This summer I am taking a serious break from the Taiwanese heat and heading north. One month in Japan and one month in my hometown in New York, then hopefully when I return in September the summer weather will be just bearable enough for me to survive until fall climbing season.
Since I love Murakami and mountains, and my boyfriend loves Zelda and Nintendo, we thought Japan would be the perfect place to suit both of our interests. We are both village kids and have no love for big cities, but after spending 4 days in Tokyo, we knew there was something special about this country.
Japan is awesome. Everything is very efficient and orderly, I don’t think I have ever been to a place that is so civilized. All the public bathrooms are well stocked with toilet paper and the seats are even heated sometimes. There is a sidewalk that is meant for walking, traffic is calm and orderly, it is so clean! The people are very polite, keep to themselves, don’t bat an eye once at foreigners. We were caught in rush hour traffic a few times on the subway with all of our luggage and no one pushed or shoved to get on or off. Everyone was in a hurry to get to work, but it was a very calm controlled hurry. Maybe it is because I live in a country that has been having a century-long identity crisis, but I was immediately struck by a cool confident quality that all Japanese people seem to posses. I am absolutely in awe of it.
Our first night was in Ueno district. Ueno is so cute! The little side street our hotel was on looked exactly like something out of Miyazaki’s latest film The Wind Rises. We visited Ueno Park
and the Tokyo National Museum.
The Museum has an amazing collection of samurai swords. But my favorite exhibit was the wood block prints.
I was later dragged to a wrestling match. Which would have been cool, if it was sumo or regular Japanese style wrestling, but it was WWE. But it was in Ryogoku’s Kokugikan Stadium where the traditional sumo matches are held every spring.
We visited the Imperial Palace and gardens.
We watched the U.S.A. Vs Japan Women’s World Cup game at 8:00 AM (woooo U.S.A) and spent the rest of the day shopping for rain gear to prepare for our Mt. Fuji climb. We got distracted by some used game stores in the Akhiabara district.
We tried Japanese pancake, Okonomiyaki, and ate the BEST sushi I have ever eaten (so cliché right?).
Our last day in Tokyo we met with my Japanese exchange sister and her family in Asakusa. Asakusa is a popular tourist destination, but rightly so. Senso-Ji temple in Asakusa is the oldest temple in Tokyo. Only parts are still the original structure. Most were destroyed over the years by earthquake, or fire, or WWII…
We got a rickshaw tour around the city
Senso-ji is a Buddhist temple we stopped to say our prayers and wash our hands and choose our fortunes.
If you get a bad fortune you have to tie it on the metal rack and pray for a better fortune.
Apparently, If you dip your head in the incense smoke here it will make you smarter. I pretty much suffocated myself in it and it didn’t make any difference.
We tried unagi for the first time at lunch. It was delicious! And then I felt like a jerk because I just read that Japanese eel is now on the list of animals that have a high risk of extinction.
After lunch we walked around the tourist shops and got some dessert.
Though I loved Tokyo, four days of being a tourist was about maximum capacity. It was time to head for the mountains.