This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

First cherry blossom / 3 April 2011

Entrance to Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Entrance to Meiji Shrine. Photo © Gini

Zoom in to this image and read text description

The  arrangements are made;
the day has been booked.
Food, drink and the blue plastic
ground cover, all are
ready but the sun.
And a cold wind blows.
But all is not lost
and rescue provided by
an enormous bunch
of lurid pinkness;
balloons on strings,
stand-ins for the cherry
that failed to bloom on the day.

Today we take the metro to Meiji Jingumae, it involves changing trains and using platform lifts. It all happens very smoothly and although there are several points where I am anxious, the service is very efficient and the station staff always polite and helpful. We visit the shrine at Meiji Jingu and I take masses of pictures. The access is very good. The shrine buildings and Shinto Wedding Hall are set in 175 acres of mostly woodland planted by volunteers 90 odd years ago. There is also a garden which predates the shrine and woodlands. It is all beautifully kept, but there is a cold wind and I am glad to have lunch in the warm restaurant. The bowls of tea are constantly topped up and my hot-water bottle gets a refill too.

After lunch we head for Yoyogi Koen where the cherry blossom parties have already started. A long queue of mostly teenage girls, winds into the park from the neighbouring stadium. There are police, crowd and traffic managers everywhere; placards and collecting boxes lead me to think it has something to do with the disaster fund.

We stop to watch a troup of Elvis impersonators street dancing, before winding our way through the park. Progress is slow, there is so much to see. Between the party-goers are the entertainers and people playing games.

The entertainment varies from actual performances to people just practicing or the spontaneous coming together of passing musicians; Boy Bands attract masses of young Japanese girls. The atmosphere is energising and cheerful in spite of the silent fountains, cold winds and constant reminders.

Packing as much as we can into the day, we head off to Omote Sando, a label shopper's pardise, where we take refreshment. I have roasted twig tea and a bean and chocolate cake with ginger cream; the smell and taste lingering Japanese reminders.

I seldom see anybody in a wheelchair, yet access is great and the attitude is amazingly helpful and positive. I feel more like a person here, and less like a wheelchair attachment.