Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 5: Tokyo - Ueno Koen, Meiji Jingu, Harajuku

Since we were out so late the night before, AJ and Ai-chan decided to just stay at our hotel. They ended up in the room next door to us; apparently we're just destined to always be neighbors.

Today was a chance to see a little more of Tokyo. In the morning we left the hotel with AJ and walked to the nearby Ueno Park. This was a pretty big park with shrines, museums, and recreation areas.

These colorful strands on a memorial are composed of thousands of hand-made origami cranes. They're wishes for an end to nuclear war.

After Ueno park, we met up with the rest of the group and walked around Shibuya for a bit (sorry, no pics). Shibuya is a really busy place and to make the walking traffic flow easier a lot of the intersections have additional crosswalks that go diagonally. AJ found ice cream crepes here, which he'd been seeking for days.

From there we went to Meiji Jingu, a large shrine built after the death of Emperor Meiji. The grounds of the shrine are covered in an old forest that must be hundreds of years old. It's really striking how peaceful everything becomes as soon as you walk through the gate into this forest. The noise and lights of Tokyo disappear and the air is cool fresh. As the sun was setting while we were there, a number of beautiful lanterns came on. For some reason, I really liked these and took about a million pictures of them.

Entrance to the shrine grounds:

Large barrels of nihonshu (sake):

After a long walk through the forest road, the main shrine entrance:

Inside the main entrace, in a large courtyard:

The entrance to the heart of the shrine. No pics allowed inside:

Bonsai in bloom:

After the shrine closed, we left and walked across the street into Harajuku. This neighborhood is the exact opposite of the park. It is loud, bright, and colorful. Harajuku is famous for the young people who hang out here and the over-the-top fashions that they wear.


Extra dope clothes. For people who are extra dope:

For dinner, we were on our own for the first time. It took a while, with a few completely disasterous attempts at communication but eventually we found a place where we could get seated and actually order some food. It really helps being able to read the "spelled out" version of Japanese writing, but signs in kanji are pretty intimidating. Still, we're slowly figuring out what some characters say by means of a kind of sudoku process. "Well, this picture shows a beef bowl and I know this is the character for beef. So this other character must be the character for bowl. That's one more kanji in our arsenal."

Tomorrow we're visiting a knife shop (for Michelle) and we've got a dinner reservation with Ai-chan's parents at a place that is licensed to serve blowfish.

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