They threw an autumn in for free

Things are starting to get a little chilly indeed in Tokyo at the moment – they have one of those autumn things here! By which I mean that the trees change colour and everything:

The street I work on is a rather nice tree-lined avenue, so I was looking forward to seeing it all blazing red. Just as the first leaves began to change, though, a council crew came through and stripped the entire street of foliage within 1 hour while I wasn’t looking. I’ve been told that this is because they were ginkgo trees, and this is the time of year they drop their rather odorous fruit. Still – bah to the council. Just because they’re universally described as smelling “exactly like vomit”, that’s no cause for discrimination.

The red leaves don’t last long and sadly, in Tokyo, there’s only certain places you’ll be able to see those “tree” things. So, it’s a good time to go traveling. Kyoto is said to be one of the most spectacular places to visit at this time, and it’s a relatively short (3 hour) and expensive ($150 AUD) bullet train ride there. Unfortunately, bad timings put an end to that plan for now.

While I didn’t get to Kyoto, I was able to visit Kawagoe, a historic town about 45 minutes train ride from Tokyo.

As you can see, a lot of the buildings are wooden constructions, which has ensured the rebuilding of the city after several major fires over its history. When it’s not a hellish inferno, it’s quite a charming place indeed.

Within the city, there are plenty of shrines and museums. It has a very nice small-town feel to it which is very welcome after the cluttered, cement-paved madness of Tokyo.

This picture is a little interesting in that is shows that two different eras in Japan’s history. The European-influenced building in the back belongs to the Meiji Restoration period beginning in the second half of the 19th century. At this time Japan ended a long isolationist policy, welcoming foreign trading partners and beginning to change into the modern economic power it is today.

What’s more interesting is how it came about. An American by the name of Commodore Matthew Perry (no relation, though he was reportedly much funnier) parked some gunboats (known as the Black Ships) off the coast of Japan near Yokohama. He politely asked that the Japanese government sign a “Treaty of Peace and Amity” providing trading rights to Western powers or he would blow the living bejezzus out of them. They signed, forever validating the use of “gunboat diplomacy” as “awesome“.

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