Today’s Special Guest: Winter

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Conveniently scheduled for a national holiday so hundreds of thousands of commuters wouldn’t be inconvenienced by trains that occasionally had to pause while snow and/or ice and/or tree limbs could be cleared from the tracks, this year’s 24 hours of winter did not disappoint!

Snow bucketed down from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. as the special guest season of the day posed for photos, played pranks on delivery trucks without snow tires, and gave everybody new stories to tell later while quaffing fortifying quantities of beer.

This year, I started at the Meiji Shrine, where tree limbs were cracking off and falling with video-game-like regularity, perilously close to Mario and Luigi as they ogled the maidens in their coming-of-age kimonos.

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Woo-woo Time Machine Moment: Doesn’t this kinda look like a wintertime woodblock print from the Edo Era?

Under the eaves of the inner courtyard

Under the eaves of the inner courtyard

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Shelter from the storm

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First Calligraphy of the New Year. After midnight on New Years Eve, the “first” of everything is taken as a portent for the year to come. First shrine visit. First lucky fortune. First water from the well. First…um, let’s draw the curtain there, shall we?

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The Iris Garden at the Meiji Shrine is a madhouse in June, but yesterday I only saw two other people enjoying it in all its snowy splendor.

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The path around the iris pond

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This grand torii gate at the entrance was closed shortly after I went in, because tree limbs were snapping off right and left, crashing down perilously close to shrine visitors and smashing the new year’s ice sculptures to smithereens.

Next stop, Nakameguro, to see what the cherry trees look like in the nude.

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The cherry tree-lined canal in Nakamuguro. In three months, it’ll look like this.

Finally, one of the most gorgeous spots in Tokyo, in any season. The Rikugi-en garden.

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Japanese gardens are even beautiful in black and white, aren’t they?

My favorite bridge.

My favorite bridge.

If you’d like to visit the Meiji Shrine or Rikugi-en Garden the next time you’re in Tokyo, maps are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

Read a novel set in Tokyo

When Detective Kenji Nakamura’s phone rings with the news that his mother’s death wasn’t an accident, his life begins to unravel…read more