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Imperial fiasco / 22 April 2011

photo of the moat around the Imperial Palace Garden showing a high wall

The moat around the Imperial Palace Garden. Photo © Gini

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Sumida is rocking and rolling
today. The gulls again cradled
on the water and the cranes
busy building Tokyo.
I roll down to the walkway
and Sumida rolls towards me,
waves working their way
diagonally across
the river bed. I feel the
curiosity, and the
welcome. I feel a kind of
wholeness, and an
empty kind of longing,
that is born of missing
loved ones.

Today I'm making a second attempt to visit the Imperial Palace grounds and although the air is warm and heavy, no rain is forecast. This my most familiar route and the more I travel it the more I see. There is a lot going on today, much building noise and several of the big cranes are in action.

The election campaign has hotted-up and there are little groups with loudspeakers on many streets, as well as the vans booming "konichiwa" and delivering their message. No hand shaking or kissing babies here;  everyone keeps a respectful distance.

I make a lot of detours, including exploring the Tokyo station area, and the journey is fun. I get stuck at a few curbs, but get lots of offers of help and drivers here wait patiently for pedestrians, the car is not king of the road.

The weather still seems ok when I get to the moat area and with eight lanes of traffic behind me and expanses of manicured pine trees on three other sides, I set out. The area seems vast and empty by Tokyo standards.

The trees each have their own individual shape and space; enormous granite dumplings are strategically placed across wide gravel pathways to prevent vehicular access; everything is on a large scale.

I'm out in the middle of no-where when the first drops of rain fall. There is absolutely no shelter and I make a snap  decision to abandon my goal. I turn and roll back as fast as the chair will go. Soon great drops are falling and there are smells of wet Tarmac, wet grass and wet trees. I take the shortest route to the nearest cover.

Though really heavy, the rain doesn't last too long and I'm soon able to roll out again. Fascinated by Japanese ceramics, I enjoy rolling into some of the tiny shops selling pots. The staff have shown no obvious anxiety about my capability to control the chair and so far, so good; there have been no accidents.

Only once have I had any extreme reaction; I was headed towards a pedestrian crossing in one of many of Tokyo's streets of Big Names.

A queue had forced an expensive Mercedes to stop half way over the crossing and, seeing me approach, the driver lept out and with much bowing and arm waving, carefully escorted me around the boot of his precious vehicle.

In spite of not fulfilling my aim, I have enjoyed my day and the freedom I feel here in Japan. I am happy to roll about after dark in all the parts of Tokyo I have been in and today is no exception.

I could wish the earth here was more stable; there have been six smallish earthquakes today, not that far from Tokyo; all these small tremors serve as a reminder that the really big one hasn't happened yet.