AsiaJapanTokyo

Tokyo, temple, museum and palace

Tokyo Travel Blog

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The old fashioned key we have for the hotel
We had our Japan rail pass starting today so we decided to travel mostly by rail and only take the subway when necessary. The fine food market in Shimbashi station was not open when we were ready for breakfast, so we took the altenative, a bakery in the train station. We ordered some croissants and other breads without English names, and Kevin got his coffee at a Starbucks nearby. Of course Starbucks is a known quality, but the breads from the random bakery was also pretty good, the croissants were definitely crisp and light and better than many in the US.

Tomorrow we had to make our way outside of Tokyo with several train transfers, so we wanted to be sure we were prepared.
Japan Rail Pass and some Japanese money
We went to the Tokyo station (one hop on the loop line) and scouted out where the bullet train we would take tomorrow would be. We also went to the JR ticket office and got the reserved seats for the tains all the way to Hiroshima. I had used this web site to plan our train routes and had printed out all the trains, transfers and times, so the ticket agent was able to get all our tickets. It was good that he didn't say we couldn't go from A to B because this route did not exist!

After taking care of our train tickets and have confidence that we would find our way tomorrow, we set out for our touring by train. There were definitely a lot more commuters today, more in line of what I expected.
Seeing our first bullet train while scouting out our train transfer for tomorrow (at Tokyo station)
It's good that no trains were packed lke sardines as I had seen in some articles about commuting in Japan.  

The first stop of the day was the Senso-ji temple near the  Asakusa station (subway), so after getting to Ueno station by train, we had to get a subway ticket. By now we were able to figure out how to buy a subway ticket. We emgerged from the subway at the Kaminarimon Gate (thunder gate with a huge lantern over the entrance. Through the gate was this shopping arcade leading to the Senso-ji Temple. The shopping arcade was full of people going in both directions. Fake cherry blossom branches hung overhead from both sides.
The funny sculpture on the top of a building as we exited the train station at Ueno
Stores here sold lots of “life-shape” or “people-shape” cookies (except you had to use your imagination as they don't really looked like people, and I am translating the words directly into Chinese, which may not be correct either) They were doughy things poured from a batter into these small black iron molds which holds 4 of theem at a time, then stuffed with red bean paste, and then the more batter on top, then they were baked. A few minutes later, they were done and out came these various shaped things. The cook then scrub the mold clean and the process started over. You can see them being made all along the street.

Of course there were tons of souvenir shops selling other goodies, At the end of the street we saw the painted descriptive hisstory of the temple. This is supposed to be the most sacred and best temple.
Look down a shopping arcade near the Senso-je Temple
Two fishermen were shown fishing out a small golden statue of Kannon, the Japanese name of the buddhist goddess of mercy (Chinese name is Kuan-Yin, Indian name is Avalokatashervara (??sp)) in 628 AD from the Sumida River, the eastern boundry of Tokyo. Then their master built a shrine to house the statue. Bigger temple was built in 645 AD, as it got more famous, land was given to house bigger temple over time. The temple's main building was rebuilt after being destroyed in WWII.

A statue of a half seated buddha Nade Botokesan was the first one we saw, on the left side before going into the main building. Its surface was shiny and smooth by the rubbings of workshippers looking for good luck and healing. Then we went into a bigger gate, this one Hozo-mon Gate, three huge lanterns hung overhead! On the back side of the gate were a pair of huge straw sandals, one on each side.
THe outer gate to the Senso-ji temple.
I don't know the story of them, but they were impressive looking!

A  huge incense burner in front of the main temple was obviously a key attraction as people continously put burning fat incense into it and stood wafting the smoke to their noses. To the right of the main temple, was another popular attraction, a statue stood over a water basin rimmed with dragon head shaped spouts, people did a ritual of getting water from a ladle and rinsing their hands and touching their faces with the water. There was even a sign depicting what you should do, it was in Japanese of course, but we sort of figured it out by looking at the cartoonish looking man doing this ritual.

