Note: You can view Mick’s photos and video of this day here.
Though I am blogging our third day in Japan, it is actually the fifth day. Mick is 40 today (March 28)! Can you believe I’m married to such an old person? I’m not sure this May-December romance can last, but we’ll give it a try.
We’re actually on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto and I thought I’d use the 2+ hour trip to get some blogging done.
So, for our third day, I’d planned a fairly detailed walk around “Old Tokyo.” This walking tour was something I’d read in Little Adventures in Tokyo and it seemed like it would be a good chance to view some of the more traditional neighborhoods in Tokyo. While I’d written up notes on the trip, I’d failed to write directions to each stop and of course that was one of the books we left at home. We decided to modify our walk slightly and go further north to Nishi Nippori which seemed similar to the original walk I’d planned.
It started in a very large Buddhist Cemetery, which was beautiful and fascinating, but also a little creepy, as most cemeteries are.
Having come in through a side entrance, we took this path through a small part of the cemetery to a Buddhist temple called Tenno-ji. There is a large Buddha here, cast in 1690. It was magnificent.
After exploring the temple, we made our way back to the cemetery path. Mick stopped to observe what looked to be some kind of prayer or offering nook. I wonder what he was praying for? To be 25 again, I guess.
There was a great variety of headstones in the cemetery, many of them as large as this one. Not being familiar with the particulars of Buddhist burial, I don’t know why some people had such large stones while others were very modest. I suspect it’s the same reason someone in the U.S. would have a larger or more elaborate stone than someone else–money. But it could have something to do with a person’s status in the community. Another tidbit to research when I get some time.
The stones in the photo below are more representative of most of the markers in the cemetery.
Upon leaving the cemetery, our walk took us through a residential area. There was laundry, including futons, hanging off of many of the balconies, and I’ve since seen huge apartment complexes with laundry hanging on every balcony. This is obviously a common way to dry clothes in Japan.
During this portion of the walk, we saw a temple or a shrine every few yards. To my untrained eye, one was pretty much the same as another. At first I thought it interesting that there were so many tucked into this largely residential neighborhood, but then I realized they’re no different than the community churches in America in that sense.
Eventually we became tired of seeing shrines and temples and went slightly off our path to a more “retail” area. Of course I had to stop at the local pet shop and miss my dogs for a minute (alas, I have reached that point in the trip when I am longing for them).
This Indian restaurant called Darjeeling made it into the guide book and at this point we were really hungry. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open yet so we had to look elsewhere for food.
Many of the neighborhoods in Tokyo have decorative arches or gateways at their entrance, kind of like you sometimes see in Chinatowns. This gateway was the entrance to a street filled with novelty shops, restaurants, and different types of food shops, most very traditional.
We stopped at what I thought was a very cosmopolitan tea shop (given the area). We were given tea as soon as we walked in and they had a wonderful selection of teas as well as guides in English expaining what was what. They also spoke English and the nice lady explained what kind of tea we were drinking (sencha). I bought some roasted tea (genmaicha) and another, which I will post the name of when I get a chance.
Our walk took us to Nippori station where we planned to get a train to Asakusa. We must have looked confus
ed at the ticket box because a very nice young Japanese “salary man” asked us in English if he could help us. His English didn’t turn out to be great, but he was able to help us figure out the correct fare and told us what station to transfer at.
The first leg of the trip took us to Ueno, which is a very big station. It was tempting to go to the Hard Rock Cafe there, or even the English pub.
Mick couldn’t resist taking a picture of the plastic “pub food.” You don’t find that in England!
Instead we opted for something more traditionally Japanese. Somewhere along the way we decided to explore Ueno instead of going to Asakusa so we made our way out to the street.
There were loads of shops here, including the Gap and I’m sure other Western mainstays though I can’t remember specifically. There were also lots of pachinko parlours and since this was much less busy than Shinjuku was we ducked into one, hoping this time to figure out how to play. We gave it our best shot, and had a look at the machines themselves but I told Mick it seemed stupid to just try to play without having any idea what we were doing. So again, no pachinko playing.
After exploring this vibrant area, MIck looked at the map and said there was a shrine and a temple close by. We went first to Kanda Myo-jin, a Shinto shrine. When we go there it looked like they were setting up for something (see the red carpet and photographer) and it turned out we got to see the procession of a Shinto wedding ceremony (see Mick’s photos for pictures and video–if they’re not up yet, they will be soon).
Here is a photo of the wedding procession:
Our last stop on this day was a temple called Yushima Seido, which was right next to the previous shrine. It is said that Shinto and Buddhism coexist peacefully in Japan and it is evidenced in the proximity of the religions’ sacred sites.
Yokohama, here we come!