Tokyo Below Zero

Sunny Tokyo masking the cold weather

Japan's capital city has a perfect blend of an ultra-modern setting with oriental old world. Centuries-old temples are tucked inside its urban fabric.

Tourists flock to famous shrines where locals still practice their religious traditions.

The Senso-ji Temple at Asakusa is one of those crowded spots. Stalls with cheap souvenir items and street food line the walkway leading to shrine proper.

It is relatively near to Tokyo Skytree, the city's tallest man-made structure. 

Meiji Shrine, on the other hand, was quite secluded. Its traditional zen-style setting is found inside a city "forest". A traditional Japanese gate, called a Torii, greets those who enter the thick cluster of tall trees. 

Sake barrels stacked on top of each other are common for Shinto Shrines, such as Meiji. These are, however, empty and are for symbolic purposes of bringing together the gods and men.

A number of Torii gateways can be found inside until the actual temple entrance.

While tourists are busy sprinting from one spot to another, locals enjoy relaxing in their parks and gardens, which are conveniently scattered in the city.

Ueno Park, one of Tokyo's expansive parks, has a central area where musicians and street artists perform.

Meandering walkways within this area can lead to pocket spaces of shrines and smaller torii.

Our first Sakura sighting was inside Yoyogi Park. 

A favorite hobby of Japanese locals is just to hang out under these pink blossom trees. 

Another city open space is Shinjuku Gyoen. It has both western and eastern styles of landscaping.

A Taiwanese Pavilion can be found inside. It overlooks a small lake and a "yellow" open lawn, which was (at that time) surrounding with pink blossoms (either plum or cherry trees).

A personal favorite inside is the Avenue of Sycamore Trees. Winter weather has left these trees leafless but still picturesque.

One must-visit spot in Tokyo is the Imperial Palace. It is the official residence of Japan's emperor.

It is, again, surrounded with very open parks and gardens where wide roads have Sunday cyclists.

During our stay, we headed outside Tokyo and took a train for almost 2 hours to the Hakone suburbs. It is the nearest place from the city capital where we can view Mt. Fuji.

From Hakone's main station, we took two more trains/trams and a cable car before we finally saw the perfect cone.

At the end of our cable car ride, we were greeted by this lake, where we were supposed to have a pirate ship cruise but the windy weather only allowed us to stroll around the lakeside.

Our last whole day in Tokyo lead us to Disneyland.

This theme park obviously has a special spot for locals with the volume of crowd during the time of our visit. It has a fairly large concentration of the young population of Tokyo.

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