I have loooooads to write about Tokyo and I thought it was a bit boring to just break them down into days, and I have way too much for one post, so I thought I would try and do it as historical sites and the modern sites.
Tokyo really is an incredible city, full of so much contrast between the old and the new. Historical temples and buildings are surrounded by shiny, new tower blocks, like a peaceful oasis in an otherwise crazy city.
One of the most famous historical temples is the Sensō-ji temple at Asakusa. This was absolutely fascinating and absolutely beautiful. We approached through modern shopping streets, then suddenly saw the iconic roof part some trees. We walked down a path lined with food stalls selling all kinds of delicious things, as the sound of drums beat steadily in the background, floating out from one of the temple buildings.
The temple complex comprises of several buildings. We went into the main one where the drum beat was coming from. Inside were gigantic drums, and a steady stream of hundreds of people coming to pray and give offerings. After exploring in there we went to a small garden with a smaller building at the centre. There was a really beautiful little stream and perfectly manicured bushes (the first picture in this post).
Another historical site that we loved was the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku. Just a short walk from the station through some of Tokyo’s craziest streets stands the historical temple. The walk to it is line by these huge, wooden arches. When we were there, we were approached by a group of students who wanted to give us a tour to practice their English. This is really common in loads of countries in Asia. I think so many people are put off because they think it is just a scam or that people will want money at the end, but I urge you to just say yes and give it a go. the students are normally lovely, and so interested in you and your experiences. In their classes, they don’t get much chance to go out and practice speaking, so this is a really nice chance for them to get to have an informal chat with native speakers. They also normally have loads more information on the places than you would find out otherwise, and if you have any other questions about things you’ve noticed about the culture they are really keen to answer these and help you understand the culture better.
On the way to the shrine is this absolutely amazing wall of barrels of sake which were all gifted from different areas of Japan, and have been decorated to represent these areas.
Before we went into the temple, we had to follow the customs and go and wash our hands and mouths so that we could be clean. As you can see from the picture, they had these cool little bamboo bowls to get the water bubbling up in the trough. On the day that we visited we were lucky enough to be able to see a wedding. I didn’t take any pictures as I felt it could be a bit disrespectful but the costumes were absolutely amazing. It was also great to have the students with us to teach us the correct way to pray and make offerings.
Tokyo’s history is so rich and varied, and the buildings are so beautiful. I was so impressed by the way that the city combines the old and the new, and how religion is built so nicely into the city and lives of Tokyo’s residents.