Second part of my article about my first impressions of Tokyo. The weekend went well. The weather having cleared a bit, it allowed me to see Tokyo in a different light.
I also met Michiko, Japanese living in Chiba, a town about 2 hours from Tokyo. I corresponded with Michiko for several weeks via internet before coming to Japan. Laurent thank you for putting me in touch! We met Thursday morning for a day of discoveries, shopping, culture and temples. Michiko speak French for several years. She is very kind and helped me a lot, especially to answer my questions about practice stuffs: find a prepaid card for my phone, buy a Suica card for the metro (rechargeable card that allows to avoid taking a ticket subway each time), questions about my Japanese Resident Card, Japanese translation of emails…
First quarter visited with Michiko Thursday morning, Harajuku is part of the district of Shibuya and is located in the eastern part of Tokyo. It is the temple of fashion and luxury for Tokyo youth. We can see young in cosplay. He is best known for its pedestrian street Takeshita-dori (“avenue under the bamboo”), in which there is full of small designer shops and food stalls. Also very known, the famous avenue Omotesando, nicknamed “les Champs-Élysees of Tokyo” , on which the biggest brand stores can be find: Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Prada… You can also walk in Yoyogi Park in which is situated the famous Meiji shrine.
With Michiko, we visited Takeshita-dori and Omotesando. Apparently the streets the streets are full of people on weekends. Which was not the case when we passed it. The weather was gray, so I did not take pictures.
On the other hand, I took some photos of Kawaii Monster Cafe, where we went to eat. This is a coffee-themed about kawaii monsters (“cute” in Japanese), as its name implies and which opened last August. Explosion of colors guarantee! But there were not many people.
I found a video for more details:
We ate multicolored pasta with 5 different sauces (ketchup, cream, cheese, pesto sauce and a blue impossible to determine).
Tomorrow (Thursday, November 19), I meet again Michiko and we will visit the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park.
Located near Ueno, Asakusa is a lively and popular tourist area as home to the Buddhist temple Sensô-ji dedicated to the Bodhisattva goddess Kannon. This is one of the oldest temple in Tokyo.
The entrance pass through the Kaminarimon gate (“Thunder Gate”) surrounded to the right by god of wind Fujin and thunder god Raijin to the left. A huge red lantern hangs in the center. Inevitably everyone takes pictures in front of the door and under the lantern.
Past the door you find yourself on Nakamise-dori, a shopping alley that leads to the temple and made of stalls mostly dating from the Edo period (1600-1868). It sells souvenirs, local specialties, genuine Japanese crafts … Michiko made me taste my first dango. These are dumplings rice cake made of mochi (glutinous rice paste and water) that is generally eats on skewer of three / four dango. There are several types of dango. Michiko made me taste the mitarashi dango, covered with a syrup made with shoyu (soy sauce), sugar and starch. I must say that the first bite is strange. Funny texture with no taste and sticks to the teeth. But I persevered and it turns out that it is not bad after all!
The journey ends with the passage under the Hōzōmon gate (“door of the treasure room”). The five-story pagoda originally built in 942 and the Sensô-ji temple are facing us. The architecture is beautiful and the red is omnipresent. The size of the buildings makes it all very impressive.
Michiko introduces me to Omikuji, the Japanese art of divination. In exchange for a donation of 100 yen (less than 1 euro), you brew a box filled with hexagonal bamboo sticks until a stick falls through a hole and on which is marked a number, which corresponds to an oracle. Then you take in the corresponding drawer, the prediction. I came across the number 29, which announced me good fortune. Basically, all my problems will soon disappear, I will not have diseases and my hopes and desires will come true. Lucky me! If divination is wrong, you must tie the paper to the branch of a tree or on a purposely designed display near a holy place. This allows the divine spirits to exorcise the bad luck.
An incense burner thrones at the entrance of the temple. It is customary to come “drench” yourself in the smoke (to bring the smoke towards you with your hands). This helps to purify.
The Sensô-ji temple houses a golden statue of the goddess Kannon, but it is hidden in an unknown part of the temple and therefore inaccessible to the public. The interior of the temple is covered with golden coating and a crowd of pilgrims making their prayer. The ceiling has several massive paintings including a representation of a dragon.
Around the Sensô-ji temple, is located the Shinto shrine of Asakusa. Built in 1649, it is representative of the Edo era. Less impressive than the Sensô-ji, but still very nice. Especially if poking from the back of the temple, one can see beautiful golden paintings and coatings as well as a small temple dedicated to the fox shape goddess Inari.
On the other side of the Sensô-ji temple, there is a small garden with a set of small pavilions and the Hanayashiki Amusement Park. It is the oldest amusement park in Japan, in the middle of Tokyo. The roller coaster dates from 1953! Not for me! The contrast between the attractions and the temple, few steps from each other, is particularly representative of the spirit of Tokyo, I think.
I walk away from the temple to go for a walk in the small surrounding shopping aisles. The streets have an atmosphere of endearing ragtag. I finished my visit with the shopping aisle Kappabashi Dogugai whose mascot is a Kappa: relatively harmless monster from Japanese folklore with a anthropomorphic turtle appearance and with the top of the skull hollow and filled with water. kitchen utensils and dishes of Japanese cuisine are sold there. This is where people come to buy famous dishes in plastics that are exposed in the displays of Japanese restaurants.
To finish our tour with Michiko, we go see the Tokyo Sky Tree. Built from 2008 to 2011, it is a broadcasting tower in Sumida district, near Asakusa and measuring 634 meters high. This is the second tallest structure in the world. It looks like a alien ship placed in the middle of the city. It’s possible to go to the top to have a panoranique view of Tokyo, but the entrance fee is expensive and it’s filled with tourists. Instead, Michiko and I go for a ride in the gigantic shopping center built at it feet and we are witnessing the opening of the Christmas illuminations.
To read the rest of the article, click on page 2.