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Published: March 1st 2006
In contrast to my every-day life in Tokyo - working, going out, commuting and relaxing (!?) - my time here has also been punctuated by some wonderful opportunities to experience and reconnect with Japanese culture.
Needless to say, Japan has an abundance of cultural sights of significance, however finding them in Tokyo takes a little more hunting than in cities like Kyoto and Nara. Yokohama & Chinese New Year
So I've been really lucky to have been invited out on a couple of occassions with some of the girls from work to their weekend outings. The girls are a great bunch - very funny and full of life! They have made me feel really welcome at work and have also enabled me to get to know more of what its like to be a young, professional female in Tokyo.
Not long after starting at Wunderman Dentsu, Yuri, who sits at the next desk to me, invited me to join her and her friends for a weekend in Yokohama. Not only is this Yuri's home town that is famous for its China Town, but it was also Chinese New Year! The evening was fantastic, we had a
delicious Chinese meal, which included an EXTREMELY spicy tofu dish...YUM! (but not for the faint-hearted!) And for the midnight countdown, we all gathered in an open square with the rest of the crowd, counted down 3-2-1 in Chinese and watched the crackers and dragon dancing kick off! Kamakura
A couple of weekends later 4 of us girls from work also ventured out to Kamakura, which is the hometown of Suzuki san, another GENKI co-worker at Wunderman Dentsu.
Kamakura, about 1 hour from Tokyo, was once actually the capital of Japan during a time when the Shogun had overthrown the emporer in Kyoto.(bewtween around 1100 and 1300 AD). Kamakura is one of those amazing places in Japan that, if it weren't for the passing traffic, you could almost image life there centuries ago.
We got right into the spirit of our vist and undertook activities to ensure a) we would get into heaven b) find true love and c) that Buddah was sufficiently blessed. This was achieved (in order) by getting together to push a large and extremely heavy block clockwise in one complete circle, lighting a candle for one of the buddah saints in a
dark cave and then finally by adding a small 2cm tall buddah figurine amongst a thousand others that people had squashed into every knook and cranny in a rock-face.
As we entered another temple ground several blocks away, we also happened to come upon a traditional Japanese wedding. The wedding party seemed terribly solomn in their slow procession and oriental-style eerie flat flute accompianment - however for the few moments that they passed we were captivated by the peacefulness and beauty of the traditional setting and costumes. An amazing opportunity to have witnessed such an authentic ceremony! Meiji Jingu
In the last week, the Templar clan in Tokyo tripled with the arrival of Fay and Rod! They put my cultural activitiy to shame with vists to Askakusa, Tokyo Tower, The Imperial Palace, Hakone, Mt Fuji, Kyoto, Meiji Shrine, Ueno Park and Odaiba. We also had a great surprise when Ai, a homestay exchange student who I did a 2 week swap with in 1992, spontaneously came to visit from Nagoya for the day so we could all catch up! We took a trip to the Meiji Jingu near Harajuku and Ai shared with us the traditions
of prayer and wishing at Shinto shrines.
Meiji Jingu is probably my favourite shrine in Tokyo as a visit there requires you to leave behind the city and the moden world both pysically and mentally as you walk nearly 20 minutes down a broad pebbled pathway, through lush forests and grand shinto gates before reaching the shrine.
It is a beautiful shrine and we spent quite a while strolling the parks and surrounds, discussing Emporer Meiji and his influence on modern Japan and the wonderful ability of both Buddist and Shinto religions to be quite different but still co-exist in harmony and respect.
Just outside the gates of Meiji Jingu are the streets of Harajuku and of course.. the Harajuku Girls! Definitely a contrast of eras... and all within 1 block of each other.
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