Tokyo Journal 2003: Day 7

April 2nd, 2003

Jan. 2, 9:28 AM

Already this AM we’ve had an episode of Ojamajo Doremi and an episode of
Dragon Ball Z. Goku has a girly voice!

4:00 PM

What a great day!

We decided on doing Tokyo Tower early, because the weather was nice right *now*, if you know what I mean. Plus, evening brings smoggy haze – mornings are usually better for sightseeing anyway. We knew that we were tempting fate by wanting to see the Tower, that clearly there’d be an alien or demon invasion, or my energy woukd be sucked away, or something else horrible, because, hey, after all I *do* watch anime, but we wanted to see it, dammit!

We, with some help offered by a random passing woman (who reacted favorably to
Pattie’s blonde roundness, as all people seem to) we made our way to the southeast –
oddly referred to as Central Tokyo. We had a fairly long walk, because ultimately the
woman had been wrong, but we could see the Tower, so we knew where to head. On the way, we passed a little fox spirit shrine tucked in between buildings, so we stopped, prayed and left them shiny money to play with, or trade for dog biscuits or something.

As we got closer, we found yet another shrine/temple complex thing, with bunches of
little shrines and offering places. It was clearly a mixed bag, with a really elaborate shrine to one god of good fortune, and teeny little ones to others, including a Buddha for kids, who was surrounded by Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty dolls.

The line at the Tower wasn’t too long, by which I mean it was really long, but
didn’t yet run outside the waiting area. We decided just to go up to the Main
Observation Deck, which was actually two stories. It was cool – they had the usual signs telling what you were looking at. Fuji-san was very clear, which made Pattie happy. We were, as usual, the only foreigners there, which surprised us, because there isn’t a day of the year where you won’t run into foreign tourists at the Empire State Building. The line for the Upper Deck was way too long, or we might have done that too – it was up another 100 meters. We were at 150 meters at this point. Tokyo has lots of little clusters of high buildings. Nothing like NYC’s dense conglomeration of skyscrapers.

From the observation deck we found that there was a large temple/shrine complex right
across the street, so we headed there after taking in the floor filled with little booths of ticky-tacky crap. It was such crap we couldn’t even find anything bad enough to buy as a souvenir for friends. (Mostly because we couldn’t figure out how to carry the 3′ tall fiber optic Tokyo Tower/clock thingy home.)

On the way to the shrine, we bought an imo (sweet potato) from a street vendor. They
have a distinctive call they use to hawk their wares, but of course, this is the 21st century…he had his recorded and playing from speakers on the truck. The imo was really good – I love sweet potatoes in any form.

The temple/shrine complex was called the Zenjo-ji; it was the Tokugawa family shrine.
The first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu, had it moved here from further away to “protect” the southeast of the city. Ieyasu is the Shogun in almost all samurai stories we see, as well as being the model for Torinaga, the Shogun in James Clavell’s Shogun. He was an interesting example of extreme micro-management. He set up laws that regulated everything from when people could change their winter for summer clothes, what colors they could wear and even what names they could take – and we’re not just talking court etiquette here. These laws applied to everyone, and were different for every class, trade and region. He made rules for *everything.* Kind of
creepy, really. Everything he did affected Japanese culture for the next 400 years and still has repercussions today.

The Temple was really nice. It’s a big tourist attraction and at New Years was
pretty was pretty hopping. Lots of music, and stands and even a performing monkey –
which was actually pretty dull, as it just walked back and forth, but hey, how often do *you* see a performing monkey?

We bought O-mamori, good luck charms, and ate soba noodles for long life and listened
to the monks play instruments and chant at the Temple, walked the grounds, made friends with a child (the only child the entire time we were there who smiled at us and didn’t hide. She even said, “Hi!” and “Bye!” and waved at us when we left.) The grounds were beautiful and festive. There were hundreds of little statues decorated with crocheted bibs and hats in red, which we guessed were for children, and we later learned we were right. I tried to strike the gong over the temple door, but didn’t put enough oomph to it and got a kind of “buh” noise. We also watched the priests bring out the charms and arrows and papers and stuff that people wanted to burn. There were even purses which, assumably, had failed to become filled with money last year…or maybe they just hated the purse. Or the boyfriend who gave it to them. Who knows?

After we had savored all the joys the Zenjo-ji had to offer, we decided to go back to
Asakusa to the Senso-ji, with about a million other people. Pattie wanted to see the
shrine to Tanuki (a sort of a badger spirit) but it appeared to be closed, so we just
enjoyed the crush of people (and I do mean *crush* the placed was mobbed, as it
traditionally is this time of year.) We got stares every time we spoke, as usual. We were the only gaijin, as usual, until we were leaving when we passed two Spanish women, one of whom was in kimono, which was interesting. There were quite a few women in kimono there, and a few men, too. We were both glad that some women still bother getting dressed up.

The crush of people on the Nakamise-dori – the road that leads from the Kanarimon
Gate to the temple – was really amazing. It was one of those crowds that if you left your feet, it would keep carrying you along. We threaded our way through the crush, to the amusement of everyone around us, mostly just surfing the humanity. Eventually we went back to the hotel. We opted for dinner in, because we were so tired, as usual.

On TV right now is a Japanese Beatlemania with one guy – the one playing George
– who keeps singing in Japanese.

Next time:Me, Myu and 1000 four-year olds

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