Archive for the ‘Ueno Park’ Category

hasadera’s hydrangea walk: the third time’s a charm   15 comments

Sunday, July 2: Today, I invite my colleague Tobi to come along with me to Hasedera Temple, which is about a 7-minute walk from the Daibutsu, or the Big Buddha. He’s been wanting to go to the Daibutsu for a long time, but hasn’t done it for whatever reason.  I’ve decided once more to try to do the hydrangea walk at Hasedera.  I tell him we must get an early start because I don’t want to miss the hydrangea walk for the third time.  I tried two times before, with no success.  You can read about those botched attempts here and here.

Even though we live in the same apartment building, I have a bicycle and Tobi doesn’t, so we agree to meet at Fuchinobe Station at 7:30 a.m. After meeting and having a brief coffee, we get on the train to Kamakura.  On the train, we sit across from this lady carrying a huge bouquet.  Tobi takes a great photo of her and allows me to share it.

on the Yokohama Line – photo by Tobias Manthey

Upon arriving at Kamakura Station, rather than pack ourselves like sardines into that ever-crowded Enoden Line, we hire a taxi for 800 yen to take us directly to Hasedera.  By the time we arrive, it’s nearly 10:00. We get our timed tickets for the hydrangea walk and find, much to our surprise, that the wait is only about 45 minutes!

floating iris garden at Hasedera

We check out the Benten-kutsu Cave while we wait.  It is here at this cave that Benzaiten and her followers of Sixteen Children are chiseled out of the rock walls. Benzaiten is the Goddess of water and wealth, and the only female among the Seven Japanese Gods of Fortune.

outside the Benten-kutsu Cave

inside the Benten-kutsu Cave

ema at the Benten-kutsu Cave

Benten-do Hall is next to Hojo-ike pond.   It houses the statue of Benzaiten with eight arms.

Benten-do Hall

We make our way up the hill, past the pond and iris garden.

pond and iris garden at Hasedera

About halfway up the hill, we stop at Jizo-do Hall, where Fukujyu is enshrined. Here, visitors can pray for easy childbirth and prosperity.  Surrounding the hall are thousands of little Jizo statutes standing in long rows. The statues are there to comfort the souls of miscarried and deceased children.  Jizo is a Buddhist saint who saves people and is especially believed to protect children.

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall – Photo by Tobias Manthey

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

Jizo statues at Jizo-do Hall

At the top of the hill, we find the Kannon-do Hall, which houses the fabulous statue of Hase Kannon.  Although Kannon is often described in English as “the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy,” it is, strictly speaking, neither masculine nor feminine.  Sadly, no photography is allowed.

Kannon-do Hall

incense burner at Kannon-do Hall

We stop to admire the hazy view of Yuigahama and Zaimokuza Beaches, as well as Sagami Bay, from the Observation Platform.  We can see the Zushi Marina and the Miura Peninsula in the distance.  It’s very hot and humid today.

View of Yuigahama and Zaimokuza Beaches and Sagami Bay from the Observation Platform

garden near the hydrangea walk entrance

garden near Kannon-do Hall

Buddha footprints – Photo by Tobias Manthey

Buddha footprints

The hydrangea walk begins near the Observation Platform, and now, at 10:45, we show our tickets and get into the line.  Luckily, the line is not nearly as long as it’s been the last couple of times I’ve been here.

map of the hydrangea walk

hillsides covered in hydrangea

hydrangea hills

As we walk up the hill of the hydrangea walk, sweat is pouring off of me.  It’s such miserable weather today!

view from the hydrangea walk

multi-armed statue

hydrangea

view of Sagami Bay from the hydrangea walk at Hasedera

view of Sagami Bay from the hydrangea walk at Hasedera

I’m finally able to have someone take a picture of me, and my hair looks horrible because of the straightening I had done yesterday.  It’s so flat!  I’m never allowed to wash my hair for two days after straightening, and after sleeping on it all night, it looks awful. 😦  Oh well, at least periodically, I like to prove I actually was in Japan. 🙂

 

 

We continue on the hydrangea walk, admiring the views, the plethora of hydrangeas, and the stone lanterns.

stone lantern among the hydrangeas

lantern amidst white hydrangeas

view over Sagami Bay

view over Sagami Bay

Japanese lady in yukata

hydrangea heaven

from a bygone era

hydrangea

Back at the bottom of the hill, near the exit to the hydrangea walk, I find this lineup of Buddhist deities.

Buddha statues

stone lantern

In the Kyozo (space for storing Buddhist scriptures), there is a rotary bookshelf called a Rinzo. It is believed that when you rotate the Rinzo once, you will receive the same virtue as when you recite the complete scriptures. There are also 18 prayer wheels called Mani-guruma which you can turn to receive virtue such as that from the Rinzo.

