As our tour group walked toward the Sumida River and Tokyo SkyTree, another interesting sight caught our attention.  It was a rather unusual architectural feature atop one of the buildings across the river.  This “feature” was gold and had an odd shape with the most frequent guesses being a sweet potato and carrot  (you would have to see the huge carrots in Japan to understand).  Our tour guide finally put an end to the speculation by telling us

it was beer foam….like the foam on top of a beer when poured.  What???  This beer foam sat on top of one of two buildings belonging to a beer company.  The building next to the beer foam structure (the corporate offices of Asahi Beer) was all gold, representing a poured glass of beer.  Since our trip I have also heard that this structure is supposed to be a flame representing the “burning heart of Asahi beer.”  What do you think?

Asahi Beer buildings

Asahi Beer buildings

After our lesson in architecture and beer buildings, we boarded a tour boat and headed down the river to Hama-rikyu Gardens, a 600 year old Japanese Garden.  I think I counted 13 bridges that we went under during our 30-minute river cruise.  Very interesting structures…I don’t think there were two that were the same.  We arrived at the garden, disembarked and received our instructions from our tour guide, Demi-san.  Then we set out following one of the many paths and climbed a small hill (called “Shinhi-no-kuchiyama”) for a view of Tokyo Harbor and the Rainbow Bridge.  Five different ponds are located inside the garden and the largest, the Edo Pond was originally dependent on water intake from Tokyo Bay.  We continued down one of the paths, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and taking photos.  We next came upon a large pond and across the pond, situated in the water near the opposite bank was the Nakajima-no-ochaya (teahouse).  As we took in the beauty of this particular setting, we couldn’t help but notice the reflection of numerous skyscrapers in the water surrounding the teahouse – what a contrast!  The peace and serenity of a Japanese garden from the 1600’s surrounded by corporate Tokyo.

bridge on Sumida River

bridge on Sumida River

floodgate controlling water input from Tokyo Bay into ponds

floodgate controlling water input from Tokyo Bay into ponds

Nakajima-no-ochaya teahouse

Nakajima-no-ochaya teahouse

our view during tea ceremony

our view during tea ceremony

ea ceremony instructions

tea ceremony instructions

300 year old pine

300 year old pine

We wandered through some of the others paths and came across what used to be a guest house (after the Imperial Family gained possession of the garden).  Our tour guide told us that our President Grant had stayed in this guest house for about a month after he left office.  Finally we found a pine tree that is over 300 years old.  Interestingly, this (and many other) pine tree doesn’t grow very tall, but rather grows outward.  Because of this, support structures are built and placed under the limbs to prevent breakage.

I reluctantly climbed back on our tour bus (I wanted to explore more of the gardens, darn it!) and took my seat.  As Eric and I were settling in, my dear husband declared, “I am never drinking green tea again!  I almost got sick during the tea ceremony!”  After some continued discussion, I promised to never volunteer him for a tea ceremony and/or in any other way cause or encourage him to drink green tea. Gotta love him, though.  Soon we were off to our next destination, Palette Town!

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