Into the main temple, where the kannon statue was not really visible from the distance people were allowed.
rickshaw drivers waiting for customers at the entry of Senso-ji Temple
But people would throw money into this grated box (so the money would fall through the slots, a good idea, since seeing the money was probably not very proper), prayers were offered. And you can also ask for a fortune teling from numbered boxxes to the side. People shake a can with numbered sticks, and out come a number, and you open the box with the number to see what it said about your fortune. A very busy temple with lots going on.

The temple garden has the only surviving structure from the 15th or 16th century, a hexagonal shaped wooden structure, not very big to the left of the main temple. huge five story pagoda is a replica, and it towered over the garden. I managed to find a few cherry blossoms and had to pretend there were all over the place. We were probably 10 days away from the real spectacular viewing of cherry blossoms in Tokyo, oh well.
The real big lantern hanging from the outer entrance gate of Senso-ji temple



After the Senso-ji temple, we headed back on the subway to the Ueno station, and looked for a restaurant to have lunch. We found a small restaurant across from the station, on the 2nd floor, and was probably directly under some tracks. It was a small noodle place, and we had a big bowl of noodles, some tempura for 1000 yen each. It was simple and tasty enough. They did have a guy who spoke English to take our order, even though pointing at the photo on the menu would have worked just fine. Normal everyday people seem to be its patrons, and that's exactly what we were looking for. Every time the train went by, the restaurant shook, a different ambience from last night's flowing river theme!

Armed with full stomachs, we headed into Ueno Park, and it was a BIG park.
The status to the right of the main gate at Senso-ji temple
We saw perhaps a fifth of it. Including the Kiyo-misu Hall, part of the original Kanei-ji temple, dated from 1631 and dedicated to Kannon, this version with a 1000 arms. Another version of Kannon was the one of conception, holding a baby. The Japanese versions of Kannon like Chinese ones were in female forms, even though it was origuinally a male form in India, and in Tibet.

We walked down the main walkway of the Ueno Park, lined with cherry trees with tiny buds now, and boy would it be beautiful looking when they cherry blossoms were in full bloom! We headed to the Tokyo National Museum, tickets were 600 yen each. We took a quick look in the main building, saw many buddhist sculptures, some were not of Japanese orgin, but from China, and elsewhere in Asia. The japanese warrior costume made of bear skins were pretty imposing looking.
Just to show the scale of that big lantern!
Imagine running into one of those in a dark alley! Kimonos were beautiful too. But a visit to the restroom was something you should not miss if you visit. Heated toilet seats and fully automated operation were even fancier than the one we had in the hotel.

That was a lot of wallking in the park and we found the nearest train station and hopped on the loop line to the Akihabara station for the Electronic Town. On the street outside the station we saw a drunken guy sitting in the middle of the street holding a bottle, and here were the first sort-of crazy driving we saw in Tokyo, so this guy was lucky not to be run over. We didn't want to buy anything but just wanted to have a look at this district where electronics from ipods to computers were sold. There were even stores dedicated to customers from China, with signs welcoming Chinese customers.
Women wearing Japanese clothing on the street in front of the temple



We walked down the main walkway of the Ueno Park, lined with cherry trees with tiny buds now, and boy would it be beautiful looking when they cherry blossoms were in full bloom! We headed to the Tokyo National Museum, tickets were 600 yen each. We took a quick look in the main building, saw many buddhist sculptures, some were not of Japanese orgin, but from China, and elsewhere in Asia. The japanese warrior costume made of bear skins were pretty imposing looking. Imagine running into one of those in a dark alley! Kimonos were beautiful too. But a visit to the restroom was something you should not miss if you visit. Heated toilet seats and fully automated operation were even fancier than the one we had in the hotel.

That was a lot of wallking in the park and we found the nearest train station and hopped on the loop line to the Akihabara station for the Electronic Town.
masked lady with a dog on the street in front of the temple
On the street outside the station we saw a drunken guy sitting in the middle of the street holding a bottle, and here were the first sort-of crazy driving we saw in Tokyo, so this guy was lucky not to be run over. We didn't want to buy anything but just wanted to have a look at this district where electronics from ipods to computers were sold. There were even stores dedicated to customers from China, with signs welcoming Chinese customers.