Rinzo- a rotary bookshelf

looking back up at the hillside

the hillside above

a rock garden with stone lantern

We go inside of Kannon-do, where we admire the amazing Kannon statue, at 30.1 feet (9.18 meters), one of the largest wooden Buddhist statues in Japan.  It has eleven heads in addition to its main one: three on the front, the right, the left, one at the top and another on the back.  Each face has a different expression, signifying that the Kannon listens to the wishes of all types of people and leads them away from distress. Hase Kannon holds a vase with lotus flowers in its left hand and is unique in that it holds a staff instead of prayer beads in its right. It stands on a stone-like base instead of a lotus flower like most eleven-headed Kannon statues.  It really is amazing to see, and I’m sorry that I’m not allowed to take a picture of it. 😦

The Sho-Kannon Bosatsu is one of the most beloved deities from old times in Japan. Kannon is known for its mercy and compassion such as a mother’s affection.  It is believed that Kannon will immediately appear to those who seek salvation in this realm.  Created by the late Mr. Seibou Kitamura, the statue is enshrined here as a symbol of peace.

statue of Sho-Kannon Bosatsu

Next to Kannon-do is Amida-do Hall, where the golden seated statue of Amida Nyorai, one of Kamakura’s six principal statues of Amida Buddha, is enshrined.  According to legend, in 1194, Minamoto no Yoritomo, who was the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan, commissioned the statue for warding off evil.  In later years, people came to believe it would expel evil spirits and offer protection against misfortune.

statue of Amida Nyorai

ema at Hasedera

ema at Hasedera

The Shoro Belfry was constructed in 1955 to house a massive bronze bell, created in 1264 and recast in 1984.  Following the Buddhist tradition, the bell is run 108 times around midnight on New Year’s Eve to dispel the 108 sufferings of humanity.

Shoro Belfry

This shrine was rebranded Inari-sha in later years, although it was originally dedicated to “Kojin” (god of the cooking stove and fire). According to the legend of the Kannon statue, the deity appeared floating on the sea, drifting ashore by the guidance of “kakigara” (oyster shells) attached to the statue.  This Inari-sha was established to enshrine the Kakigara and to receive the divine guidance of Kannon.

Inari-sha (Kakigara Inari)

“kakigara” (oyster shells)

Inari-sha (Kakigara Inari)

“kakigara” (oyster shells)

“kakigara” (oyster shells)

Near the Benten-do Hall and Benten-kutsu Cave is a pretty rock garden.

rock garden at Hasedera

The Japanese rock garden (枯山水 karesansui) or “dry landscape” garden, often called a zen garden, creates a miniature stylized landscape through carefully composed arrangements of rocks, water features, moss, pruned trees and bushes, and uses gravel or sand that is raked to represent ripples in water (Wikipedia: Japanese rock garden).

rock garden at Hasedera

rock garden at Hasedera

Near Benten-do Hall, one can pick up a fortune which appears blank; the fortune appears when placed in a concrete water bowl much like a bird bath. My friend Yukie from Instagram later translates my fortune for me:  I have moderate luck (chu-kichi).  In different categories, my fortune is such: Romantic relationships: Being kind to others will bring you happiness. Learning: Go back to your basics again! Health: You should relax with aromatherapy tonight!  Your work: Be more careful than usual.  One step at a time.

It’s funny about the work fortune, because at work, the university barely turns on any air conditioning, making the work situation unbearable. It’s miserably hot and humid in Japan, and I’m not tolerating it well.  I am about to explode over the situation, and have even seriously considered hopping on a plane and going home!  So, the admonition to “be more careful than usual. One step at a time” is an appropriate warning for me to calm down about the situation. 🙂

my fortune for today

Daikoku-do Hall houses the statue of Daikokuten.

inside Daikoku-do Hall

Daikokuten is one of the Seven Japanese Gods of Fortune. He is considered the god of wealth (or more specifically, the harvest), or of the household, particularly the kitchen. He is often prayed to for an abundant harvest, success in life and business. Recognized by his wide face and beaming smile, he is often portrayed holding a golden mallet and standing or sitting on bales of rice (Must Love Japan: Hasedera Temple).  People are allowed to touch this “Sawari Daikoku” to receive good fortune.

statue of Daikokuten

By the time Tobi and I leave Hasedera, it’s 11:40, and we walk down the street toward the Daibutsu, which I’ll now see for the second time. 🙂  We stop in one of the shops for an ice cream treat, and then we’re on our way.

