Trip to Japan

For the next 14 days this blog will post information about Japan especially Japanese plants and gardens. My tour started today in Tokyo and will go to Mt. Fuji, Hakone, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.

Japan is a very crowded country and Tokyo is a very crowded city. Japan has a population of 130 million on land that is smaller than California and 70% of that land is mountainous and cannot be used for agriculture. Tokyo has a population of 13 million with over 30 million in the metropolitan area.

Gardens have much more meaning to the Japanese because land is so scarce. Even the smallest areas are made into meticulously maintained gardens.

Even the freeways have clipped Camellia sasanqua hedges in the medians and Camellia japonica along the sides as you can see in the following photos:

Camellia japonica as a street tree.

The street trees are meticulously pruned:

The top photo is of a Sycamore tree and the bottom 3 photos are Ginkgo trees.

Even busy streets have beds planted with flowers and ground cover.

Flowering Cherries are planted everywhere and our guide says that there are over 200 varieties. They only bloom for 7 days but they are examples for the Japanese that life is short so they need to make the most of the time they have. The different varieties will extend the bloom time in different parts of the country to 3-4 weeks.

The following video was made driving over the entry to Tokyo crossing the bridge over Tokyo Bay. Notice that even though there are tall buildings there are no skyscrapers like there are in New York City.

That video could not have been uploaded at my house but here in Japan it is easy because they have very fast internet speeds. Our tour bus even has internet so I will have no problem sending out this blog as we travel.

Many things are different in Japan compared to the United States. The traffic drives on the left side of the road, there are no American cars on the roads, there is little violence in the country (400 homicides last year for the whole country), toilet seats are heated, there is little litter and graffiti, you don’t hear horns honking (the Japanese are very patient), the Japanese are very law abiding (when at a crosswalk the Japanese will wait when the sign says “wait”), elders and parents are respected and senior discounts are everywhere.

The Olympics will be held in Tokyo next year so there is a lot of preparation going on for that. Tokyo Disneyland is very popular and new extensions of it are being built. Most of the roads in Japan are toll roads and if you drive from Tokyo to Osaka it will cost over $100 in tolls. There is an 8% sales tax on everything which is going up to 10% next year. If you buy more than $50 worth of goods the tourists don’t have to pay the tax.

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