Day 12, February 25, 2017
After a sleepless night and a headache from hell, we assembled at the lovely Buffett breakfast area which was huge! Cooked to order omelettes, several types of premade egg dishes, seaweed, all types of pickles, cheese, bacon, French fries, pastries, juices, tofu, rice porridge, it was your own fault if you couldn’t find anything to satisfy, it was a perfect buffet. Soon we boarded the tour bus at 7:40, but it took almost 1 1/2 hrs to actually start the tour because we stopped at several hotels picking up people. The view was buildings, buildings and more buildings. We were to stay originally at the New Otani, and I saw that it was located in an area that was not conducive to walking out on your own for shopping. Maybe that s why we were moved? Finally we started the tour which took us first to the Tokyo Tower that is featured in Godzilla movies. It is taller than the Eiffel Tower by a few meters. The view was buildings, buildings and more buildings. Can you tell that buildings aren’t my cup of tea?
We then went to a Shinto Meiji shrine that was out in an old forested area with huge trees and clean air! This is my thing. The crows in the woods were Japanese too, I could tell by their accent. (True! They really sound similar but different and look the same as home) we walked past barrels containing rice wine, colourfully decorated with Japanese Kanji. Further we entered the shrine area but first had to purify using water on our hands done a specific way. Walking through the gates we were able to see a wedding party gathering, the looks on their faces were sad! No one smiled! Strange for me to see. People are reserved in public I guess,
Religious affiliation stats are 107 million Shinto, 92 million Buddhists and 2.5 million Christians in Japan.
We later walked through a lovely park area as part of the Imperial Palace East Garden,part of the 250 acre fortress with 15 foot thick walls walls of large rocks that were hewn into several geometric shapes, all fitting together nicely. Home of the Emporer and Emporess. Several birds were in song, from the Asian crows to tweeting chickadees and sparrows. We walked along a path within a traditional Japanese garden whose elements are: stone lantern, water, rocks, bridges and a pond. All were here. I sat near a meter squared stone feature set into greenery above a small stream with water gently rising up and flowing over the top, trickling over the sides into a small stream below. Ferns and short plants with bamboo like leaves nicely filled in the area. I breathed in the negative ions and replenished my soul.
Continuing walking around the path I came upon a woman on a tripod stool painting. I saw they were watercolours. She pointed across the pond and her friend was across the pond painting as well. What a lovely place to be sitting gazing over the pond with a 20 foot or so waterfall in the distance making an attempt to drown out the din of the city. Walking further near the flat bridge, koi were near the surface! They likely associate people with food like ours at home do. I wiggled my fingers over the water and they slowly swam over. Butterfly koi like mine at home.
Had to leave this lovely place and go to our lunch destination. The restaurant was located up into a mall like building where this second floor held several eating establishments. Ours was a fixed menu, everyone had the same. There was tempura veggies and shrimp, small salad, chicken skewers, and a gluten concoction that is formed into colourful balls swimming in a sweet liquid. That was different, chewy but good.
We then headed out for the afternoon portion of our tour but we had to say goodbye to our lovely —— with the white waving hand cat flag as our locator to Hachi an older man wearing headgear microphone with the audio speaker located under his jacket ?. With 39 or so people, most couldn’t hear what he was saying.
Next on the tour was the Hama-Rikyu Garden, a typical Eco period garden with a tidal pond. We saw the 300 year old pine tree that had to be supported with thick poles because of the extra long thick branches. They are pruned constantly to keep their shape. Continuing, we walked along a dock past a tea house then continued towards the other side of the pond where there were a couple of ducks perched on a rock in the water. I really couldn’t hear what he was saying because of the speaker in his coat, and for the helicopters and planes flying overhead. This park had tall buildings along one side and it seemed as though the flying objects echoed against them. There were blossoms beginning on trees along the gravel roadway, apricot, plum and cherry. He explained there are several varieties of cherry trees and the most famous bloom End of March-April.
We then set out to visit the old Tokyo Asukasa and to get there we needed to take a water taxi. We stood in line (Japanese seem to love their lines) on a cement roofed pier that was actually floating, maybe it wasn’t but I was wobbling! Could have been from the diesel exhaust from the small ship that was moored to this dock. You couldn’t escape the fumes as the roof trapped them and my eyes and nose burned and I tried to breathe through my shirt which was cotton and that helped somewhat. The water taxi came and we found our benches. It was a long ride on the Sumida River. The exhaust fumes from this transportation would sometimes enter and there really was no escape as it too was enclosed. I know I’m sounding negative but this is what I experienced. I would have preferred to be outside in the cold air.
Finally reaching our landing point we were greeted by geisha girls and a ninja posing for photo ops and several people were taking advantage of it.
Walking up the stairs, not knowing what to expect, we saw a super busy street with a KFC on one side and a Burger King on the other. Going down the stairs and trying to cross the street together was crazy. The green walk sign turned red and a portion of our group were still not across but the cars waited until they did. Squeezing along through the throng of people on this sidewalk, it didn’t matter if you stayed on the left side, everyone was going through however they could. You just tried to keep up with the red flag of the tour guide in your sight the best you could. We arrived at the Kaminarimon gate and walked towards where the Buddhist temple was located. Along both sides was shop after shop offering all sorts of trinkets, clothing, wigs, hair adornments, hello Kitty items, ice cream, candy and on and on. We were given strict instructions to not fall into temptation but continue through the Hozomon Gate towards the Asakusa Kannon temple first. We found out it was to close at five p.m.
Our group was able to get a picture together and our Guide confirmed who was taking the bus back to the hotel or who was staying and taking the subway home. Inside the temple people were throwing money and saying a prayer then leaving. There was a counter on the side selling trinkets you could hang on your car mirror or anywhere to keep you safe, have good luck or to find love. I bought a glass bracelet with a laser image of a Buddhist goddess. I still don’t know the name.
The trip on the subway was so fun! Thanks to one of our group who spoke a little Japanese and another who is good at directions (they have been geocaching along the way) we made our way back to our hotel within an hour. The bus took over two hours but the ladies had a nap on the way home. After freshening up, we searched for a restaurant for supper. Thought we’d have Italian. The small restaurant down the street had a smoking room with an open door adjoining the rest of the little restaurant. We quickly exited after we found out they don’t do take out. So we crossed the street and rode the elevator searching floors in the mall that was part of the metro station and finally found a lovely little cafe where we all had spaghetti that was really tasty. I was exhausted so excused myself and found a Family Mart where I bought a bottle of water and a bath sachet (I was determined to enjoy that tub!) and went to my room.