(All information about Hasedera is from the temple’s tourist brochure, unless otherwise stated).

tokyo: a stroll from yanaka to ueno   4 comments

Saturday, June 24: I can never resist a walk that’s all mapped out, a route just begging to be followed.  Today, I set out to explore a neighborhood I missed when I went to the Ueno area of Tokyo soon after I arrived in Japan.   The City Walk comes straight from the pages of Lonely Planet Japan: ‘Strolling Yanaka,”  and I opt to do it in reverse from the way it’s laid out in the book.

I start by going to Sendagi Station and looking for Yanaka Ginza, a mid-20th century shopping street. It’s easy to find; I simply follow the crowds. Soon, I’m walking under the archway at the street entrance.

Yanaka Ginza

At 175 meters long and 5-6 meters wide, the street is packed with 70 shops (Go Tokyo: Yanaka Ginza Shopping District).

Though compact, the district is chock-full of restaurants and shops selling yukata, souvenirs, flowers, fans, Hello Kitty paraphernalia, fruits and vegetables, flip-flops, baskets, pillows, housewares, and anything else a person could want.  Jovial folks snack and drink beer while sitting on overturned milk crates.  It’s quite a festive atmosphere.

shops in Yanaka Ginza

Yukata in Yanaka

Yanaka Ginza

produce for sale in Yanaka

produce in Yanaka

Yanaka Ginza

straw sandals

menus in Yanaka

Yanaka archway

bicycles in Yanaka

cute shop with bicycle in Yanaka

Yanaka Ginza

Yanaka Ginza

shop in Yanaka

At one point along the street, I find a small hole-in-the-wall that sells okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients.  I haven’t yet tried one yet, because I’ve read that most of them contain squid, which I despise. I type into my Google translate app on my phone: “Can I get one without squid?” and show it to the shopkeeper.  He shakes his head no, so I move on.  Instead, I stop at a little bakery that sells slices of pizza and get one to carry with me.  I munch on it as I walk down the road, even though I know it’s considered rude to eat while walking in Japan.  I have no choice, however, as all the milk crates are occupied. 🙂

Yanaka Ginza

exotic merchandise in Yanaka

At the far end of the street, I climb the Yuyake Dande, literally “Sunset Stairs,” until I approach Nippori Station.

Yuyake Dande, literally the “Sunset Stairs”

baskets for sale

shopfront in Yanaka

I take a sharp right at the train tracks and walk along them until I reach the entrance to Yanaka-reien, or Yanaka Cemetery. Here, the paths are well-manicured and wide, presenting a good trail for a tranquil stroll. The grave of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Edo period, is located within the cemetery, according to Japan-guide.com.

Yanaka-reien

According to Lonely Planet Japan, Yanaka-reien is “one of Tokyo’s most atmospheric and prestigious cemeteries.”

Yanaka-reien

gate at Yanaka-reien

small shrine at Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

hydrangea in the temple area of Yanaka

I continue on my walk toward Ueno Park, taking several detours to visit some of the temples in the Yanaka area.  It’s hot and humid today, so I’m sticky with sweat and my mouth is dry.  Thank goodness for all the vending machines on street corners. I buy one of my favorite flavored waters and continue walking, dipping into the various temples along the way.

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

hydrangeas in Yanaka

temple area of Yanaka

After leaving the temple area, I cross over Kototoi-dori and continue my walk through neighborhoods on Sakura-dori until I reach Ueno Park.

pink house on the way to Ueno

I pass by the Tokyo National Museum thinking that if I have time while I’m in Japan, I really ought to visit the museum.  I also walk past Rinnoji Temple, also known as Rinno-ji Ryodaishi-do, a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Ueno Park Tokyo; it was originally a part of the cathedral of Kaneiji Temple and was called Kaizan-do or Jigen-do, according to GoJapanGo.com.

Rinno-ji

Within minutes I’m on an overpass looking down on the extensive rail tracks converging on Ueno Station.   My goal is to get to Ueno Station and find a tapas restaurant my friend Graham has told me about.  I don’t know the name of the restaurant, so I put “tapas restaurant” into Yelp and find one called Vinuls. The app says it’s near Ueno Station, which is where Graham said it was.  I then put the name into Google Maps and let the app lead me to the restaurant.

Ueno Station

I find Vinuls Spanish Bar & Restaurant right outside Ueno Station.  It is so easy!  It’s hot, so I sit inside at the bar and order a glass of cold wine and two small plates, one with prawns and one with tomatoes topped with garlic and olive oil.

