Monday, June 22, 2015

A guitar and the last samurai

Saigoyama Park, at the top of the hills separating Shibuya from Meguro in central Tokyo, is a delightful little area where people spend weekends hanging out on the grass having a beer with their friends. The name comes from the historical owner, Saigo Tsugumichi, a Marquis, Admiral and little brother of The Last Samurai, the real one played by Ken Watanabe and not the one played by Tom Cruise. His house stood on the top of the hill (yama meaning "hill" in Japanese) overlooking the bluff. Before the concrete towers of developing Tokyo stood in the way, his view would have been a panorama from The Pacific to Mt Fuji, 100km west of the capital.

The wooden building has long since been relocated to Meiji Mura near Nagoya to be preserved for the nation but Saigo was also the first man in Japan to own a race horse though whether this was relocated too remains a mystery. The park is now planted with sakura (cherry trees) that flower for a few days each year at the end of March bringing the crowds. But outside the chaotic hanami party times you can often see a old man there with a guitar. He's not the greatest player in the world but he has chosen one of the most peaceful places to learn. And that makes him awesome.

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