Sunday, September 19, 2004

My friend Beth and I took the train into Tokyo yesterday. On the way, we stopped in Ueno to visit the Toshogo Shrine. Toshogu means, "Shrine of the Sun God of the East". This shrine has been in existence since 1616, when Tokugawa Ieyasu was enshrined in it at Mt. Kuno. Later though, in 1650, the shrine was moved from Mt. Kuno to Nikko, to the Imperial Palace, and finally to Ueno, for the convenience of the feudal lords. It's been there ever since. Here are some pics of it. Beth got some really good ones that I'll post in the near future too.

Entrance to the shrine.

I love this guy. He was outside the shrine itself, sketching it.

Sacred Well where you would wash your hands before entering the temple (if it were still a working temple).

Wall of prayers to the Sun God. You buy these wooden placards at the gate and write your wishes and prayers on them, then hang them on the wall.

Me, musing at a stone lantern.

Mmm, pretty.

Outside the temple..

Some sort of instrument outside the temple. Couldn't figure out what it's purpose was, but it looked cool. hehe.

Small shrine like the one near my house in the woods, only this one has been kept up and looks really nice. It's actually a shrine within a shrine.

Me, musing once more, in front of the main shrine itself.

After visiting that shrine, Beth and I stumbled through Ueno park, looking for a five story pagoda (which we could see from the shrine, but couldn't find our way to). On our search for the pagoda, we accidentally found a real live working shrine. I saw a path leading down an embankment, and these orange gates, one after another, enclosed the path. I recognized the gates as the entrance to a shrine, they divide sacred space from everyday space (go me, reading Japanese cultural manuals) and we headed through them (Beth worried we were going in the way we were supposed to go out, but I think it was all okay and no national crime was committed). Down below, we saw this.

Working shrine

Working Shrine 2

Me, cleansing at the well. The water was really cold and clean.

Beth, cleansing also.

After visiting the working shrine, Beth and I headed off to Tokyo. We stopped in Shinjuku first, then went to Shibuya. In Shinjuku, we visited the biggest bookstore in the world, Kinokuniya. We had some trouble finding it at first, but I stopped a few people and kept asking for directions in Japanese, and between Beth and I, we figured out what they were saying back to us. There was a green building called Green Peas that I had to take a picture of. I'm not sure what's inside the place. I guess I'll check it out later. Also, here's one of the many buildings with the huge widescreen TVs taking up half of the side of a building.

Green Peas

TV City

When we got to Shibuya, which has to be my favorite part of Tokyo so far, there were all sorts of small shrines being hoisted around on the shoulders of teams of men, who danced with the shrines through the streets, chanting and drumming. This weekend was one of the times of years to honor your ancestors, so I'm assuming all of this dancing with shrines was part of that ceremony.

Street shrine.

Street shrine 2.


Tokyo spawns many tribes. Some of them we're familiar with back in America, like Goth Kids or Club Kids. Others we don't have counterparts for. Like the girls who paint the skin around their eyes white, dye their hair blonde, and wear wild clothing. Their group is names after a famous Japanese witch, but I can't remember her name now. I'll have to ask around again. Also there are these kids, girls mostly, who dress up in animal costumes and traipse around the streets together. Beth has a good picture I took with a group of them, so I'll post that when I get it from her, but till then, here's my pic of an animal girl.

Animal girls.

Was a lovely trip. I love Tokyo. I can't wait to explore every single one of its sections. Shibuya is really young and hip and has the most amazing stores. When people cross the street, they cross in the hundreds. I've never been in such a busy city before. Tokyo is smaller than New York City, but has as many people living in it, maybe more. It's lights and neon and glitz and strange characters and narrow twisting roads have really won me over.

Other than that, I went to get a haircut today. American hair dressers, listen up. The Japanese do it better. Not only did I get a massage while I got my hair cut, they also moisturized my face and shaved me, even between the eyebrows and in the nostrils. Everytime I thought the whole process would be done with, my hairdresser man moved onto yet more pampering. By the time it was all over, I felt like a prince.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So fascinating. Great pictures! You must have been in heaven in that world's largest book store. Talk to you soon. Love, Mom:)

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The barbershop you describe is what better barbershops in the U.S. were like until about thirty years ago. When American men stopped getting their hair cut every week, they disappeared. One morning in 1957 Albert Anastasia was in the Park Sheraton Hotel barbershop being worked on by a barber, a shoeshine boy, a masseuse and a manicurist. Two gentlemen in overcoats came in and shot him many times. Amazingly enough, none of the four people around Anastasia saw a thing.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you read Shibuya no Love, by Hannu Rajaniemi?


6:16 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Hey Lisa, yes, I read that story over the summer when it first came out and liked it, even before I knew I'd like Shibuya. Thanks for the link though. I forgot about where I read the story.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those animal girls are cute.

9:23 PM  

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