Vinul’s

Vinul’s

Vinul’s

My young Japanese waiter, who is attending high school in Tokyo, tells me in perfect English that he lived for a long while in Barcelona and so also speaks fluent Spanish.  He’s friendly and confident; I find when I encounter Japanese people with a command of English, they seem very confident; whereas those with little English ability are very shy in the face of a foreigner.

tapas at Vinul’s

Vinul’s

After enjoying my wine and tapas, I walk across the street to Uniqlo, a discount fashion store much like Zara or H&M.  This is only a small branch of the store, but the clerk tells me they have a big store at the end of the adjacent shopping street, Ameya-yokocho.  Purely by accident, I thus find one of Tokyo’s popular open-air markets. This market got its start as a black market after WWII, when American goods were sold here.

Ameya-yokocho

These days, the market is crammed with vendors selling fresh seafood and produce, Hawaiian shirts, jeans and camouflage clothing.  There are also small restaurants and watch shops.

Ameya-yokocho

I’m surprised at these small markets to find so many Hawaiian shirts being sold.  I think they are so passé, but I find many Japanese young men, and even young women, wearing them.  Even some of my students wear them to class.

Hawaiian shirts at Ameya-yokocho

seafood at Ameya-yokocho

Ameya-yokocho

fresh seafood at Ameya-yokocho

seafood for sale at Ameya-yokocho

produce at Ameya-yokocho

produce at Ameya-yokocho

At the end of the shopping street, I see the huge Uniqlo store across a major intersection, so I wait until the traffic passes and cross over.

Tokyo taxi

At Uniqlo, I get in a bit of trouble buying a couple of shirts, although they’re not very expensive, about $15 each. However, right after leaving Vinuls, I also stopped into another more expensive shop and bought two other tops.  I won’ t say how much those cost. 🙂

One thing I can say about Japan is that it’s a very consumer-driven society, and as a person who has a weakness for shopping, I have a hard time resisting the enticing goods for sale! 🙂

Total steps today: 15,754 (6.68 miles)

temples & shrines on kotodoi-dori {walking tour 9: part 3}   8 comments

Sunday, April 2:  Continuing further northwest through Ueno Park, I come to the Ikeda Mansion Gate, at gate that once stood before the residence of the Ikeda Lords of Inabe (Tottori) in the Marunouchi district of the city and was relocated here in 1954.   The elaborate gate has two guardhouses with Chinese-style roofs.

Ikeda Mansion Gate

My goal is continue following the walk as long as I can, and as long as my feet will carry me.  Little do I know how far it is to the next stop, past the International Library of Children’s Literature (there are SO MANY MUSEUMS in Ueno Park!!) to Kan’ei-ji Temple, built in 1625 by the priest Tenkai Sojo to serve the ruling Tokugawa clan.

Kan’ei-ji Temple

Kan’ei-ji originally functioned as a prayer hall to protect the Ki-mon (“Demon’s Gate”) of Edo Castle, but later it became the temple in which the Tokugawa family held Buddhist services. At its peak, the temple housed 68 buildings of various sizes. Most of these, however, were destroyed by fire in subsequent civil wars. An enormous image of the Buddha was destroyed by the great Kanto earthquake that hit Tokyo in 1923; only the Yakushi image  of the Buddha of Health remains enshrined today.  As a hibutsu (hidden image), it is never shown (Into Japan: The Official Guide: Ken’ei-ji Temple).

The former Kan’ei-ji Temple, a 5-story pagoda, sat at the right hand side of the approach to Tosho-gu Shrine. It is currently located inside Ueno Zoo.  I didn’t have the time or the interest to visit the zoo today.

Once a great complex, Kan’ei-ji used to occupy the entire heights north and east of Shinobazu Pond and the plains where Ueno Station now stands. It had immense wealth, power and prestige. Of the 15 Tokugawa shoguns, six are buried here. (Wikipedia: Kan’ei-ji)

At Kan’ei-ji Temple

Copper bell at Kan’ei-ji Temple

In the 1600s, the shoguns showed great interest in Confucian doctrines, leading to the founding of the Confucian Academy on the temple grounds.

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Luckily, it’s not crowded at this out-of-the-way temple, so I’m able to take a few close-up shots of the cherry blossoms.

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Kan’ei-ji Temple

As I leave Kan’ei-ji, I turn right until I come to Kototoi-dori.  Opposite is the Jomyo-in Temple, built in 1666 as one of 36 residences for priests of Kan’ei-ji.  The Hondo (Main Hall) is a square concrete unit, not very attractive.  The draw here are the Jizo images; Jizo is the Buddhist deity protecting children, the dead, pregnant women, and travelers. In the mid-19th century, the abbot vowed to erect within the grounds 84,000 Jizo images.  He didn’t succeed, but the count is now beyond 20,000.