Although we had a lot of walking already, this was our last chance to get a glimpse of the Imperial Palace, so we hopped back on the train one more time and got out at Tokyo station. We walked west toward the palace, and here were some of the most concentrated collection of buildings we saw least Tokyo-like, walking here is no different from anywhere in a moderrn western city or a corner of Shanghai.
Once into the outer gate, you are greeted with this row of shops down toward the main temple. It was full of people, and fake cherry blossoms hanging from both sides.
I am sure the Japanese were very proud of these buildings too. We soon encountered the moat of the Imperial Palace and some Japanese style guard buildings overlooking the moat. So looking west you see Japan's old, and looking east, you see the new. The Imperial Palace is still where the emperor of Japan resides, and the grounds is not open to the public except for two days a year. We walked along the moat and the largest parking lot I have ever seen. OK, maybe it's not really a parking lot, but it was paved, A lot of pine trees were in the park area separating the concrete from the wall of the Palace. We walked along until we saw the most famous Nijubashi, a double arched stone bridge east of the palace. This area is apparently a popular spot for joggers, since it had no car traffic and was BIG! we walked all the way back to the hotel and were able to rest our tired feet for an hour before we headed out to look for dinner.
A smaller incense burner near the main temple of Senso-ji temple


We struck out at the first 3 restaurants we went into, no tables were available. The hotel restaurants were pretty expensive, so we kept circling the hotel, and eventually found a restaurant in the basement about a block away. We were seated at the bar, as long as we got food, that was OK. The lady spoke to me in Japanese, and I had to tell her I am Chinese, and didn't speak Japanese. But she spoke English! we ordered among other things, a whole fish (not too big) cooked on open flame was good. We were treated with a special homemade yogurt from the mamasan, very tasty, and when we left, she also gave us a gift of packaged toothpicks in paper oragami. This restaurant had more than 500 books in the entrance with names of highschools in Japan. We asked the lady and she said she started 20 years ago collecting signatures and written comments from customers and these books were ordered by the highschools they attended.
wishes granted board at Senso-ji temple site, small temple to the left of the main hall



