Experiencing the Culture of a World City
London (Tilbury), United Kingdom
London is located in the southeastern part of England, on the lower reaches of the River Thames. While there are many historical spots in the city that still convey the traditions of the Middle Ages, London is also a vibrant cultural city with the latest trends in fashion, art, music and other forms of culture. In addition, the spirit of social good and philanthropy are deeply rooted in the lives of people in the United Kingdom, and a range of initiatives have become a part of daily life even here in the capital city. Let’s take a closer look at the multifaceted appeal of London, a global city with a fusion of long-held traditions and cutting-edge trends.
The unique streets of London
Our general image of “London” mostly refers to the area around the Thames. This area is also called “Inner London” and is the center of tourism, culture, and business. Depending on the area you visit, you can encounter a variety of different faces, such as the Westminster area where London’s most well-known tourist attractions are gathered, Soho where entertainment and fashion meets, and the City, which flourishes as the economic and financial center. The ship docks at Tilbury, London’s outer port, located at the mouth of the River Thames. This is the “gateway to the sea” for London, and has played an important role in trade with various regions since ancient times.
From the port, we take a train to the Westminster district, the heart of the British administration. There, we are greeted by the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben, the 96-meter tall clock tower on the Thames. The magnificent Gothic Revival-style building, rebuilt in the 19th century after being destroyed by fire, is now used as the Houses of Parliament. Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth, is another must-see. It is one of the few working royal palaces in the world that is still in use. The ceremony of the changing of the guard, where the guards in their tall hats and bright red uniforms march to the accompaniment of a marching band, is synonymous with the British royal family.
The area on the south bank of the Thames, opposite the Palace of Westminster, is known as the cultural center of London. Formerly a warehouse district, it has been developed since the 1980s and is now a popular area with theaters, museums, restaurants and cafes. The Queen’s Walk, a promenade that stretches along the waterfront, is a particularly pleasant spot for a stroll. Walking along the riverbank, gazing at old and new landmarks such as the Tower Bridge synonymous with London, the uniquely shaped City Hall, and the giant ferris wheel the London Eye, you can feel the vitality of this city where tradition and modernity intersect.
To the birthplace of London
Now we are in the City of London, the financial district. Located in the heart of London, this area is lined with the central bank, stock brokerage firms, and large corporations. It is also the historic birthplace of London, as the ancient Romans settled here and built the fortified city of Londinium. What you must visit from here is St. Paul’s Cathedral, which has the second largest dome in the world after the Vatican City. It is also famous for being the site of the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Not only does it have an imposing exterior and a magnificent interior, but if you climb to the top of the dome, you can see the beautiful cityscape of London from a height of about 85 meters above the ground.
Culture of charity rooted in the UK
The United Kingdom is one of the world’s leading charity countries, and philanthropy is an ingrained part of the lives of its citizens. Just by walking around London, you can see some aspects of this charity culture, such as outdoor service activities, fundraising campaigns, and donation boxes placed in highly noticeable locations in museums. In particular, the international NGO Oxfam is widely known as the pioneer of charity organizations in the UK, and is involved in a variety of initiatives ranging from local activities to international humanitarian aid. Peace Boat Voyages offer optional tours to visit Oxfam stores and experience their charity activities first-hand.
Oxfam was founded in 1942 with the grand vision of “ending the injustice of poverty”. Oxfam has a wide range of activities, but most familiar to citizens are its charity stores located in various places. Charity stores are different from recycling stores in that they sell unwanted items donated by citizens, companies, schools, etc. at low prices, and the proceeds are used for various charity activities. This system is not so familiar in Japan, but in the UK, donating unwanted goods and shopping at charity stores is one of the easiest charity activities that anyone can participate in.
When you step into one of these stores, you will see a wide variety of items such as clothes, shoes, tableware, furniture, toys, and used books. They make you wonder “what kind of person used this before?” or “maybe this was part of someone’s collection!” It feels as if the daily lives of the local people come to life, making you smile. The charity culture in the U.K. conveys the sense that it is natural to give support for people in society. Our trip to London, a global city where various cultures coexist, is also a time to experience the spirit of mutual aid that has taken root in this country.
PHOTO: PEACEBOAT, ChrisMcAuley(cc-by-sa / 2.0), Masagaki Naoto, Mizumoto Shunya, Okada Keita