We woke up early (again) on our last full day in Japan to meet Neil, of Tokyo Bicycle Tours, for a four-hour, 22km “Central Culture” bike tour. Neil had a perfect-sized bike for Rowan, plus a helmet, and two bikes for us, and took us on a private bike tour along the Meguro River, which was lined with cherry trees in full blossom; through Shibuya, where Rowan handled cycling through crowds like a champ; and Yoyogi Park, Tokyo’s largest green space, also full of cherry blossoms.
Next, we rode to the Meiji Shrine and walked the wide gravel path lined with tall trees to Tokyo’s most famous Shintō shrine, dedicated to the Meiji Emperor after his death in 1920. It was beautifully spare and simple, with huge halls and buildings forming a main square, where many people come to hold Shintō marriage ceremonies.
One of the most beautiful elements of the shrine is these two, massive Camphor trees, planted in 1920, when Meiji Jingu was enshrined and are considered sacred. The two trees are known as the “husband and wife” trees and are symbols of happy marriage and harmonious family life. Needless to say, mamma, made sure to offer a small donation and a prayer in the main hall in honour of the trees!
Then, we were off to Harajuku and Takeshita Dori Street, where we had lovely crepe desserts along the incredibly crowded street that features shops for teenage girls (lots of Hello Kitty and Japanese boy band shops). It was super fun.
Then Neil took us to a batting cage centre at Meiji Koen Park, where we all got to try to hit about 20 baseballs each, coming at us from behind video screens as if from actual Japanese baseball league pitchers. We all managed to hit a few balls, even Rowan, who’d never swung a bat in his life! He was very proud.
The last stop was the Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo’s first cemetery of the Meiji period, where residents of the Aoyama district rest their deceased in family plots. Neil explained where each monument has spots for flowers, offerings of food and even mail to be delivered to the deceased, which was fascinating. It was also beautiful, because the main road through the cemetery is lined with more gorgeous cherry trees in full blossom.
It was a perfect day for cherry blossoms, in fact – warm and sunny and without a cloud in the sky, and we felt very lucky that we could spend our last day in gorgeous Japan surrounded by such beauty.