Spending a short time in Tokyo…what to do…
So…I am in Tokyo attending a conference in February 2013 and realise I am not going to get to see any of the sights apart from the spectacular views from my hotel room of the amazing snow capped Mount Fuji…and the streets of Tokyo whilst walking to dinner functions…so what to do when I have about six hours before my flight departs on a Saturday. But back to Mount Fuji – I must say I fell in love with it – it really is spectacular.
So after a couple of days in Tokyo attending the conference I was looking forward to a half day sightseeing before returning home to Australia. But before Saturday came, I had the opportunity of having dinner with colleagues at a fabulous Japanese restaurant.
The restaurant that our colleagues had chosen was of course Japanese.
I tasted delicious garlic rice and wonderful tempura vegetables and drank lots of white wine. I am not a fan of sushi but my colleagues ordered sushi which arrived beautifully displayed and prepared by the Japanese chef who was very happy to pose for a photo when asked.
To get to the restaurant from the road, we had to walk along beautiful wooden walkways surrounded by lovely plants and trees. And next to the restaurant was the most fabulous chocolate shop which I had fully intended going into when we finished dinner, however a very sad sight to see the shop had closed by the time we had eaten.
So, back to my half day tour of Tokyo…I had gotten up early every day to attend the conference so really could have stayed in bed and slept in (in the wonderfully comfortable bed – i.e. not Chinese mattress) but of course having not been to Tokyo before there was no way I was going to spend any more time in the hotel. So after a delicious breakfast where I ate my weight in chocolate croissants and eggs with toast, my colleague and I went to the foyer to wait for our tour bus. Being in Japan, everything is just organised so wonderfully so our bus was waiting outside right on time as was our guide.
We set off around 8am and our first stop was the Meiji Shrine which is dedicated to the late 19th century emperor, Meiji, who opened Japan to the west. Very peaceful and beautiful.
Meiji Shrine is located in a forest that covers an area of 170 acres. This area is covered by an evergreen forest that consists of 120,000 trees of 365 different species, all donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established. The forest is visited by many for recreation and relaxation and is located in the center of Tokyo.
Within the shrine grounds there are barrels of sake which have been donated to the shrine. When displayed near a Shinto shrine, these barrels are called kazaridaru, which means ‘decoration barrels’. The barrels that are on display are empty but are said to be, spiritually, full of significance.
In Japan, it is said that sake has always been a way of bringing the gods and people together. I have read that in some of Japan’s oldest texts the word used for sake is miki, written with the characters for ‘god’ and ‘wine.’ People would go a shrine festival and be given rice wine to drink, and they would feel happy and closer to the gods.
Whilst at the shrine, I was lucky enough to also see a traditional wedding procession throughout the courtyard; the bride in a white kimono and the groom in formal black robe, walking together under a big red parasol, with Shinto priests leading the way and the rest of the wedding party trailing behind.
Our next stop was the Senso-ji Temple, a buddhist temple and regarded as one of Tokyo’s most colourful and most significant.
The first temple on the grounds was built in 645 CE which makes it the oldest temple in Tokyo. During WWII most parts of the temple were bombed and destroyed however it was rebuilt as a symbol of re-birth to the Japanese people.
Nakamise-dori is a street leading up to the temple and is said to have come about in the early 18th century when neighbours of Senso-ji were granted permission to set up shops on the approach to the temple.
The street has been demolished several times and once during the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and then again during the bombings of WWII, however the shops are all back in place and tens of thousands of people walk up to the temple every weekend, and of course this particular weekend included me and my colleague. We also tried some delicious Japanese snacks and drinks along the way.
The bus tour also included a walk around the Imperial Palace gardens which were so lovely but I can only imagine how beautiful they would be in spring with the blossoms in full bloom. The palace is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo, a short walk from Tokyo Station and is the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family.
A visit to this garden is a ‘must’ when visiting Tokyo. It has a total area of 3.41 square kilometres. My research found that during the height of the 1980s Japanese property bubble, the palace grounds were valued by some as more than the value of all the real estate in California.
A look around the shopping district of Ginza was included and a view of Tokyo from Tokyo Tower was also included as was a drive by of the ‘diet’ building where I thought I could get some great tips on how to lose weight; turns out it’s Tokyo Parliament!!