Oh! I forgot about one little bit of shopping in Tokyo. We went to Kinokuniya, the book store in Shinjuku. The Teen went off to look for a book, and I, with a little pantomiming, ended up in the knitting section. I bought this stitch dictionary.
The pictures are beautiful. There are color swatches of all the stitch patterns, and then they’re charted out. I think I’ll be able to figure them out. And it’s so pretty! There was another stitch dictionary with more stitches, but the book wasn’t as pretty, and I’m a sucker for the pretty pictures. Even if there are a lot of patterns with bobbles…
So what else did we do in Tokyo?
We visited Meiji-Jingu, a Shinto shrine. It’s in a beautiful forested park in Shibuya. This is the largest of the three enormous torii (gates) on the path to the shrine. It’s made of cypress and is 12 meters high; the crosspiece is 17 meters long.
This is the place to purify yourself before entering the shrine. The Teen knew what to do there; he learned in his first year Japanese class and remembered! I’ll admit to being concerned when I saw him take water from the dipper and put it in his mouth, but that’s part of the ritual.
I love the mix of old and new in Tokyo. These ladies were on their way to the shrine. I saw a lot of traditional as well as modern dress. Was this a function of it being Sunday afternoon? And no, it’s not raining. The umbrella is being used as a parasol.
There was a wedding party at the shrine.
We visited the Tsukiji Wholesale Fish Market early one morning. Many tons of seafood comes through here. The smell of it made me think of all the summers I spent working in an Alaskan salmon cannery during college!
What do you think these guys are looking at?
I backed into one of these while snorkeling last summer. Now I have the last laugh.
We had sushi for breakfast here after seeing the market. But not much, because we were short on cash and it was too early for the banks to be open. My bank card didn’t work at the 7-11 ATM, and the post office (ATMs for foreign cards) wasn’t open yet, either.
We stayed in a Japanese-style inn in Asakusa for a couple nights. Futons on tatami are pretty comfortable!
Asakusa is an old-fashioned neighborhood. Senso-ji Temple is located there, along with several other temples and the Asakusa Shrine. The street that approaches the temple is Nakamise-dori. There are lots of shops selling souvenirs and traditional treats. We bought some ningyo-yaki here (cakes with red bean paste inside). They were made and packaged by a funky automated machine; you can kind of see it to the left.
I wanted to try some taiyaki (waffles with sweet filling: bean paste or chocolate or?) after seeing Jessica’s blog, but by the time we got to it on our last morning, we were completely out of cash.
We had spent the last of it on a coffee jelly frappucino at Starbucks. We just had to satisfy that curiosity! Coffee jelly is exactly what it sounds like, and this one had frappucino on top of it. It was kind of good, even though it was hard to get the coffee jelly up the straw.
There are two large gates on Nakamise-dori on the way to Senso-ji. The first is Kaminarimon Gate, or Thunder Gate. (This time it *is* raining.)
The second gate is Hozomon Gate.
There’s an incense burner between Hozomon Gate and Senso-ji. You wave the incense smoke over yourself for blessing and healing.
Senso-ji itself was shrouded by scaffolding and plastic due to exterior work, so I’m not sure what it really looks like. There are also many other temples in the area, and a five-story pagoda.
Love those rooflines!
And there are several Buddha statues, too. This one is my favorite of the ones I saw.
Our last dinner was here at Namiki Yabu Soba. It was a perfect dinner. No English. A symphony of slurping sounds (you’re supposed to slurp, but I couldn’t quite get my slurp on).
I totally kinneared this couple next to us.
You know how some people think all Asians look the same? I didn’t feel same same in Tokyo; I felt very different! I saw a lot of Japanese women using umbrellas as parasols against the sun. Most women were very pale, and I’m pretty tan. But the real giveaway that I’m not Japanese is this:
I saw so many women in heels, and very fashionably dressed. And there I was in my hot pink Keens. Gee, do I look like a tourist? But being pegged as a tourist isn’t all bad. This dapper grandfatherly gentleman took one look at us on the train to Odaiba and ushered us to the front of the driverless train so we could have the view out the front. Sweet! (Yeah, I kinneared him, too.)
Vietnam and Tokyo were a great trip, and I’m really glad we did it. Even if the juxtaposition was a little jarring. I’d love to go again, someday. Where in the world do *you* want to go?