Day 2: Typhoon Tour of Tokyo (Afternoon Tour)
On our way to the next stop, the tour passed by the The Tsukiji Market, where we learned about the fish auctions that take place every dawn. Because of how fresh the fish is this time of day, having just been caught, the auction prices can reach astronomical levels! This is also the location of Sushi Dai, one of my planned stops during my stay in Tokyo; because of its proximity to the auctions, it is famed for its food's freshness, with the red clam being served alive! Unfortunately, due to jet lag and time constraints, I was unable to visit either the market or the restaurant.
After passing the fish market, we reached our next destination: the beautiful Hamarikyu Gardens. Another one of Tokyo's green spaces, these gardens have artfully planted foliage complimented by miniature hills, lagoons, and man-made structures. It was Tokyo's equivalent to Central Park, having a view of the surrounding skyscrapers while maintaining its own serene atmosphere. Welcoming the visitors were these intricately-trained pine trees:
Never before had I seen gardening of this intricacy: hundreds of years worth of work, along with extensive support systems to hold the tree and manipulate its growth just so. The trees after were no disappointment either:
When looking at these trees, I was reminded by my brother, who recently discovered a passion and career in horticulture. Thinking of how he would enjoy Japan for its gardening, I discovered how wide of an appeal this country would have for various tastes; this would not be as apparent from an outside perspective, as without experience one could only appreciate it for its globalized qualities.
It is sights like these that anyone from anywhere would appreciate:
I wanted to go into this tea house and be part of a ceremony, but I was afraid of holding up my tour from leaving again:
This is for Miss10:
This hill has some terrific views of both the gardens and the city skyline:
Another wonder of these gardens:
This site was once a tea house, until it burned to the ground in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.
And some more scenery in the quieter part of the gardens:
Before leaving, I came across this Shinto shrine:
Our next stop was the Sumida river cruise, which went from the Hamarikyu Gardens to Asakusa. By now, the skies have completely cleared, appearing as if there was never a typhoon there. This allowed for some terrific photos both from the pier and the boat, including of the area I will be visiting the next day, Odaiba:
And some more lovely sights of the city:
This ninja is not even trying...
By this point, jet lag was catching up to me, and I was becoming fatigued. Because of this, it was unfortunately becoming more difficult to appreciate the sights of Tokyo. However, this did not make the next and final stop any less memorable, as Sensō-ji Temple was my first experience in a Buddhist temple. With the evening setting in on the temple and its swap meet, it set a festive mood that would have been enjoyable had I been more awake.
Upon entering the outer gate, or Kaminarimon, our tour guide told us that the lantern that is normally suspended was taken down temporarily; we were “lucky” to see this very rare instance, and find a banner in its place:
Between the two gates, the tour guide warned about the crowded swap meet in between the two gates, and advised us to follow her plushie-topped staff. I was able to keep up, but had some trouble meandering through the dense crowds.
Beyond the inner gate, or Hozomon, I learned about the structures and activities of Buddhist temples like this one. On one side of the plaza is the pagoda, where the Buddha's ashes are kept; on the other is a fortune stand, where one can make a donation and receive either a good or bad fortune; and in the center is an incense burner, where one can light an incense stick and stick it in the sand.
Before entering the temple, the tour guide gave us a brief amount of time to visit the shops before returning. I walked from one end of the strip to the other, glancing at the various shops and food stands. I would have had dinner here, as well as gorged on various pastries, except my jet lag robbed me of my appetite. Instead, I settled for a single chocolate manjū; the few bites I had were heavenly.
Because Japanese Buddhism largely overlaps with Shintoism, both abide by similar practices; in this case, purification fountains are present in the entrance of every temple just as they are in every shrine. At this temple's fountain, I finally learned the correct way to purify myself before entering such a building, thanks to my tour guide.
The inside of the temple was ornate, with gold objects, colorful walls, ambient lighting, and intricate panels. Unfortunately, because I had so much trouble with my camera during this leg of the trip (it was not until the Nara tour that I discovered the “Program” setting that fixed so many photos), these photos could not do the interior justice. Much of it had to do with the time of day these photos were taken, as it was nightfall by the time we exited the temple.
Our tour was lucky enough to witness another Shinto wedding in the shrine next to the temple. By this point, the couple was already within the shrine, presumably already engaged. Due to the aforementioned camera trouble, I again could not take a decent photo of the weeded couple: because of the lack of light, combined with the camera's flash, the inside of the shrine is blackened out. The kamis really are serious about keeping me from taking pictures! Still, seeing the smiles on the couple's faces made the sight a memorable one.
I think this guy's in the wrong time period...
After the samurai's performance, the tour was finally over: we were on the bus ride back to our hotels. It was a long, dull leg of the trip, especially with my weariness. What made this leg of the trip special, however, was its passing through Akihabara: I was in awe of the bright lights, stimulating colors, and abundance of anime paraphernalia. This was another Tokyo district that had a stimulating atmosphere, this time even more so than Shinagawa Station. A few of my fellow travelers got off the bus here, and had I been more awake, I would have followed suit. Before leaving the district, I made a mental note: “I must return here tomorrow.”
After waiting for the bus to make its rounds through the hotels, I was finally dropped off at my own hotel. I had no appetite whatsoever, so I settled for some onigiri and a bottle of carbonated juice from the 7-11. Before returning to the hotel to eat, I caught a glimpse of this prettily-lit walkway:
After eating a very light dinner, I planned out my next day (Comic City Spark!!!) and went to bed.