Next up was the Imperial Palace. The current Emperor and his family still live there! Only two days out of the year will they let people into the palace, December 23 and January 2. So what we did is look at the palace from a lower landing where we looked past two rivers over a stream and his house lay just beyond that. The area is as big as Central Park. It is a very beautiful and natural looking place in the heart of Tokyo. There is a park of something trees surrounding the palace and it very safe and peaceful. We could see many people resting in between the tress.
We took many pictures and also got scolded by an imperial guard. Yikes! He said that we cannot hold flags there (we were trying to hold the JICE flag for a group picture) and that we cannot dance hula there. It is because it might show that the Emperor supports this and it could be used wrongly as political leaders really need to be cognizant of what they represent and the activity that happens around there home.
Also we saw the statue of Kusunoki Masashige, a general under the reign of Emperor Go-Daigo from 1331-1336. He has his own statue because of his legendary loyalty. It is a very striking statue, sitting far above the surrounding trees.
We visited the area of Ginza. It is a center for shopping and some festivals. We happened to arrive the afternoon right after the festival for the first day of spring was finished. Along the ride there we saw many students walking to a graduation wearing traditional kimonos. There was so much people and lights that it is a very different site for us college students from a the small town of Hilo. Some students got to buy warm clothes, which is very cheap compared to prices in Hawaiʻi. Other students visited a dessert shop and got to try some of Japanʻs famous cute confectionery dishes.
We then went to Park Place Avenue Hotel for a traditional Tempura dinner. We were served tea, miso soup, sticky rice, wakabe, ginger, and daikon on the side. The main course of tempura was shrimp, Japanese whiting, squid, and karekage (a mix of shrimp, scallop, and green leaves). It was oishi (delicious) and totemo yoi (very good). We left with filled bellies and a warm heart because Japanese service is helu ʻekahi.