Currently: Taking a break from troubleshooting my SIM card, more sumo on NHK, drinking green tea, and fighting off jet lag
As promised, here’s a few Tokyo pics.
Note: There’s some bug in the photo software I’m using that’s causing photos to not be rotated properly (probably because of iPhone’s aspect ratio, so full size photos may show up upside down. Ugh. Sorry…I’ll look into it.
Caveats- a) I take a lot of pictures of various signs…there aren’t many this time around, but you’ve been warned, and b) I can’t promise to be prolific with these.
My hotel room. It’s tiny:
Various pics from Asakusabashi – the area where I’m staying. It’s pronounced ‘ahsaksabahshi’. In Japanese it’s 浅草橋.
This is one of the station signs in the station itself. The nice thing about signs in Tokyo and some of the larger cities is that it displays the name of the station 3 ways: kanji, hiragana (mainly for children, who probably haven’t learned the kanji yet), and spelled out in roman characters for us foreigners. When I came to Japan the first time, I probably learned 50-75 kanji just based on train station signs.
Here’s a ground-level view of the train line. Note that ‘sidewalks’ here are just painted lines. Pedestrians, bicycles, and cars all share the same road.
There’s a bunch of rivers running through Tokyo that are more cement canals than anything. Asakusabashi is a section just south of Asakusa, where ‘bashi’ in Japanese here means ‘bridge’ it being close to this river is probably why.
The view out my hotel room window. To the left you can see the brand-new Tokyo Sky Tree.
This sign for a restaurant across the way from my hotel is for a fugu, or pufferfish, restaurant. This is the fish that could kill you if not prepared correctly. I don’t even go out of my way to gamble at casinos, I’m not going to gamble in a restaurant either.
I went up to Asakusa for my pilgrimage to the Senso-ji Buddhist Temple.
This is the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) in front of Senso-ji Temple (‘ji’ after the name means ‘temple’, so adding it is redundant. This is your Japanese lesson of the day). Just to the right with the giant yellow banner over it is a ‘police box’, which is where local police hang out. It’s basically a place where people can go to report crimes, a safe place for children to go if they are lost, etc. A good tourist tip: police boxes are the go-to place to ask for directions. I’ll explain in another post why places in Japan are often very hard to find, but if all else fails: police box. I thought the giant yellow banner blocking part of the 400-some year old Thing That People Are Actually Here To See was in… bad taste?
Just past Kaminarimon is a few blocks of stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs- t-shirts, chopsticks, samurai swords, etc, etc. It so happened today was a national holiday – Coming of Age day, which is the time when 20 year olds celebrate becoming adults. Lots of young women dressed in kimono. Also, lots of the rest of Tokyo out and about.
This is Buddha. While he was a chill dude, he’s off to the side at Senso-ji, because while there’s a number of very, very large Buddha statues elsewhere in Japan, this temple is dedicated to Kannon – the Goddess of Mercy.
This is a Shinto Shrine on the grounds of Senso-ji. Shinto is the other main religion in Japan, and you will often see a little bit of ‘you got your chocolate in my peanut butter’ religious crossover here. Many Japanese dabble in a little of everything, where Shinto rituals are used for life events like birth and marriage, where Buddhism is used for ancestor worship/remembrance and death rituals. The ringing of a bell 108 times to commemorate New Years Day is a Buddhist ritual.
I ran down to Akihabara this afternoon for a few errands and a little geeking out. This area of town has long been where technology nerds go to get their fix. There’s lots of random tech stores, but I had to stop at Yodobashi Camera, which is really more of a general electronics store. The one in Akihabara is something like 8 floors, and in floor space is probably about 4 standard Best Buys stacked on top of each other. Geek overload.
Akihabara is also the home of the famous girl group AKB48. More specifically, their cafe, pictured here with a very long line to get in. AKB is short for Akihabara, and 48 represents the number of girls in the group. Yes, there’s 48 girls in this group. They’ve become a huge group in Japan, but still do daily shows at the cafe there. This is one of the few times you’ll hear me talking about girl groups or J-POP in general, because that style of music just doesn’t work for me.
More pics later.