This weekend I was able to do some traveling in both the Chiba area of Funabashi and the greater Tokyo area of Ueno. Ueno is a rather popular tourist destination because of the Imperial Palace and the many shopping areas conveniently located nearby.
The Imperial Palace
On Sunday, Ian, Tatum, and I met up to explore the Ueno area and see the Imperial Palace. After the fall of the Tokugawa Shogun, Japan’s capital was changed from Kyoto to Tokyo and this Imperial Palace was constructed in 1868. It was destroyed in World War II and eventually rebuilt. Unfortunately for us, visitors are only allowed to enter on two days of the whole year, one being the Emperor’s birthday and the other being New Years day. However, tourists are able to enter the gardens and other smaller areas surrounding the palace.
The gardens feature a wide array of flowers and plant life that are often labeled with the plant’s Latin name. There is also a somewhat large waterfall (that Ian loved) that leads into a several ponds hosting some of the largest Koi fish I have ever seen. Numerous benches surround the area for visitors to relax and enjoy the quiet area within a bustling city.
Above are two different types of buildings for hosting soldiers during the time of feudal Japan. The Doshin Bansho was used for the visiting Daimyo’s (Feudal Lord) soldiers. Because of their rank, they were not permitted pass a certain point and were required to wait until their Daimyo was finished with whatever business was being conducted. On the other hand, the Hyaku-nin Bansho was a place for the guards of the Imperial Palace to stay. Four different shifts of 120 men were stationed here to protect and keep watch of the palace at all times of the day.
Finally, we ended our journey at the beautiful octagonal shaped Music Hall. Its construction was started in 1963 to commemorate the birthday of Empress Kojun and was completed in the year 1966. It is used primarily for the Imperial Family’s leisure and many famous musicians and musician groups have performed for the royal family here.
On Saturday, I headed into Funabashi with Kaito to further explore the Chiba area.
Because it’s election time in Japan, many politicians drive their political vans out and about to try and gain community support. The politicians stand atop their vans with close supporters where they proceed to give speeches to the crowd below. This particular politician, Toyoda Toshiro, is a member of the Japanese Liberal Democratic party and serves as member of Japan’s House of Councillors for Chiba prefecture. Unlike the name would suggest in America, the Liberal Democratic party is considered to be conservative and has held power in Japan since 1955, the year of its conception. Although their ideology is not too well defined, they tend to focus on export-based economic growth, cooperation with the United States in foreign and defense policies, and tax reform for an aging society. They are by far Japan’s strongest political party and the party of the Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
Just 1 hour later, a friend and I stumbled into another political party rally just a few feet from the previous one. Unlike the other politician, Hisaya Tanaka is apart of a much smaller party called The Democratic Party for the People. This party is considered more centrist and focuses on issues such as reducing the length of the Japanese workday, increased gender equality, and promoting policies for the declining Japanese birthrate.
Japan’s Identity and an Aging Population
Although there are a number of factors contributing to Japan’s declining birthrate, long working hours and Japan’s post-Golden Era economic stagnation have caused many Japanese young adults to heavily reconsider the huge financial burden of children and relationships. The number of older people in Japan far surpass the amount of younger people and the problem will only continue to get worse without reform. Without enough people to fill the job market, Japan now faces a national identity crisis. In order to protect the economy, the Japanese government will have to decide between importing more foreigners to work or creating reform that encourages young people to have children. Will Japan disrupt its mostly harmonious population or can the government entice its young people to stabilize the economy? Neither option is easy and only time will tell what Japan decides to do.
Until next week,