TOKYO = plum blossoms in Ueno, selfie sticks in Asakusa, sake barrels lining gravel path to Meiji shrine (tumblr blog 2015)
The beckoning cat – Maneki-neko (招き猫) – is a common image or figurine that signifies good luck to the owner. The left paw raised is for businesses to get more customers and the other paw is holding the coin, but when that paw is raised it is intended to bring fortune. This is a common site everywhere in Japan.
ONE DAY IN TOKYO?
How can you see Tokyo in one day? It's pretty difficult because it's a megalopolis so it really depends on the highlights you want to explore. In my case, since I knew I wanted to get on the Shinkansen at the Ueno Station, I booked accommodations close to that which predicated a little bit of the route that we took to explore.
These images were included in my original tumblr blog post in 2015.
Tokyo (東京, Tōkyō) (pronounce with 2 syllables not 3) is the iconic representation of the country of Japan. This megalopolis consists of a “central area that is divided into 23 special wards (ku in Japanese), and the Tama area is made up of 26 cities (shi), 3 towns (machi), and 1 village (mura)." (https://www.metro.tokyo.lg.jp/ENGLISH/ABOUT/HISTORY/history02.htm)
30% of Japan's population lives in Tokyo. It is currently considered the capitol of the country, however, prior to westernization and industrialization, the capitol would move with every new Emperor along with the calendar associated. This once fishing village became the capitol in 1868 with the start of the Meiji period and the end of the shogunate with the capitol being Kyoto. In the 16th century, this city was a small castle town named Edo and became the political center in 1603 when Tokugawa Ieyasu established his feudal government there. (more info: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2164.html)
Getting around modern day Tokyo is most effective with the transportation system either the Metro or the JR. The JR Yamanote line is the central railway connecting many of the districts. With the JR pass, it's easy to navigate as a hop on and off system, however, it is quite simple to purchase tickets for each ride at the easy to use kiosks in all of the stations. Just make sure you get on the right side of the tracks going in the correct direction or it could take you twice as long or longer to get to your stop if you don't reverse course quickly.
You'll notice that not all of the districts or towns, such as Asakusa, are accessible with a distinct stop on the JR so sometimes if walking won't get you to an adjacent spot you can also use the subway. For the complete JR map go here
Our day unfolded into night.
The art of accidental adventure today started with our walk through the Ueno park. Plum blossoms in bloom and people documenting them.
We stumbled upon some stairs that led to a lovely, quiet little shrine. This was Kristie's first full day in Japan. Even though I had been to Ueno before, I had not had a chance to visit the park which was formerly a temple complex of Toeizan Kan'eiji which is/was a Buddhist temple. We also found the peace memorial and the origami cranes.
This pagoda (below) with a five-tiered structure at a height of 36 meters was originally constructed in 1631 and rebuilt in 1639 and is the Kaneiji Tendai Buddhist Temple. The little wooden boards are called Ema (絵馬) and found in both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Visitors write wishes on the back and hang outside the shrine until they are ritually burned at special events including the new year, symbolic of the liberation of the wish from the writer. The front have a variety of design options based on the place and even the year. When the wind blows, they sound lovely.
We then continued to my favorite neighborhood – Asakusa. My first time at this wonderful place was on the study abroad course I taught a few days after the new year where it was packed tight with so many people it took several hours to slowly pass through the shopping street to the temple. I really love all of the murals on the closed doors of the shops and the seasonal decor along the shopping street.
As the art of accidental adventure in full swing, we were in the right place at the right time to see this lovely ritual. Just listen to the different sounds.
In random moments, I will crave these pastry snacks. From the first time I tasted them, I yearn to go back. So I most definitely had to share this favorite food with Kristie. So good. I love the sweet potato!
Still in Asakusa, the tempura here is amazing! The other fun thing to look for is all of the expertly made fake food that adorns many restaurant front windows so you can just point to the item you want to order. This image is the real deal.
The next stop was Harajuku – an iconic fashion district. Both Kristie and I like to thrift and buy vintage clothes although she's much more successful than I am. So it was not in question that I would show her some amazing shops. Check out all of these textures!!
This really exemplifies all that Harajuku has become especially prominent area for youth culture. Omotesando and Takeshita Dori are the famous a shopping streets. Contemporary architecture is also a particular thing to look for in this area as many brands have their flagship stores here designed by famous Japanese architects. Several buildings may be considered postmodern in their style, design, and material choice.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the train track is the Meiji-jinga shrine. Visit my gallery page for more photos of Tokyo including this shrine. Meiji Shrine (明治神宮, Meiji Jingū), is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife. Construction began in 1915 and completed in 1921. As you enter the shrine grounds consisting of 170 acres of evergreen forest, you first pass by the cypress Torii gate. The sake and wine on the opposite side of the path are donated by the breweries and vineyards for each year's gift to the shinto Gods. The forest has 365 different species and approximately 120,000 trees that were donated by the Japanese people.
Another favorite part of Japan for me is the transit where you can see fantastic advertising.
You spin me round round. Night 2. From a roundtrip yamanote line ueno-shibuya with pitstop in akihabara shibuya-ueno to kaiten sushi twas nerdiness & neon. (tumblr blog 2015)
As the sun goes down, the lights come on in this dramatic city. The energy changes. There are some additional famous districts in Tokyo that had to be included on this sampler day tour. From the Buddha we saw in the morning to the famous dog statue in Shibuya, there is so much to absorb in the culture.
Hachikō (ハチ公, 10 November 1923 – 8 March 1935)
The story of the loyal dog is famous and his statue is a testament to his endearing part of the Japanese culture as he represents loyalty and fidelity. This Akita dog would meet his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, at Shibuya station every day when he returned from work even after his death for 9 years the dog would wait until his own passing.
These quiet contemplative stone sculptures create a contrast to the liveliness and activity in the city that continues late into the evenings. Near Hachiko is one of the most famous intersections in Tokyo. Another district that comes alive with neon and lights is Akihabara which is considered to be more of the computer, cosplay, and geek center. Filled with maid cafes, gaming, and tech stores this area if nothing else is fantastic for observation and night photography.
The art of accidental adventure timing came into play one more time today with this really fantastic scene on the street.
Sushi of course. Both Kristie and I love Japanese food so kaiten sushi ( Kaitenzushi (回転寿司) also known as 'conveyor belt' was of course on the agenda. Scrumptious!
Our journey is just beginning. Stairs are an important theme. Check out the rest of the blogs.
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