tommylennie says:
Great blog! :)
Posted on: Aug 10, 2009
Wendyveer says:
congrats with being featured, looks great!
Posted on: Mar 24, 2008
the_bloodsucker says:
Thanks, Portia! Will look forward to that! =D
Posted on: Mar 21, 2008
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The old fashioned key we have for …
The old fashioned key we have for…
Japan Rail Pass and some Japanese …
Japan Rail Pass and some Japanese…
Seeing our first bullet train whil…
Seeing our first bullet train whi…
The funny sculpture on the top of …
The funny sculpture on the top of…
Look down a shopping arcade near t…
Look down a shopping arcade near …
THe outer gate to the Senso-ji tem…
THe outer gate to the Senso-ji te…
rickshaw drivers waiting for custo…
rickshaw drivers waiting for cust…
The real big lantern hanging from …
The real big lantern hanging from…
The status to the right of the mai…
The status to the right of the ma…
Just to show the scale of that big…
Just to show the scale of that bi…
Women wearing Japanese clothing on…
Women wearing Japanese clothing o…
masked lady with a dog on the stre…
masked lady with a dog on the str…
Once into the outer gate, you are …
Once into the outer gate, you are…
A smaller incense burner near the …
A smaller incense burner near the…
wishes granted board at Senso-ji t…
wishes granted board at Senso-ji …
Nade Botokesan buddha being rubbed…
Nade Botokesan buddha being rubbe…
touching the buddha for good luck
touching the buddha for good luck
the lantern hanging in Hozo-mon Ga…
the lantern hanging in Hozo-mon G…
closer view of the lantern(?) hang…
closer view of the lantern(?) han…
the gate in front of the main temp…
the gate in front of the main tem…
the huge sandal at the back side o…
the huge sandal at the back side …
view of the 5 tiered pagoda from t…
view of the 5 tiered pagoda from …
another view in the garden
another view in the garden
worshipers getting a whiff of the …
worshipers getting a whiff of the…
helping the smoke/smell to go her …
helping the smoke/smell to go her…
burning the incense and taking in …
burning the incense and taking in…
getting their hands purified
getting their hands purified
everybody lined up to do it
everybody lined up to do it
Sign above the sacred water distri…
Sign above the sacred water distr…
approaching the main temple
approaching the main temple
The bell at the Kiyo-misu hall at …
The bell at the Kiyo-misu hall at…
worshipers getting their fortune t…
worshipers getting their fortune …
praying at the main temple in fron…
praying at the main temple in fro…
5 tiered pagoda
5 tiered pagoda
Somewhere in here is the original …
Somewhere in here is the original…
map of the garden area, Senso-ji T…
map of the garden area, Senso-ji …
roof of a side building next to th…
roof of a side building next to t…
Koi fish in the garden pond, Senso…
Koi fish in the garden pond, Sens…
garden of the temple
garden of the temple
The original hexagon building rema…
The original hexagon building rem…
The clouds statue at the garden …
The "clouds statue" at the garden…
At least this cherry tree was blos…
At least this cherry tree was blo…
a vendor on the street leading to …
a vendor on the street leading to…
store in front of the temple
store in front of the temple
The small restaurant near Ueno sta…
The small restaurant near Ueno st…
The 1000 yen lunch consisted of te…
The 1000 yen lunch consisted of t…
The main walkway at Ueno Park lead…
The main walkway at Ueno Park lea…
Sign leading to the shrine of the …
Sign leading to the shrine of the…
The red torris leading to the Goj…
The red torri's leading to the Go…
The Inari fox god with a red apron
The Inari fox god with a red apron
The money collection box in front …
The money collection box in front…
The front of the shrine of the Ina…
The front of the shrine of the In…
A sign on a building near the Inar…
A sign on a building near the Ina…
Another view of the Inari Gojo shr…
Another view of the Inari Gojo sh…
Going up the stairs from the shrin…
Going up the stairs from the shri…
At the great buddhist pagoda Ueno …
At the great buddhist pagoda Ueno…
The only remaining part (head) of …
The only remaining part (head) of…
A closed door at the pagoda
A closed door at the pagoda
wishes granted tablets at the pago…
wishes granted tablets at the pag…
A running water basin at the pagod…
A running water basin at the pago…
Cherry blossoms not yet ready in U…
Cherry blossoms not yet ready in …
The Tokyo National Museum, the bui…
The Tokyo National Museum, the bu…
Entry to the main building of Toky…
Entry to the main building of Tok…
The control for the toilet in the …
The control for the toilet in the…
A rare sight I believe, a drunken …
A rare sight I believe, a drunken…
street of electronics town in to…
street of "electronics town" in t…
approaching the main temple, the i…
approaching the main temple, the …
View of Tokyo Station, as we walke…
View of Tokyo Station, as we walk…
The customizable skin for the Sony…
The customizable skin for the Son…
A corner of the Palace near the mo…
A corner of the Palace near the m…
Ginza buildings reflected in the m…
Ginza buildings reflected in the …
some water fowl in the moat
some water fowl in the moat
reflections in the water
reflections in the water
and there were ducks in the moat
and there were ducks in the moat
Tokyo night near the moat
Tokyo night near the moat
another night view near the moat a…
another night view near the moat …
the Peninsula Hotel Tokyo
the Peninsula Hotel Tokyo
The entry sign to the restaurant i…
The entry sign to the restaurant …
The mamasan and I, with the sign b…
The mamasan and I, with the sign …
Kevin and I at the door of the res…
Kevin and I at the door of the re…
tickets to the Tokyo National Muse…
tickets to the Tokyo National Mus…
Tokyo
photo by: maka77