Sometimes it is just fun to be a tourist
The Japanese are tourist aficionados, and so in order to gain a profound understanding of the culture, I am encouraged to embrace my inner tourist.
Ben’s parents came out to Japan this past week, and Ben and I had a great time. On Saturday, we all went out to Tokyo for a day of delicious food and tourism. We started out at Tokyo station, renovations were completed this year, and the station is lovely. The large brick building, looks like it was stolen from another city, architecturally it looks entirely western. The station exterior is beautiful, and built in a timeless way that makes it look as though it has always been there.
We got to Tokyo station at about noon, and we had a lovely lunch. In the Maru building mall, just across the street from the station, is an amazing Indian restaurant called Raj. I love Indian food, and haven’t had any in about 9 months, so curry, naan, and kabobs were divine.
After lunch we headed to the imperial palace, which to be frank was a disappointment The grounds of the imperial palace cover 3.4 sq. km in the heart of Tokyo. I anticipated seeing outstanding Japanese historical architecture, and lovely gardens. I was looking forward to wandering the grounds for a few hours on the surprisingly sunny and warm winter day. Instead we were allowed to walk on the graveled grounds, and only from behind walls and trees look at the palace. I did not anticipate how much of the grounds would be completely closed off to the public. What we could see was very beautiful, which made me even more disappointing that I couldn’t see more.
My favorite part of our visit to the imperial palace was the statue of Kusunoki Masashige ( a 14th century samurai). His armor was just so cool, his armor looked more to me like an artists interpretive version of armor, as apposed to an armor designed for function. I was most impressed with the horse, it looked powerful, it’s hair flowed with so much motion, that I was almost surprised the statue remained in place, and the artist took the time to accentuate key veins, and tendons. The rust stains were what really made me fall in love with the statue, it elevated it from a piece of art, to a piece of time.
After the statue we headed over to Meiji shrine, near Harajuku. There were thousands of people on the grounds of the shrine, and so we were part of a constant crowd. Many people are still making their first shrine visit of the year, so when we got to the shrine there were over a dozen lines, each about 45 minutes long of people all waiting to ring the bells. It was fun to see all the people, some were wearing kimonos, many were tourists like ourselves. We were even lucky enough to come on a day when they had an ice carving competition. The sculptures were amazing. The judges picked a pair of carved elk for first place, I have to agree with them, it was my favorite.
After Meiji shine, we went to Shinjuku, we walked around for a little while, but by that point we were all pretty tired, and my sore knee was cursing at our activity choices for the day. We ate dinner at Ben and my favorite sushi restaurant, Midori Sushi. The sushi was amazing, but Ben got a special treat at the end of this already special day… Cold Stone Ice cream!
It was a wonderful day of tourism in Tokyo, great food, great weather, and great company.