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Published: April 29th 2019
10% of Japan's population live in Tokyo with 25% in outer Tokyo. You can imagine how busy it is and what pressure there is on the land . The whole place is a massive city of close together high rises and it is impossible to get an idea of which district you are in. The old city of Edo had a moat which still exists but an express way was built over most of it because they didn't have the land to build it on. There is a massive land reclamation and 1000s of apartments are being built for the 2020 Olympic Village. Our first trip was to the Tokyo Tower which looks just like the Eiffel tower. The guide said the Japanese copy everything and that the only thing they invented was Karaoke! So it was up the lift, see the view and come down again. Next was a visit to Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine, a very sacred shrine in Tokyo set in lovely grounds and it was a pity it was raining but we had a pleasant stroll anyway. Lunch was at a typical Japanese restaurant. Must admit I ate most things except for the tofu. We had dinner
in the Hilton where we were staying for 3 nights but chose to have a nice Chinese. The following day we were off to the Edo Tokyo Museum. Didn't fancy this much but in fact it is a very interesting and well laid out place. After this we had a quick photo stop at the Bridge which leads to the Imperial Palace. Only the Emperor and Empress live at the Palace and no one is allowed inside the grounds. In the afternoon we were on our own so walked from the hotel to the Shinjuku district which is a lively shopping area packed with people. It is National Holiday time because of the abdication of the Emperor and the start of a new era with the new Emperor so even more packed than normal. However the Japanese have a tendency to walk along the pavement on the left side so there is a good flow and no one bumping into each other. Wish they would do that in London. We went to a huge Discount shop called Don Quixote believe it or not. The isles were quite narrow and packed with stuff so we had quite a time trying to
find what we wanted. The locals are very helpful and we managed. A lot of the Japanese wear face masks, not because of pollution but because a high proportion of them suffer from hay fever especially to the cypress pollen. Our guide also said she thought some of the youngsters wore them to hide from the outside world, the equivalent of a hoodie in London. They are very efficient and comfortable so I bought myself a pink one! In the evening we had a nice catch up and dinner with an old friend of ours who happened to be in Tokyo that night. Our last visit was to Asakusa Senso-Ji Temple which is the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. The place was heaving because of the holidays but amazingly the people flowed along and there was no actual crush. It has a main entrance Thunder gate guarded by gods of Thunder and Wind and a huge red lantern. There is a long walkway of small shops selling lots of souvenirs of all types and we bought yet another Hiroshige wood print and some lanterns. The main area at the top has a pagoda which is not open to the public
as well as the Main Hall which is richly decorated in gold. There was quite a queue to give a prayer offering to the Buddha but it is possible to go up the side and still see the lovely ceiling and the ornate hall. Outside is an incense stick place with smoke coming out. It is said if you waft the smoke over the bit that troubles you it will be cured. We made sure to be totally enveloped by the smoke! Difficult to choose a bit these days! At the side of the temple there is also a Shinto shrine as the two religions coexist quite happily in the Japanese culture. We have found the people very formal and polite and helpful and have learned a few Japanese words which I hope we wont forget. Must confess to having only 2 Japanese meals as not that keen on their stuff. Have been surprised how densely populated and not very attractive the outside edge is as the centre is mostly mountain. Of course the place was heavily bombed during the war and therefore very little old stuff is left.
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