Wednesday 27 August 2008

Day 8 - Asakusa and the Temple

We actually got up early today, a first, before 10am in fact. Our plan to get the washing done before our little trip away tomorrow. The hotel provide a washer and dryer, so armed with detergent and softener we freshened up our clothes.

We took the metro to the Imperial Palace. It's only open to the public twice a year and is the active home to the Japanese Emperor. The East Gardens are open to the public, so we took a nice stroll around it. There are many gardens on the estate, all modelled on different Japanese styles. All very green but the heat out was unbearable. Today was the first day since day one that it didn't rain. It was hot.

We decided to continue the cultural theme to the day as we headed out to Asakusa, famed for it's massive Buddhist Temple. This area used to be the entertainment centre of Tokyo but has since been replaced by the upmarket and high rise west Tokyo districts of Shubuyi and Shinjuku.

Before entering the temple, you face a maze of stalls called the Nakamise-dori, of particular delight are the many food stalls selling pastries. The temple itself, called the Senso-ji is one of the sacred and spectacular of its kind in Japan. The shrine itself dates back to AD628! This was our first time in a Buddhist temple, so it was a case of follow the leader. No where appeared to be off limits as we explored the courtyards and main hall. A massive incense Burner sits in the middle of the temple and is the main focus of activity.

It's possible to purchase a fortune, you pay ¥100, randomly draw a numbered stick from a metal jar, match it to a drawer, open to reveal your fortune. Vinnie got a very good luck one, I on the other hand didn't. I tore it up and did my again. I've since learned that if you get bad luck you've to tie the fortune up on stings provided; the monks gather all of these nightly and pray against the bad fortune. Do I believe in Eastern religions and superstition. Not really!

We dined in a nearby noodle bar, helped in translation by a local. The noodles and dumplings where first rate. Two mains and two sides cost us a combined €9! So little for so much food.

Right outside the restaurant is Hanayashiki amusement park, this is old and full of rickety rides. Chancing my new found luck I tried out the roller-coaster. It was fun, short, but full of steep drops. It cost ¥900 admission and didn't include rides. We felt this was steep as we only stayed for 30mins and went on one ride costing a further ¥400.

This evening we made our way to Tokyo station to reserve seats on trains for our national adventure kicking off tomorrow. We've purchased a weeks national rail travel in the form of a JR pass before coming to Japan. This entitles us to unlimited train travel on bullet and all JR trains for 7 days. Our itinerary looks likes this:

* Thursday - Hiroshima
* Friday - Kyoto
* Saturday - Osaka

We are basing ourselves in Osaka. I've used my priory reward nights to claim two free night in the Crowne Plaza in Osaka!

We drank to the evening and holiday by having a drink in one of our two local Irish Bars, this is sharing the same name as Vinnie, Finn McCools. When they found this our we got free shots on the house! nice!

We're off to bed early as we've to catch the train at 8am!

No comments: