Japan - Tokyo

It was so called my last day in Japan because the next day I just had time to get myself to the airport and leave. It was also a day that I would spend on my own. I think I planned to start the day early but it wasn't really so. This happened a lot on this trip. Well, I was on a holiday so I shouldn't be so hard on myself. Last breakfast also saw me having to wait in the queue. Since I wasn't in a hurry, I wasn't feeling stressed out or anything. The manager bumped me ahead of the queue because I was alone, but then he kindly gave me a place for 2 persons, so that was nice. Had breakfast and made my way to the subway station. It was a slightly chilly morning but I was enjoying the cold air. First stop was Meiji Shrine. When I got out of the station, I was rather confused. Looking at the map, it seemed to be near enough but my head wasn't functioning properly that I stood pretty long in front of the map to understand what it meant and how I should go. Finally I understood the direction that I should take and thank God for a big torii to confirm that I was in the right direction. Learned something about Emperor Meiji in visiting this shrine. On the way to the shrine (which by the way is a pretty long walk under many trees from the torii to the shrine, pretty nice), there were barrels of sake on one side of the path, which is pretty common in a shrine in Japan. What is not common is on the other side, there were barrels of French wines. From the information written there, I learned that Emperor Meiji modernized Japan and set its way to becoming such an industrious country. So I get why he's highly revered.

Since it was my last shrine to visit in Japan and also somewhat my last day there, I had already planned that I would say a prayer or two. Got teary eyes again. It was like when I prayed in Basilica San Marco in Venice on my first trip alone. Just like then, I shed some tears because I was touched and overwhelmed that I so called did it. The trip was coming to an end and I did it and all was alright. I was thankful, touched, and felt blessed at the same time. I couldn't pray long though because Meiji shrine being an important shrine, there was a security guard there watching the people who's praying and then there was a Japanese man next to me who was doing perfect clap and bow and I felt rather inadequate in my praying steps that I decided to wrap it up, also the tears were again something that I didn't want people to feel alarmed about. Anyways, the shrine itself wasn't that interesting. There were some really big old trees. The emas hung here were definitely more international, many were not written in Japanese. It's pretty interesting when I saw some which were definitely written by a christian or a muslim. It made me wonder if being there just really cloud their logic and emotion for awhile that they don't see that writing wishes on an ema is perhaps not in accordance to their religions? Anyway, there were a few tourist groups with guides who I believe could tell them interesting fact about the shrine. If I had had a guide at that time, I would definitely have asked what's the deal with the rope tied into these 2 trees? I think the trees might be sacred? Or the ground beneath it is sacred?

I didn't really stay long in the shrine since there's nothing much to explore. On the way out, I saw an entrance to Meiji Garden. This wasn't in the plan, but since I was there, I thought why not. Admission is 500 yen and I thought it was quite pricey considering the garden doesn't have anything interesting for me. Well I think it's because I was at the wrong time of the season. I found out about the stamp that places like this garden often have. So the Japanese will use the stamp to stamp maybe their book or the brochure of the place or whatever as a collection. The stamp is in red ink and it has the symbol or logo of the place and the date of the visit. I inspected the stamp for awhile to see how they change the date. Very interesting. Following the Japanese, I also stamped my garden's brochure. Moving on, the garden was green all around. There's this tea house that the Emperor asked to be built for the Empress. How nice of him!

It's overlooking a small lake. I think it might be good for bird watching because I saw a Japanese man waiting there with a big telephoto lens. The garden has a big iris section. It's the Empress' favorite flower. However, they bloom in June, so when I was there, the whole area was covered in nets :( and the gardeners were busy working on them. I saw one of the gardener showing earth worms to some of the visitors, I don't know why. There also seemed to be a picnic by one of the international school there. Little toddlers running around with their moms. Walking into the greenery which didn't interest me much, I stumbled into Kiyomasa well which is apparently famous in Japan for its positive energy or something like that. When I was there, there was a group of older Japanese tourists who were taking pictures in turns. The well wasn't like any well I know of so there was a slight disappointment in me. It was more like a small tub. When I read the sign, I remember reading it has an ingenious way of sinking. What does that mean??? When the Japanese tourists left, I went closer and I just put my hand in it. I didn't feel anything different. I wanted to drop a rock or something, surprisingly it's not filled with coins, but there was a couple coming from behind me and so I couldn't do my experiment :( I am really curious if things sink differently in the well, do they swirl? twirl? float then sink? Anyway, I googled and read that some people said their luck improve when they put pictures of the well as their phone's wallpaper. So here you go. If you need a bigger picture for your computer wallpaper, email me (link on the right) and I'll send it to you :D

