Friday 9 June Tokyo

After a good night’s sleep and breakfast on the 40th floor overlooking Tokyo City, we met up with the others in the Lobby and headed off on the bus for our first stop, Meiji Jingu Shrine. We passed the Akasaka Palace where the royal family live, all except the Emperor and Empress, who live in the Imperial Palace. We also passed the construction site for the Main Stadium for the 2020 Olympics.
We enjoyed our visit to the Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo’s most famous shrine, dedicated to the sacred spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. Emperor Meiji was the first emperor of modern Japan. He was born in 1852 and ascended to the throne in 1867 at the peak of the Meiji Restoration when Japan’s feudal era came to an end and the emperor was restored to power. During the Meiji Period, Japan modernised and westernised itself to join the world’s major powers by the time Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912.
We entered the shrine grounds under a massive Torii Gate, which leads to a lovely forest. There are approximately 120,000 trees of 365 different species that make up Meiji Jingu’s forest that were donated from prefectures across the entire country. At the middle of the forest stand the Meiji Jingu’s buildings. The Main Shrine was under renovations – the copper-plated roof was being replaced. On either side of the Main Shrine stood huge Camphor Trees – on the left side were two inter-twined trees referred to as Husband and Wife, planted in 1920 and on the right hand side was another huge Camphor tree, which had a big fence with hundreds of votive tablets attached – people write prayers and gratitude on these wooden tablets and attach them to the fence and the priests pray for them every morning.
They had an Exhibition of Japanese Suiseki Masterpieces, which are uniquely shaped stones from hundreds of years ago, together with a display of Bonsai trees, including two awesome 200-year-old azaleas – the trees ranged in age from 200 years to 350 years old.
The shrine is a popular site for Japanese weddings – we were very lucky to see a Wedding Procession, led by the Shinto Priest and followed by the Bride dressed in traditional white Shinto wedding kimono and the Groom dressed in traditional black Shinto wedding attire, followed by the family.
Afterwards we went to the Tokyo Tower, the second tallest artificial structure in Japan at 333 metres high. It is the world’s tallest, self-supported steel tower and is 13 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower. It is a symbol of Japan’s post-war rebirth as a major economic power after its completion in 1958, until 2012 when it was overtaken by the Tokyo Skytree. We enjoyed the spectacular views from the Tower on this sunny day, with just a few clouds.
We then drove to the Asakusa area, about 20 minutes north west and had lunch at Asakusa View Hotel Restaurant in the Benifuji Room, which had a view of the Skytree Tower. Asakusa is one of the most popular old town Tokyo districts. It is where some of Tokyo’s best-preserved ancient structures are located, including the Sensoji Temple – a 7th century Buddhist temple that is considered to be the most popular in Tokyo.
We visited Sensoji Temple where legend says that in the year 628 two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River and even although they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple.
We visited the Kaminari Mon Main Gate, the Hozo Mon Middle Gate, the Five-storey Pagoda, the small garden and the Main Hall of Kannon Temple – the Kannon Buddha can’t be seen as he is behind a curtain. There were so many people visiting the temple, where there were lots of opportunities for them to pray, make a wish etc. and many of them lined up at the Temple to do that.
Then we wandered down Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional snacks and lots of souvenir shops – some quite nice and others somewhat tacky.
On our return journey to our hotel, we drove along Kabashi Street, which is an entire street full of kitchen goods and plastic food samples for businesses.
We arrived back at our hotel in time for a quick cuppa and then had showers and got ready to meet the others at 6.20 in the lobby for our short journey to our local Japanese Restaurant, Akasaga Zipanga for dinner. After dinner, the two of us walked across the road, via a walkway over the road, to the Big Camera and wandered around the 8 floors of everything electronic that you could think of.
We enjoyed our walk home on a beautiful night with colourful lights on all the buildings and lots of people around, as it is Friday night.

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