pond, small river/moats and different plants in sections.

Ninomaru

Ninomaru

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We saw a small Japanese Crane wading through one of the little moats picking at the ground.

Japanese Crane in the Imperial Gardens

In the pond were some enormous Koi carp that swam up to the bridge we were standing on to say 'Konnichiwa' or possibly were just wanting us to feed them.

Koi in the Imperial Gardens

The gardens had several rest stops with toilet facilities that let us get out of the wet for a while. One had a gift shop and a stamping station, so we stamped our notebooks.

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We then headed back to Asakusa because it was getting close to the time for our woodblock printing session in Mokuhankan and we wanted to get in some late lunch before we started. Ben chose the restaurant and so we went to Salvatore Cuomo for Fried Gnocci & Bacon, and a Margherita Pizza.

Mokuhankan was fairly busy for such a small shop and we got straight to work on our printing with our wonderful teacher Ayumi. She showed us how to put the pigment on to the wood block, how to line the paper up and then press to get a good print. We had a hot chocolate between prints and chatted with Ayumi, David and the other artisans in the shop.

Woodblock printing at Mokuhankan

Alyssa & Ben try woodblock printing at Mokuhankan

After printing we looked around Marugoto Nippon, a shop that sells regional foods and crafts from different areas of Japan.

Then it was back to the hotel to figure out the laundrette, which we think we used correctly but all the instructions were in Japanese and the English translations were somewhat ambigious.

Tomorrow we are off to Kyoto and get to try the super fast Shinkansen trains!