Day 3: Seeing a bit of old Tokyo

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October 17th 2009
Published: October 29th 2009
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Vendors at Asakusa near the temple
Still a bit jet-lagged, we were up bright and early at 5:30am and sought out a Starbucks for breakfast. Universally, breakfast seems to reveal a culture's comfort food. For us, it's coffee and a type of carbohydrate. For the Japanese, noodles, fish, rice, miso. We loved trying all kinds of foods in Japan, but breakfast so far has been all about finding our comfort food, even if it means eating at Starbucks.

Today we took the metro up to Asakusa, an area of Tokyo that is more traditional/historic in terms of architecture and lifestyle. During WWII, Tokyo was bombed extensively and many of the buildings were completely destroyed. Rather than rebuild with traditional architecture, modern glass and steel skyscrapers went up so Asakusa is a little island of the past in the middle of a futuristic city.

We entered the main tourist area through the enormous Kaminarimon Gate, flanked by the god of wind and his buddy, the god of thunder (who apparently likes to eat navals - and not the orange kind). The pedestrian pathway to the main temple is lined with vendor stalls selling T-shirts, keychains, sweets, noodles, hats, wood carvings, etc. At the end is Sensoji

Cool colorful packaging.
Temple, initially built in the 7th century to honor Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. A gold statue of Kannon is tucked away deep inside the temple, not for public viewing. Unfortunately, the temple itself was undergoing some restoration and was covered in scaffolding so we weren't able to see much of it. We did, however, get our fortunes told. You shake a big container until a wooden stick falls out and then you match up the characters on the stick with a drawer which holds a paper fortune (in English and kanjii). Angelique's read:

"Repent what you've done so far and you should hope again. Then you will find happiness in future with a help of your seniors, everything will go well you'll be satisfied with better position and wealth. Your wishes will be realized. A sick person will recover (Adrian, hopefully!). The lost article will be found. The person you are waiting for will come. Building a new house and removal are good. Making trip is good (whew!). Marriage and employment are both good".

Adrian's read:

"Bad old things will turn into happiness. New hope appearing, you will get treasures. You can find hope on

Stupa at the shrine
the cloud in the sky. Just like dead trees bloom flowers when spring comes, everything will be prosperous. Your wishes will be realized. A sick person will recover. The lost article will be found. The person you are waiting for will come. Building a new house and removal are good."

We're glad we bought the new house in San Francisco!

Asakusa is fun to wander around. The streets are small and winding and there are lots of little shops to poke into. We had a great lunch of noodles in a tasty broth and then walked across the bridge to see the Asahi Beer Tower (believe it or not, it's in the shape of a beer glass with a large "hops" resting on a shorter building).

We took the metro back to Ginza and explored the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Very relaxing. Beautiful landscaping - lots of trees, some fountains. Then we headed back to the hotel for a few hours before dinner.

Around 5pm (it gets dark around then!), we took the metro to Shinjuku, a very upscale hotel and business district. Our destination: the Park Hyatt Hotel, where almost the entire movie

Angelique holding up our fortunes.
Lost in Translation was filmed (we watched it a few days before we left, hence the interest). We had a drink in the bar, which is up on a very high floor with absolutely stunning views. It's an extremely nice (and expensive) hotel with supposedly the best (and most expensive) steakhouse in Tokyo. After our drinks, we grabbed dinner (sushi, yakatori, sake, etc) at a fun bar-like place on a high floor of a nearby office building and then headed over to Kabuki-cho, the red light district of Japan which our guidebook (Frommer's) recommended taking a stroll through. I wouldn't recommend it. It's not fun or interesting, just sad. Lots of neon, strip bars and men whom we thought were male prostitutes. The women were behind closed doors. We were tired and a bit sad and headed back to our hotel for bed.

Additional photos below
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Buddha - kept warm by beanie hat.

Angelique at the altar to the racoon dog. The racoon dog is a guardian spirit and we saw many racoon dog statues in front of businesses in Tokyo and Kyoto.

The Asahi beer tower. The gold leaf is meant to be golden hops.

29th October 2009

Great to see you guys are blogging your adventures
Hey guys, just a quick hello from SF. ThanKs for the posts and the photos! Fun to travel with you vicariously. Get well, AJ! BTW, you guys should try Pachinko if you have a chance. Very odd game and hard to figure out, but people over there are really into it. BTW, if you win a lot of balls, you have to go outside to another spot to trade them in for cash and/or prizes. I guess this is how they pretend it isn't gambling.
31st October 2009

Thank You
Thank you for sharing your trip with all of us! It's great to see all the beautiful sites. Looking forward to your pictures from Australia!

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