To be honest, Tokyo, the current capital of Japan and one of the biggest cities in the world, was not high on my list of places I wanted to see in Japan. Big cities are big cities, right?
Honestly, though, I am glad now that I got to have a look at it. Tokyo is definitely a glamorous place – like New York in that I don’t think I’d ever want to live there, but it was cool to visit. Actually, I find myself wishing that I had had more than a single day to check it out.
Our first stop was at Sensouji Temple in Asakusa. This temple is famous for its huge red paper lantern hanging over its huge red gate, also known as the “Thunder Gate.” The path to the temple is lined with stalls and shops selling everything imaginable to the “pilgrims” who have trekked their long way there.
Afterwards, we headed to the Meiji Shrine, which was built to commemorate the Meiji Restoration of 1868. That’s when the rule of the emperor was restored to Japan, which triggered great changes for the country, including modernization of both industry and education. The shrine itself was a simple, elegant structure, surrounded by acres of woodland. A number of people were there, offering up prayers. We didn’t stay long enough to disturb them.
Following a rather disappointing visit to the Imperial Palace (they wouldn’t let us in!), we decided to take in some of the city’s more modern side, and visit some of Tokyo’s famous districts, such as:
- Harajuku. An extremely colorful place, even on a Monday. Everywhere bright colors called out to us and delicious smells tempted us (I wound up with some delicious Indian food and a crepe for dessert).
- Akihabara. A Mecca for lovers of all things electronic – computers, cameras, you name it. It’s also a place for diehard gamers to meet for conventions.
- Shinjuku. Kind of like the Times Square of Tokyo – it’s where things are happening. Specifically shopping and fashion things. There were a ton of high-end clothing boutiques.
The problem was that we only really got to glimpse this stuff. Tokyo is just such a big place, I could have used a week seeing everything I wanted to see, like the Rainbow Bridge or the gardens in Shinjuku.
One other thing I got a peek at: Mt. Fuji, yes the Mt. Fuji, was visible through the train window on the way there. That alone made the trip to Tokyo worthwhile, at least for me. A fun story you may not know about Mt. Fuji: in one of Japan’s very old legends, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, the emperor falls in love with a woman who turns out to be from the moon. Eventually, she has to return to her home there, but offers him an elixir of immortality as a parting gift. Since he doesn’t want to live forever without her, he climbs the highest mountain (the mountain closest to the sky, and thus, her) and burns it. From that day on, the mountain was called by the name “immortality”, becoming Mt. Fuji.
Actually, to be honest, my camera died near the end of the day in Osaka, and for the last couple of days in Japan I was unable to take any pictures. Thus I have to be indebted to Katie and Soo-min for lending me their photos from Tokyo – thanks so much, guys! Those pictures can be seen here.
The next (and last! finally!) part will be about Hiroshima. Also coming soon: the Beobdong Area Children’s Center has a concert tomorrow!