Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Japan_day 4 & 5

Japan, Tokyo: Day 4

We started off day four by heading out on the subway to Asakusa Temple & Market. The market started off just after the entrance to the temple. The entrance was tall and amazing. The market was mostly covered and filled with teeny, wee, little shops off all kinds of touristy stuff. It was interesting to see that while the entire complex was overrun with tourists, we were still some of the very few westerners, although we saw an entire tour group from somewhere in Africa (the women had very colorful dresses and headwraps). Since the Obon holiday was coming up, we were starting to see more and more girls in kimonos at temples and shrines. Eventually we saw loads of men, women and children in kimonos (especially in Osaka and Kyoto).

The market was super fun, if especially muggy. Japan must have an incredible electric bill in the summer, as each of the little stalls was open to the outdoors, but still had a/c running in the back of the shops. Brian purchased some kind of Japanese treat that was fried dough with the adzuki (sweet bean paste) inside. It was pretty good, but a little too hot for fried foods. The temple was beautiful on the inside, but was undergoing cleaning or somesuch and covered with a tarp (again with the painted tarps, every vacation I go on!). There were beautiful painted ceiling panels. The temple hosted a golden statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercy, which apparently was fished out of the river in 523 ad or somesuch. There was a pagoda of tallness in the complex, as well as a gate that had giant lanterns and straw sandals. Very cool.

We also walked through some of the side streets next to Akasuka, which had little merchant shops that weren't part of the official market. It was interesting and very picturesque. Quite a few of the shops were closed, and those that were had gorgeous paintings on the closed shop doors that I loved. Andrea pointed out that I was taking photos of places that had "no photo" signs (that I totally didn't see.) Whoops!

We went from Akasuka to the river and caught a boatride down through Tokyo Bay. The boat ride was very fun and the a/c was very welcome. I was just about done in by the humidity at Akasuka. It's hard to express what the weather was like. It wasn't actually all that hot. It was the humidity that was terribly oppressive. It was a little like walking into the bathroom after someone's had a hot shower going for a while. The moisture stuck to your skin and pressed upon you. I think the weather, for the most part, stayed in the 80's... which I'm normally fine with. It was just that humidity.... no me gusta.

Anyhow, the boat ride took us to Hamarikyu Onshi Teien, which was a lovely park on the bay. We took a lot of photos of trees and herons and ducks and such. A little bit after we arrived, they started playing music over several speakers in the park which meant they were closing. We only got to see about half the park. We walked a ways back to the subway, seeing a street fair of some kind with a band playing and giant tv screens of people dancing about. Fun stuff.

We went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and headed downstairs to one of the restaurants in the hotels. It looked like it might have a view of the forest garden park attached to the hotel, so I was interested in eating there. Turns out, it was poolside with a bit of a view of the park. It was very pretty, and a little fancier than I expected. We were the only westerners there. It was a table-side grill place, but since all of grill "sets" (almost every restaurant had a "set" of somekind) were mostly meat, we just ordered a ton of side dishes. Some very yummy salads and other items. Then, as we were completely tuckered out, it was off to bed.

Japan, Tokyo: Day 5

We did several museums on day five. We headed off to Akihabara first, wandering around through the electronic sales neighborhood. Brian was very pleased with finding the radio parts center, with tiny little stalls of bits and pieces. We saw the little girls in maid outfits handing out flyers for different stores and yelling about sales. It wasn't super crazy yet, as it was still midday. I noticed that besides the maid girlies, Andrea and I were the only women I saw for quite a while. Interesting. We shopped at a game store, Andrea buying a ds game and I bought a wii game (we'll see if I can figure it out at home.).

We started the museums with the Garden Museum, which used to be the home of the uncle of the emperor at the first half of the 19th century. He apparently loved art deco and western art. The mansion was gorgeous, if an interesting combination of art deco style building and Japanese detailing. The exhibit "Sublime Stitching" was very interesting. I'd seen something similar at the Portland Museum of Craft a year or two ago, but this was all Japanese artists. The garden surrounding the museum was very pretty as well. We left this museum and headed to the Roppongi Hills Tower for the Mori Art Museum. The Roppongi Hills Tower is the tallest building I've ever been in, at over 53 floors. The Mori was on the 52nd floor, and featured an exhibit by Ai Wei Wei, a contemporary Chinese artist who I had heard of, but never seen any pieces by. I was pretty excited to see this. He did a lot of reassembly pieces. Bicycles reassembled as sculpture, pieces of old temples reassembled into sculptures of China, antique furniture reassembled into new shapes. I liked it all a lot. We left the exhibit and went to the "City View" option, which was a floor mostly devoted to a viewing station, windows wrapping all the way around. It was amazing. Andrea wished we could have been there at night, but I really enjoyed seeing all the parks against the city and seeing the building stretching to the sky line. Awesome.

We went back to the hotel, cleaned up, left Andrea to her own devices and met Brian's friend from Eugene, Reiko for a few drinks in Shibuya (or maybe Shinjinku? I can't remember). Very fun talking to her, and a fun little Japanese place to have beers and snacks. We had a device about the size of an etch-a-sketch, which was a touch screen menu. Reiko ordered several little snacks for us. A good way to end our evening.

1 comment:

thetravellor said...

Actually, the place where the temple was Asakusa, not Akasaka. Very similar names, but way different. Just FYI.