Closing time at the Shrine

Sundays outdoors in Tokyo are special. The major Dori’s(streets) in some wards close to vehicles, the parks become packed with performers, spectators and strollers, the streets are packed with shoppers and gawkers, the shrines are packed with worshippers and ceremony. To these Americans it looks like all of  Tokyo is out to enjoy their city and it looks like a very prosperous city with a lot disposable income, but the Japanese explanation for this is “we have a lot of people this is just a small percentage’.  That may be but it is a spectacle.  We spent our Sunday in Harajuku at the Yoyogi Park(1984 Olympics held there), the Meiji Jingu Shrine that is right next to  the park, and in the town, which is also right next to the park.

Sunday was cold, cloudy and occasionally rainy but that did not keep the crowds out at Harajuku. We braved the weather and crowds and made it to Starbucks to warm up after deciding the day was pretty much of a bust. We decided to go the Meiji Jingu shrine before leaving to the Nakano apartment. We had to go through this crowd. The crowd was was going into this store, all day long. We stopped by the park to see what it was like and saw these guys. It was not a nice day so not too much was going on so we went over to the Shrine a few 100 meters away. We got in as it was closing, so we did a 15 minute tour and saw a wedding procession on a ceremonial walk to the vows. We were politely told the shrine was closing and we walked out to watch the ceremony before catching the train back. From outside the shrine gate we began chatting with a Japanese man next to use about the ceremony. We strolled out of the shrine grounds together and he ended up taking us on a 6 hour tour of a couple of the wards in Tokyo. He was interested in architecture so he showed us some of what we thought were some futuristic buildings.We stopped for tea at his favorite cafe and quized Hikaru on his profession as a acupuncturist, moxibustionist and bone setter. We did not get back to the apartment until 11. Our latest night out on Tokyo town.

(This is a test of the blogging post procedure to be done from inside the Golden Wall)


Huge Buddha statue in Kyoto

First some first impressions;

Japan is pretty much a western looking country, but there are a lot of big differences that jump right out.  The biggest is that the people are very friendly, gracious, and there is a lot of bowing going on. You can not hear the thank you’s but you see them all around you. Thank you in Japanese has a little more meaning than in the US. They do not know how to be pushy, they prefer to back off and bow and let you by. What a pleasant surprise.

The doctors leave their office and walk in public with their surgical masks on and about half of the school kids imitate the doctors. A very confusing custom.

Lots of bicycles, and they are on the sidewalks. Did not even expect bicycles in Japan. No casual strolling on city sidewalks. Not a pleasant surprise.

Most Japanese people are thin so it makes walking easier on the crowded sidewalks and they can pack more of them of the crowded rush hour trains. Speaking of the trains they are everywhere, easy to use with the latest technology to help passengers get to the correct track. At the station there are easy to use directions for everything and at the track you can find yellow guiding pathways to where the train door will be and at pathway end it will have blinking lights when the train is arriving.  There is not enough space to mention everything about the trains, but it’s all very impressive.

The Japanese like their gadgets, as Americans know with the Japanese cars, it’s all over the train stations, street sidewalks are cushioned, creature comforts everywhere, but the biggest surprise is the electronic toilets, complete with control panel. It’s like the Japanese adopted Western culture and put some finishing touches to it.

Not so much of a surprise is that the USD does not go as far as in the USA.


Mariko Shotaro Ann at the Golden Pavillion in Kyoto

The highlight of Japan has been meeting with our good friend Mariko and her 8-year-old son Shotaro. Mariko was more than gracious in meeting us in Kyoto, a 3 hour train trip for her and showing us the traditional city of Koyoto. How lucky we were!! She toured us to the Golden Pavillion, Kiyomizu Temple, Yasaka Shrine, Chion-in temple, Ryozen Kannon statue, Nijo Castle, Nanzen-ji, and Heian Jingu Shrine.  Our last day with Mariko was in Osaka were she showed us the Osaka castle built in 1540 that marked the beginning of the city of Osaka. That evening it was our pleasure to have dinner with Mariko and her mother. The next day used our last day on our JR rail pass and we took the train for 10 days in Tokyo. (more…)