After I thought I had explored all parts of the garden, I made my way to my next stop, Rikugien Garden. Found the general direction as I left the station. Actually found one of the entrance, but that entrance is not used and visitors were asked to go to the other entrance which is some walk to the left. I walked and walked and couldn't find the entrance still. Then I saw a sign that I couldn't understand and by that time I felt that I had walked too far :( Reached an intersection and I was thinking that it wouldn't be right if I crossed the street. Asked an older lady in a bicycle who obviously didn't speak Japanese. I just said Rikugien? She just shook her head :( Darn, I actually think Indonesian can pronounce Japanese word pretty well, so I was determined to make her understand me. I said Rikugien again and then she got it and then she tried to help me. She said 711 and again in Japanese she was giving me direction. The hand gestured pointed to the left. So that's the 2 things I got, 711 and left. I walked back to where I came from and saw a convenient store like 711 but it's not 711. It just has the same color scheme. Saw that I could turn left there and I did and then I saw the entrance. Problem solved. Thank God! Admission is 300 yen. There's a big cherry blossom tree by the entrance which was all green when I was there. Again it's kinda the wrong season for me, maybe it's more beautiful in sakura season or autumn. The garden is pretty fun and interesting. Of course, there's the little lake or pond.

Then there are paths that you can take which leads you to streams and some bridges. It's really fun walking on the bridges or stepping stones though I always had this fear in me that I would be clumsy enough to fall. Since it's all around green which make photo taking rather boring, I started to just take pictures of the reflection on the water. Something that I did quite a lot in this trip when I visited gardens with ponds or lakes.

Feeling rather hungry, I decided to stop by the tea house. I read about this. It cost more than the admission fee, but I think submitting to one of the tourist thing sometime is not that bad to do. I'm not one who take pictures of my food, so I just thought of taking this picture only after I drank some of tea, hence why the tea bowl wasn't that clean.

It's powdered green tea and I didn't like it much. I didn't fancy the powder feel to it. The little flower cake has a bean paste inside it and the skin is pretty much like the snow skin mooncake. So I sat there, looking at the lake in front of me. It's all so green and peaceful and yes I can just sit there for a long time. There were some other Japanese tourists in the tea house. They're mostly senior citizens. I think they and Japanese babies and toddlers are the cutest Japanese there are :P I like how the senior citizens are so active and spend their days enjoying gardens with their friends. After sitting for sometime, I decided to explore the garden more. There's a small hill in the garden. From down where I was, I saw a Japanese lady sitting there alone. Curious, I decided to see if I can find my way there. I made it and that lady kindly left seeing me there. I felt bad because perhaps she needed some peace and quiet and I was invading her space :( I then proceeded to sit on the bench she sat on. I was alone. Had some really personal thoughts there looking at the garden below. Kinda spoke to God, like really talking to God. I wish I could say I hear him responding to me back. All I had was the wind blowing and I wish I could tell you I find answer in that. I didn't. It wasn't one of those Elizabeth Gilbert moment. Either way, I know he heard me. I just couldn't hear him back. Maybe one day I'll understand. After that, I made my way down and proceeded to explore the rest of the garden.

On my way out, I saw a Japanese man sitting on one of the benches under a tree, opening his bento box and getting ready to eat. I love it so much! Maybe he works nearby and I think it's wonderfully awesome that he got to take some time off to have lunch in a beautiful place. It perhaps makes lunch more expensive that he had to pay for admission price, but it's one of those thing that I'm quite jealous about. Not many cities give this kind of chances for its residents.