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

By now, it’s getting late and I’m exhausted.  I guess I should have started this walk at 6 a.m. this morning.  I don’t have time to do the rest of the walk before it gets dark or before my legs give out, so I make my way down Kototoi-dori Road back toward the metro stop.  I stop into a couple of small shrines along the way, little jewels hidden along a busy road.

a little shrine by the road

This one has a cute dog, who sits quietly as I walk on the grounds.  He seems like a friendly fellow.

the dog protector

Another shrine sits further back off the road.  It’s quite pretty.  The light is fading fast though, so I don’t linger too long.

another shrine

shrine

pretty shrine

lantern in an oasis

umbrellas & elephants

a warrior

Finally, I return to Shinobazu-dori and, alas, I’m happy to see the Nezu metro station, one stop further along the Chiyoda line from where I disembarked earlier today.  Entering the metro here will save me quite a walk.  I’m happy to sit down on the train, at least until I reach the Rapid Express Odakyu Line.  On that train, I have to stand on a packed train for 26 minutes until I reach Machida.

The problem with the book Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City is that no distances or times are given.  I think this walk was overly ambitious for one day.  I could have taken one whole day to visit EACH of the museums in the Tokyo National Museum Complex, plus the Ueno Zoo, Tokyo University and about five more museums, gardens and shrines.  I believe Ueno Park and its museums could be a week-long journey!

Total steps: 15,357 (6.51 miles).

hanami at ueno park: subtemples, shrines, bells, kabuto, and jubilant japanese folks {walking tour 9: part 2}   6 comments

Sunday, April 2:  As I leave Ameyoko Shopping street and prepare to enter Ueno Park, I brace myself to penetrate the crowds I can already see near the south entrance.  I wrote in my previous blog post that the cherry blossoms were just past their peak, but now I’ve been told otherwise.  They are actually expected to peak next weekend, the 8th and 9th. Sadly, rain is forecast for the upcoming weekend.  So what I’m seeing today are sakura before their peak, and this may be my only chance to see them.

Entrance to Ueno Park

Entering Ueno Park

Once inside the park, I make my way slowly to the “main” entrance, where I find an 1898 bronze statue of Takamori Saigo (1827-1873), dubbed the “last true samurai.”  He was instrumental in bringing the new Meji government to power and in later defeating Tokugawa shogun loyalists who, despite reaching a peaceful agreement for the turnover of power, attacked the incoming government at Ueno; though the loyalists were defeated, they set fire to Kan’ei-ji, the protector temple of the city, and nearly a thousand other houses.  Though the statue should have been erected at the Imperial Palace, it was erected here because Takamori, angered by the new government’s abolishing of samurai privileges, led an abortive coup against the very government he helped bring to power.  He ended his own life in a ceremonial suicide.

The government was conflicted because they wanted to honor him but didn’t know how to recognize him because of his treasonous act.  So they placed the statue in Ueno Park, the site of his victory over the Tokugawa loyalists.  However, they clothed him in traditional kimono with his hunting dog at his side rather than in his Meji general’s uniform.  Neither the statue’s placement nor his garb pleased his wife, however.

bronze statue of Takamori Saigo

Leaving the statue, I stroll under a canopy of cherry blossoms and make my way to Kiyomizu Kannon-do, a sub temple established in 1631 by Tenkai Sojo (a High Buddhist priest), following the pattern of Kiymizu-dera Temple in Kyoto.

sakura

Kiyomizu Kannon-do

Kiyomizu Kannon-do

Many people come here to pray to the Kosodate Kannon in hopes of conceiving a child.

Kiyomizu Kannon-do

Kiyomizu Kannon-do

Kiyomizu Kannon-do

Kiyomizu Kannon-do

Ema at Kiyomizu Kannon-do

At Japanese shrines, I see ema of various types hanging on metal racks. Ema are small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes; they then hang them at the shrine. There, the kami (spirits or gods) are believed to receive them. They bear various pictures, often of animals or other Shinto imagery, and many have the word gan’i, meaning “wish”, written along the side.

Ema are sold for various wishes, and help support the shrine financially. Common reasons for buying a plaque are for success in work or on exams, marital bliss, conception of children, and health. Some shrines specialize in certain types of these plaques, and the larger shrines may offer more than one.

In addition, I see O-mikuji, random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. These are usually received by making a small offering (generally a five-yen coin as it is considered good luck) and randomly choosing one from a box, hoping for the resulting fortune to be good.  The o-mikuji is scrolled up or folded, and unrolling the piece of paper reveals the fortune written on it.

