Going down a boat in Yokohama and speeding to a fish market in Tokyo may sound trite, but this Fish Market is famous, crawling with tourists, and almost half a kilometer long, packed with all sorts of fish and similar products. People here are buying, eating, chewing fish. You may smell fishy later, but what the heck, how many times can one visit an area where fish reigns supreme?
Anyway, what I immediately observed is that the Japanese are extremely careful that waste do not litter the streets. I had a bit of problem with the toothpick in my mouth. Where to throw this piece of wood here in the heart of Tokyo?
(Incidentally, if your favorite is Ramen, there’s a street here where you can gorge on the stuff). It is named Ramen Street.
After the Fish mart was the Shen-Shogi Temple built in 628 A.D., the oldest in Japan. There were two ferocious looking, statues guarding the entrance armed with cutlass, the purpose of which I am not sure but it could be that only the pure and sincere can worship in the temple.
So, worthy or not, Fe, Rina, and this writer went in, together with hordes of worshippers (?) and tourists. ShenShogi Temple, having been built a long time ago, is not a showy structure. There was an elevated water pool where people wash their hands, wet their face. I think it’s a symbol of washing away your sins. I ladled a bit of water to my face. It felt cold.
Another feature of the Shogi Temple area is the presence of Japanese girls in Kimono, the traditional dress of ancient Japan. Even if you’re not Japanese you can rent a Kimono in shops here and have your picture taken and look like a gorgeous geisha. And when winter is over there’s the Day of 46,000 blessings (Chinese Lantern Plant) fair that is celebrated in the temple.
If you’re in Tokyo you can’t escape shrines, aside from other attractions. So we went to the Shinto Meiji shrine where the many steps exhausted FLR. But then you can rest after viewing the shrine on the benches. The structure lies amidst the tall trees, 100,000 of them, in the surrounding forest.
A curious fact is that the monks in charge of the shrine also used to make beer which is explained as you near the shrine. Usual religious figures line up the stairway.
It’s not because we’re shrine and garden maniacs but probably our guide wished us to be further impressed by Tokyo treasures that he brought us to the Hama-Rikyu gardens established by the Tokugawa family, the so-called shogunate, which ruled Japan during the Edo era. This vast garden is connected to the sea by a canal so it has areas of sea water. Lock gates are opened and closed according to the rise and fall of water in Tokyo Bay. There is even a duck hunting areas where presumably shoguns shoots ducks with bows and arrows. They also trap the ducks with nets.
Anyway, there’s the garden with its gorgeous flowers that exhibits the skill and artistry of Japanese gardeners. So you are requested not to pick the flowers which is understandable.
As we were leaving, we passed a pine-tree with gnarled branches heavy with thick leaves. It’s a 300 years old, planted by the 6th shogun named Lenubu.
There are other cultural garden heritages in Tokyo. I counted eight others in the list. But being in the Hama-rikyu is enough. Possibly more than enough.
The following day we went to the Imperial Palace together with hordes of Japanese and other visitors. You come here to view the palace – not the emperor who is somewhere in the huge structure half-hidden by trees. The palace grounds are surrounded by a moat and buttressed by a high wall of stone. To go to the palace you have to cross a bridge which of course is barred to anybody who has no business with the emperor. The number of people in the area can only be described as viewers (not visitors) of the palace which houses the emperor revered by all Japanese. One can only imagine what’s in the palace as he leans on the iron fence.
The palace used to be the home of the ruling Shogun family (Tokugawa) but was taken over by the Meiji emperor when he transferred the capital of Japan from Kyoto to Tokyo. But that’s part of the complex and ancient people here are buying, eating, chewing fish Japanese history.
We gazed for many minutes at the imperial palace atop a hill. It’s a big part of anybody’s memory of Tokyo.*
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