Next stop was Sensō-ji temple. As I got out the correct station, I was rather confused on where I should head out. It turned out to be easy enough to find because there were so many people and tourists. Seeing such a crowded atmosphere, my headache began :( It could be because I hadn't really had lunch or it could be because I spent the whole morning pretty much in quiet solitude and green space and then I went to such a crowded place with many shops around. The shops selling food looked pretty interesting, but since there were so many people, I didn't feel like exploring them in more details. There's a praying bowl before the gate to the courtyard and I decided to pray. The joss stick here were bundled and again it was short without the stick. It's weird seeing people trying to get as much smoke blowing into their direction. Then I made my way to the main hall. I don't recall there's any statue in the main hall. It's interesting to see the Japanese pray here like when they do in a Shinto Shrine. I pretty much cried when I prayed here, sigh. I just got very emotional with everything and rather than worried about how people would notice me, I just closed my eyes and let the tears flow. I wonder if anyone did notice me. Still I didn't really take a long time to pray, I think just enough to say my grace. Then I saw that they have the fortune telling thing in English, so I decided to try them out. It's rather different from the usual Chinese temple that I'm accustomed to. Like anything in Japan temples and shrines, you put in some offering first into the box. Then unlike in Chinese temples, there's no 2 wood pieces shaped like a crescent moon. Also the container for the fortune sticks is totally closed except for one small hole where the stick can fall. This is unlike in Chinese temple where the container is like a tube with one side totally open and the challenge was to get only 1 stick to fall. This Japanese one is reminiscence of the container Indonesian will make for arisan. Anyway, because the container was this way, I actually had a hard time to get a stick out that I was thinking I couldn't believe that I couldn't get this to work. A thought did came that I should just give up. I gave it one more try, totally putting the container up side down vertically and shaking it hard and finally a stick came out. I was so happy, you cannot believe it! One moment you wanted to give up, the next moment you make it work, that's real happiness right there. The stick has what I believe is the Japanese characters for numbers and you have to match the symbols with the drawers. I took me some time to make sure that I got the correct drawer. Go here to see the container and the drawers.

It turned out my number was 47. The reading said "REGULAR FORTUNE" however the explanation was really good. It's written "Though you always desire to make up your request immediately, even if it takes too long, don't worry about that." It kinda rang true to how I almost gave up in getting the stick out because I wanted it to come out immediately, so I do feel that I was being told to be patient. It's also written "Just like step over many mountains, after so many hard work, your request will come out fine. Treasures and wealth will be in your hand without any trouble" :) How great! It really made me feel so good inside :D Since it's such a good reading, I also kept the paper instead of tying it. From having tears coming out to having this good thing told to me, I felt at peace. So I stood awhile in the hall, absorbing the atmosphere with the so many people inside it.

Then I explored the compound. There are some Buddha statues, some little houses like bird houses for prayer as well, I assume. There's a pond with running stream and like all other ponds and lakes in Japanese Garden and such, there are big koi fish. There are also smaller rooms in the side of the compound with Buddha statues inside them, where you can pray and meditate I think. You have to take off your shoes when you want to enter them and no photography allowed. I entered one of them, there's a Buddha statue inside it and noone was around and I got to pray more and cried more. I myself cannot explain why I was being so emotional.

Sensoji temple is located in Asakusa, not so far away from Tokyo Sky tree. I was actually thinking of visiting it after though I had no intention of going up. However, with my growing headache and since I can already see it from Sensoji, I thought I would just skip it. Here you can see it on the left there and yeah there's also a pagoda too in Sensoji temple compound.

So then I decided to call it the day. By the way I also had the intention of visiting Tokyo tower although again I had no intention of going up there. In the end, I decided it's not important. I saw it a few times from the bus and I didn't think it's remarkably pretty being orange. It's inspired by the Eiffel Tower and since I'd been to the Eiffel Tower, I had no big urges to see Tokyo Tower. In fact, I have kinda lost any interest to go up somewhere high to see the view, unless it's a mountain. Hmm, I felt like I had typed that before. Sorry for repeating myself. Anyway so there you go, my so called last day in Tokyo. I went back to Shinjuku and straight away went for an early dinner. I thought my headache was because I was running low on sugar. Settled on Tonkatsu because I wanted to complete the trifecta :P Had one in Kyoto and Sapporo and we must complete the journey in Tokyo. When I put my spoon filled with chawanmushi into my mouth, it was a piece of heaven. I got all warm and fuzzy. I just love eggs so very much :P

For pictures of Tokyo, you can go here. The next day, I used the airport limousine bus service to get me to the airport. Had breakfast at Soup Stock Tokyo which I was quite curious about since from days before. Chose the one with green peas and an egg. Love it! Love this place too. I think because I just love soup :P This is kinda the last post about the trip. I'm thinking if I should write a reflection about the trip, about what I notice about me and about Japan. Maybe I'll do that if I'm not so lazy. Thank you for reading this far :D

:) eKa @ 9:57:00 PM •

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