I attempt to make my way to the Benten-do, an island built in the middle of Shinobazu Pond for the shrine to the Shinto goddess Benten, one of the Seven Gods of Good Luck.  In 1670, a causeway was built from the shore to the island.  However, the crowds are so thick going over the causeway that I decide against going, and instead walk along the less crowded southern part of the pond.

Heading to the Benten-do

Below is a photo of the Benten-do from the southern shore of Shinobazu Pond, which means “The Pond Without Patience.”

Shinobazu Pond from the other side

Walking uphill from Shinobazu Pond, I come to Gojo Tenjin Shrine, dedicated to the gods of medicine and learning.

Gojo Tenjin Shrine

The ema at Gojo Tenjin Shrine are quite elaborate.

Adjacent to Gojo Tenjin Shrine is Hanazono Inari Shrine. From the latter, a tunnel of vermillion torii leads uphill, eventually to the 1666 Toki-no-kane bell.

Hanazono Inari Shrine

Hanazono Inari Shrine

I meet the growling fox guardian at the gate.  His little red bib detracts a bit from his ferocity.

bibbed fox guardian at Hanazono Inari Shrine

Hanazono Inari Shrine

Hanazono Inari Shrine

torii gates from Hanazono Inari Shrine

Uphill, I find a woman selling French fries in a tall paper cup, which I buy because I’m starving. I don’t know where on earth I would sit, so I munch on them while walking.  I come across the 1666 Toki-no-kane bell, which once sounded the hours for the temple monks.

statue at 1666 Toki-no-kane bell

At the top of the little hill, I find this intriguing Buddha face.

Buddha at 1666 Toki-no-kane bell

The ema here have the blue-tinted Buddha face.

Ema at 1666 Toki-no-kane bell

On the far side of the bell, a melody is wafting through the air, and I find a peaceful spot where I can sit on a bench and listen to to the music.  It’s called “Kabuto Music and Manners” by Dr. Manners.

I sit on the bench and cross my legs, placing my French fries beside me. A gentle man wearing a navy blue haori, a traditional Japanese sort of hip-length kimono-like jacket, comes over and gently nudges my knees, indicating I should not cross my legs.  He says, “It’s the Japanese way.”  He then offers me a flower-shaped sugar cube on a piece of tissue paper with calligraphy on it.  I’m so amicably welcomed here.  Each time he comes over, he is so gentle and kind, I can’t help but bow to him and say “arigato.” He then offers me a bowl of green tea, which I drink slowly, enjoying the music and the tranquil surroundings.  As I’m drinking the tea, he comes over again and nudges my knees apart, which I’ve accidentally crossed without thinking, and he offers me another sugar cube, which I eat. I feel at one with the universe as I sit and listen to the transporting music.  It’s a lovely respite from the crowds and the chaotic energy swirling around us on all sides.

a kind soul at 1666 Toki-no-kane bell

A lovely lady wearing kimono sits on a platform preparing the green tea and sugar cubes; she graciously poses for a picture. The whole experience turns out to be the most memorable and enjoyable experience of the day.

geisha (?) at 1666 Toki-no-kane bell

The musician is shown below; I’m not sure if he is Dr. Manners, but a nice lady convinces me to buy his CD, which says “Kabuto Music and Manners Sound by Dr. Manners.”  Possibly he is playing a type of music created by Dr. Manners, or possibly he is Dr. Manners himself.  I really don’t know, but I buy the CD, which costs me 2,000 yen (nearly $20), and add it to the bulkiness of my pack.  I guess I could have just listened to it on YouTube, but at least I was happy to support the musician.

Kabuto musician

1666 Toki-no-kane bell

After my peaceful time at the bell, I walk through a long row of food vendors toward Tosho-gu Shrine.  Some of the food, especially the corn on the cob, looks enticing, but now I’m full from the French fries, sugar cubes and green tea.

Tosho-gu Shrine is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868.

The lavishly decorated shrine complex consists of more than a dozen buildings set amidst a small forest. Countless wood carvings and large amounts of gold leaf were used to decorate the buildings in a way not seen elsewhere in Japan, where simplicity has been traditionally stressed in shrine architecture. The shrine contains both Buddhist and Shinto elements; this was common until the Meji period, when Shinto was separated from Buddhism.

Tosho-gu Shrine

Below are some of the ema at Tosho-gu Shrine.

