Tokyo Day 6...
Well, we did it! This is the Kaminari Gate of the Senso-Ji Temple, the oldest temple in Japan.
We all woke up at the usual hour (snore) & read (Brendan) or dozed (parental units) until about 5:30 am. I was keen to get 2 loads of wash done today in the teeny-tiny washer, so that was my motivation for being up :) I took a walk over to the 7-11 after breakfast to pick up some onigiri rice balls & other stuff for a picnic lunch. Thanks to the ubiquitous beverage vending machines, we didn't have to carry beverages with us. It was very pleasant to greet people I passed with "ohayo goziamus" (good morning :). Brendan seemed to be maintaining his newly-found sense of equlibrium, which was very comforting. He played AQ & watched tv while we waited for the banks to be open, since we wanted to change some traveler's cheques on our way to the day's adventure. Brendan headed out with a bottle of coke, which was still working as a tic-buster. The foreign money exchange person at the bank was obviously from the US, & as we chatted she asked me where we were from... & it turns out she's from our town! We even knew people in common from when we were high school age. Charlie gave her one of the postcards he picked up at a local festival before we left, to give as small gifts to people here. She said it made her very nostalgic. Such a small world!
Today's metro ride was the longest yet- 2 stops on one line & 13 on another- all the way to the end of the Ginza Line to Asakusa. Brendan actually dozed a bit leaning on Charlie's shoulder. We were lucky to have a good map for after the subway ride & only went half a block the wrong way before finding our way to the street leading to the Senso-Ji temple.
This was the street between the main temple gates, full of vendors of all sorts, many selling charms ("omamori"), but also toys & fans & fabric & samurai swords, both fake & real! We explained to Brendan that the first pass. toward the shrine, would be look-only, but that we would buy stuff on the way out. We didn't want him all anxious every time he passed something interesting & we wanted to enjoy our time at the shrine. Charlie had read about the customs in his guidebooks, so we were prepared with coins in the "5" denominations (better luck) to toss in the offering boxes.
Here's Brendan at a purifying well, getting ready to visit the main shrine.
There were lots of little shrines & gardens around, too. Some of the gardens were burial places for famous people. The atmosphere passed from tranquil to festival & back again as we walked around. One of the temples was hundreds of years old & had avoided being destroyed by fire, earthquake, & war. There were a lot of foreign visitors, but far more japanese visitors to the shrine, which one of the guidebooks calls "the spiritual centre of Tokyo". After a while we found some drinks vending machines on a side street & then sat on the edge of one of the parks for our onigiri picnic. It was the warmest day yet & we were pretty tired from wandering around. Although it was crowded, Brendan did very well. There was a lot to keep his mind off tics- many dragons & phoenixes, huge incense burners where you could waft the smoke over yourself for purification, lots of statues & paths. We even caught sight of a Shinto priest, which Brendan thought very cool (very InuYasha :).
Then it was time to hit the street of shops. Brendan was desperate for a plastic samurai sword set & had scoped them out on the way in. I took out my list of people we want to bring gifts home to & started to work. There were a lot of neat, small things made from chirimen fabric- beautiful, crinkle-woven fabric that's uniquely japanese- so I was able to find some very pretty things. It was fun to try to talk to the shopkeepers in japanese, too. Brendan's "tail" (braid) always inspires looks & comments :) The husband of one shopkeeper noticed him rubbing his neck & proceded to give him a back rub! He coped very well with that :) (Charlie was in hysterics, laughing.) One of the things I was very keen to get in Asakusa was a traditional Tokyo treat called "taiyaki" & we found lots of stalls selling it. Taiyaki is fried sweet bread in cute shapes that's filled with anko- red bean paste. Although we were tempted to eat it right there, it's considered rude to eat on the street, so we resisted & waited until we got home. It was a long trip- maybe 40 minutes- but we all held up just fine. I made a pot of green tea & we enjoyed our taiyaki:
The rest of the day was enjoyably quiet. Brendan worked on his samurai sword moves, after getting Charlie to share one of his belts with him so he could wear them "properly". I explained to him that samurai would have worn them stuck through the ties of their hakama (like InuYasha) but western pants (& shorts) aren't built to do that. Charlie took a last walk around the neighbourhood & got pictures of 2 more small shrines that we hadn't had time to visit. We caught Pythagoras Switch & Kim Possible again. After a dinner of edamame, ramen, & microwave pizzas, we started tidying-up & I packed most of Brendan's clothes back in his duffel bag. Tomorrow morning we leave Tokyo for the southern Island of Kyushu, to the town of Mizumaki where Tomoko & her family live. Charlie emailed Tomoko to let her know that we got tickets on the 9:50 am Nozomi, so she'll know when to come get us at the station.
I can hardly believe the Tokyo leg of our trip is nearly over! We'll be back for just one night the day before we fly back to the US, so our sightseeing is pretty much done. Charlie arranged for a taxi to get us tomorrow at 8:45. The 2 loads of laundry are done & are hanging-up to finish drying. Tomoko says (in an email) that her family is ready & waiting to see us. I may not be able to post daily while we're in Mizumaki, but I'll do my best. The day after tomorrow we'll be visiting a japanese elementary school, & then on the weekend we'll be going to a traditional inn (ryokan) & a hot springs resort (onsen) with Tomoko's extended family (mom, sister, brother-in-law, & 2 nephews), which will be quite an adventure. I'll write again as soon as I can!