Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tokyo, Japan (July 19, 2013)



 

Hi everybody! So this is long overdue, but here's what our trip to Japan was like! We got to Tokyo on Friday. Originally, we wanted to go to three places: Shinjuku Garden, the Meiji Shrine, and Shibuya Station to see the statue of Hachiko the dog. However, time only allowed for two so we skipped out on the garden. On entering the country we had to take the subway, infamous for packing people in like sardines and men groping any girl they see. Well, if you take a look at this picture you can see that we didn't have that kind of experience at all.

 


 


 


Our first stop was the Meiji-jingu Shrine. We had to walk part of the way and I ended up getting to use what little Japanese I can speak. I asked a local cop: “Sumimasen. Meiji-jingu doko desu ka?” (Excuse me. Where is Meiji-Jingu?) and he said, “Asoko desu.” (Over there.) I was so thrilled at such a simple exchange. I’m easily pleased I guess. ;)

 


 


 So this “arch” or “O-torii” is the entrance to Meiji-Jingu. It’s a nice forest with a path to the actual Shinto shrine. It’s dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his empress who died in 1912 and 1914, respectively. According to our guidebook it was created as a symbol of imperial power and Japanese superiority. It was destroyed during WWII and later rebuilt. This o-torii by the way was made from 1500 year old trees from Taiwan!   


 


 


 


 

Here is the shrine. First, you must cleanse your hands and drink the water from the well to the left.


 

Definitely did not drink.


 


 

It was so strange. We saw a lot of businessmen walking through… as if it was a shortcut?


 

 After walking through the second o-torii you can visit the super expensive guest-shop that sells amulets for good luck, passing your exams, money, etc. All around about US $8.


 

Inside the next gate is what I think of as a “wishing tree.” You can “make a generous donation,” write your wishes on a wooden plaque and hang it around the tree.


 


 

Here are just some funny ones I saw.


 We didn’t write one ourselves, but there was a cheaper option where you write a wish on paper. Did that instead.


 


 

This building is where you can pray. No pictures were allowed and a guard was watching, unfortunately. What you do is toss come coins into a trough-like thing in front of you; bow towards the inside then the outside; make your wish; and then clap your hands three times. Very different from Buddhist temples!


 


 

I thought the wooden architecture of the place was fabulous! I took lots of pictures of the carvings.


 

When we were ready to leave it was starting to be sundown. My impression of the shrine was that it was very exotic compared to what I’m used to in Taiwan. I really liked the idea of cleansing yourself and the clapping seemed a little ridiculous. I’m glad I got to experience what it’s like to pray at a Shinto shrine. The place was so much more beautiful than the pictures- it just gave you a feeling of utter peace!


 

 

 So we said goodbye to Meiji-Jingu and set of for Shibuya Station where the famous story of Hachiko took place.

 


 


 

There was some kind of political event going on there and I don’t know what that banner was around H’s statue, but I really wanted to take it off. In case you don’t know the story, Hachiko was a really faithful dog who followed his master to this train station every day and waited there to escort him back home again. One day, when his master was at work he had a heart attack and died. So he never came back on the train to meet his dog. Hachiko, however, refused to move his post and stayed there waiting until he died. There’s been quite a few movies made after this story, including one with Richard Gere. I really admire that a dog could have that much loyalty to his master. I hope someday I can have a dog too! Here’s a picture from Wikipedia of the real Hachiko:

 

File:Hachiko.JPG

 

Later on in this trip we get to see his stuffed body (gross!) at the Natural Science museum. So stay tuned for that!

 

After Shibuya station it was too dark to do anymore sightseeing that day. So we went back to the hotel for dinner and… well… I accidentally had a US $200 meal! Albert had said I could have anything I wanted and I uh accidentally read the price wrong. I was never great at numbers but I thought I could handle converting Japanese yen to US dollars. Anyways, Albert knew how much it was and he said it was okay. Of course we shared it though! So this is my first time trying lobster:

 


 

So we had tepanyaki, where you can watch the chef fry your food on the metal counter in front of you. It’s really yummy, believe me. (However, it wasn’t as good as tepanyaki we’ve had elsewhere)


 


 

Dude, just looking at this picture makes my mouth water!

 

And this was dessert! Mochi and some jelly in a leaf and cherries!

 

Catch you later and I’ll tell you about the next day in Japan!