A double row of 50 bronze lanterns stands near the entry to  Tosho-gu Shrine.  They were not meant for illumination but were used to purify the sacred fire for important religious ceremonies.

bronze lanterns at Tosho-gu Shrine

bronze lanterns at Tosho-gu Shrine

bronze lanterns at Tosho-gu Shrine

The Sukibei Wall which surrounds the shrine building was completed in 1651.  The upper part of the wall is decorated with land creatures, while the lower part is adorned with sea and river creatures. Real world wild animals such as birds, fish, shellfish, frogs, catfish, and butterflies can be found here, as well as mythical creatures.

gate at Tosho-gu Shrine

A sacred camphor tree on the grounds of the shrine is over 600 years old.  It was here before the shrine was built and has been continuously cared for by the shrine’s guardians.

Sacred tree at Tosho-gu Shrine

The shrine, built in 1651, is in the kongen-zukuri ornate style favored by early Tokugawa shoguns.  The main shrine building, the Konjiki-den, or Golden Hall, is in the ornate Momoyama style. The pillars and doors are covered in gold foil and the ceilings are decorated with lacquer and colorful carvings.

Tosho-gu Shrine

Tosho-gu Shrine

tree on the grounds of Tosho-gu Shrine

Tosho-gu Shrine

A Karamon (Chinese Gate) at the front of the building, built in 1651, is in the elaborate “Chinese” style with gold foil as well as hand-carved flowers, birds, fish and other animals and shells.

Chinese gate at Tosho-gu Shrine

The carvings on the gate are colorful, elaborate and mythical.

Tosho-gu Shrine

A kagura stage used for religious dances sits at the approach to the shrine.  It also has a roofed bell unit.  Today, some musicians are playing melodies on the stage.

musicians at Tosho-gu Shrine

This huge stone garden lantern was offered as a gift from Sakuma Daizennosuke Katsuyuki to the Tosho-gu Shrine in 1631. It is said to be one of the three great stone lanterns in Japan together with those in Nanzen-ji temple of Kyoto and in Atsuta Jingu Shrine. The 6-meter height of the lantern is impressive, as well as the 3.6 meter perimeter of the capping stone.  Because of its great size, people commonly call it “Monster Lantern.”

Monster lantern

I get caught up in the huge crowds walking a northerly path through the park.  The crowd is moving at melting candle wax pace, and it’s so crowded I can barely move.  It reminds me of the crowds I encountered in Shanghai on China’s International Labor Day: riding the human tide along the bund to cloud 9 & pudong.

I escape the human tide heading north and stop to walk around the statue of the Imperial Prince Komatsunomiya Akihito, the first president of the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Statue of the Imperial Prince Komatsunomiya Akihito

Then I’m back on the path, being carried along with the hordes of people.  This group of young people playing a festive game with oversized cards makes me smile.  They seem to be enjoying themselves immensely. 🙂

a lively card game

I see there is a path to the west, so I make my escape from the main path, ending up near the Ueno Zoo.  Turning north, I’m on a parallel path to the crowded one, and I have this one nearly to myself.  I bypass the sprawling Tokyo National Museum Complex and head northeast quite a distance to Kan’ei-ji Temple; after visiting this out-of-the-way temple, I’ll head southwest outside of Ueno Park to visit some quiet, hidden gems.

As there is no daylight savings time in Japan and it gets dark at about 6:00, I can already tell there is no way I will have time to finish this overly ambitious walk in one day.  Maybe if I had gotten an earlier start… 🙂

 

hanami: shinobazu pond, house of taikan yokoyama, ameyoko shopping street {walking tour 9, part 1}   4 comments

Sunday, April 2:  I’ve still not adjusted to Japan time, so I am awake a couple of hours in the middle of the night.  Because of that, I sleep in till 8:00.  It feels so good once I go back to sleep, I don’t want to climb out from under my cozy futon.

When I finally get up, I make myself some fried eggs, a bit difficult without a spatula.  I use a fork, and it is a mess. I also have a carton of cold milk tea from 7-11 which I heat up, but I resolve not to drink tea again.  I’m a coffee person, through and through.

I have been undecided about doing a big outing today because the weather forecast is cloudy and cold. We also have off Monday, and the forecast is better for Monday.  However, the skies have hints of blue this morning, so I rethink my plans. Today is supposed to be the peak of cherry blossoms in Tokyo and I’ve been told THE place to see them is Ueno Park. Cherry-blossom viewing is called hanami in Japanese, and as it’s Sunday and peak time, I expect there will be huge crowds.  Still, I guess that’s what hanami is all about – the whole festive atmosphere and mingling with millions of Japanese all at once.  Walking Tour 9 in my book, Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City, covers Ueno, so I figure I’ll do that. Ueno Park has a bunch of museums within it, and since they all seem to be closed on Mondays, I’ll be limited in my choices if I wait till Monday. Also, for my first solo outing negotiating the Tokyo metro, it won’t be too intimidating as it’s the exact route I took yesterday for our orientation.

All this figuring and rethinking leads me to a very late start, which I’ll come to regret later.

I debate whether to ride my bicycle to metro (a 20-minute walk) because I hadn’t seen a bicycle parking area.  If I rode my bike all the way there and couldn’t find a place to park, I’d have to ride back home and then walk.  I ask a couple of Japanese people along the way, including the bicycle shop man and his mother, but no one understands me.  Finally, a young Japanese woman points me to the left of the station, a couple of blocks down.  I see people disappearing into a garage opening pushing their bikes, so, voila, I follow them.  There are steps bordered by ramps leading to a second level and I’ve found the bicycle parking lot. I find a less crowded area toward the back, so I park there, but when I ask a man in business attire if I need to pay, he tells me in his limited English that the back area is for yearly pass holders.  He says because it’s Sunday, I don’t have to pay, but I would have to pay Monday-Friday.  At first he tells me 1,000 yen, and when I look shocked, he corrects himself and says 100 yen.  He motions that I should park near the front of the parking lot.

After the long metro ride, which I won’t cover in detail as it’s the same one I took yesterday, I arrive at Yushima Station and walk toward Ueno Park, right past our ramen shop where we had lunch yesterday.  A long line of about 10 people stands outside.  I follow the path to the left of Shinobazu Pond, using my Walk 9 as my guide.

First view of cherry blossoms along Shinobazu Pond

The cherry blossoms seem a little past their prime, but that doesn’t stop the hordes of people who have come for hanami.  Every inch of grass is covered by groups of Japanese picnicking and laughing and talking.  The path is packed with people as well.

cherry blossoms along Shinobazu Pond

cherry blossoms along Shinobazu Pond

cherry blossoms along Shinobazu Pond

cherry blossoms along Shinobazu Pond

cherry blossoms along Shinobazu Pond

cherry blossoms along Shinobazu Pond

The second portion of the pond is full of people skittering about in swan-shaped pink paddle boats and row boats. At this point, I’m to cross Shinobazu-dori and visit the House of Taikan Yokoyama.

paddle boats on Shinobazu Pond

sculpture at Shinobazu Pond

I debate whether to enter the House of Taikan Yokoyama as no photos are allowed inside and it cost 800 yen. After walking away once, I decide to go in anyway, and I’m glad I do.  The artist’s traditional wooden house is in the sukiya style found often in Kyoto. I’m allowed to take pictures in the entry area, shown below.

Stone lantern at House of Taikan Yokoyama

Entryway to House of Taikan Yokoyama

House of Taikan Yokoyama

House of Taikan Yokoyama

After removing my shoes, I go inside the house to see the tea room, with 15 windows looking out upon the artist’s garden, and a brazier in the middle of the floor with a teapot hanging over it.  The adjacent studio workroom contains the artist’s working tools.  I go into the upstairs bedroom, which also has a view of the garden.

Since I can’t take pictures of the house, I buy a postcard showing a view of the house from the back of the garden, shown below.  The garden is lovely, with its little stream, rocks, carp in the pond, and stone lanterns.

Taikan Yokoyama (1868-1958) spent much of his life in this house, painting in the traditional Japanese Nihonga style, but adding Western approaches to painting later.

postcard of house of Taikan Yokoyama

I also buy some postcards of the artist’s work.  I pick out three, plus the one above picturing the house, and the clerk holds up five fingers, but I’m not sure what she means.  Finally, she gets her co-worker to explain to me in English that I should buy 5 for 500 yen.  Once the woman finds out I am a teacher in a university, she loads me up with 4 booklets about the museum to hand out to fellow teachers, which I now have to carry around the rest of the day!

postcard of Taikan Yokoyama’s art

Below are more postcards of Taikan Yokoyama’s art.  Click on any of the photos for a full-sized slide show.

 

I follow the walk back down Shinobazu-dori to the metro stop where I started, and take a left at Kasuga-dori, and go down a ways until I make another left onto Ameyoko Shopping Street.  More than 500 shops crowd this quarter-mile bazaar under the elevated rail line for the Ueno rail station.

Ameyoko Shopping Street

The name Ameyoko combines two words, Ameya Yokocho, or “Confectioner’s Alley.”  After the Korean War, a pun evolved from the contraction of American Market, since the area sold black market goods from American military Post Exchanges during those years.

Ameyoko Shopping Street

The small shops here now continue the tradition of the Shitamachi, in which small-scale vendors have always operated, selling a wide variety of goods.

Food sign on Ameyoko Shopping Street

Ameyoko Shopping Street

Ameyoko Shopping Street

After this, I continue back into the main part of Ueno Park, where the real fun begins!

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