AsiaJapanTokyo

Parliament, Shrines, Crossings, Beer and Hounds

Tokyo Travel Blog

 › entry 7 of 15 › view all entries
Sotobori-dori in south-west-central Tokyo

The next day, after we finally staggered out of bed, we hit the town again for our last full day in Tokyo before we headed south.  Our plan was to start at the Diet Building, maybe get a tour of the Japanese parliament before heading off to the Beer Museum in Ebisu for, well, some 'culture' of a different kind.  Well, that was the plan; all the best laid and all that...

After a bit of getting lost in the sweltering heat of the Japanese summer we homed in on the Diet building; a very imposing, slightly boxy structure.  As we managed to approach it from the back, we had to climb a reasonably steep hill that ran up the side.

 The heat was intense.  To try and get some relief I sought refuge under my friends black, businessman umbrella; (mindful that if I wasn't careful I'd turn to ash as vampires do - unless their from that annoying Twilight saga thing...) looking a total pillock as I did so.  finally, after what seemed like hours of trudging we reached the front door, only to be turned away by an officious, but polite Japanese policeman as it was... closed.  Sigh.

Plan one down the tubes, we improvised.  We headed to the Shinto Hie shrine, a very stunning complex of buildings on top of a hill.  The path up is lined with hundreds of Torii gates and trees; increasing the slightly mystic almost surreal feeling of going to another world.

The thing I love about the shrines in Tokyo (and all of Japan), is that while their look positively ancient in places they're used almost continually.

The National Diet Building (Japan's Parliament). We toyed with the idea of touring it, but we decided not to.
 People stop by on the way to and from work, in breaks, while shopping and pay their respects.  Unlike the churches I know from home (which are nearly always empty apart from tourists unless it's a Sunday, wedding or service), these seem to be in constant use.  The contrast of high-rise-sky-scraping-bum washing-technological-marvel that is modern Japan is married to these simple, reverential and peaceful places.  I think that's one of the reasons why we went to so many.

Sitting under a tree, looking at the large lanterns and coloured Torii gates; chugging down as much liquid as my bladder would allow was very pleasant.  Alas, deep meditation had to wait; there were sights to see and a bladder to empty...

From the peace of Hie, we moved on to Yasukuni Shrine.

 This is a large (huge) Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Japanese soldiers who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor.  It has enshrined over two million names of soldiers; including those from World War II, making it a tad controversial to say the least...

The Torii leading in to the shrine is a sight to behold.  It's twenty-five metres tall, and over thirty wide.  It straddles the path making those entering the shrine feeling suitably small and insignificant.  Once inside their is a long path leading to the Honden, where the kami or spirits of dead are housed.  Along the tree lined path their are numerous little memorials - some of which are very touching.

The Honden itself is understated - which, depending on your view - seems suitable for a memorial and home to dead spirits.

The Hie Shrine
 We stood together, watching the hordes of Japanese tourists paying their respects and thought about the ridiculous nature of conflict.  This thought was depressing, so we left, with the hope of more cheerful things to come.

We skirted the imposing walls of the imperial palace, surrounded by the green river of algae and multitude of colourful dragonflies and birds before jumping on the metro across town to Ebisu, home of the promised beer museum.  The logic was such: if there is a museum to beer, there must be beer.  Simple.

Energised by the air-con in the subway, and the promise of a tall foamy one we leapt into action in Ebisu.  We headed across the long covered walkway with a purpose; striding forward and bowling unwary Japanese to one side.

The main entrance to the Hie Shrine
 We headed down into the covered arcade and marched towards the door of the museum.  "Sorry, we are closed on Mondays."  I think an epithet or two may have tumbled unbidden from my lips.

To any passer-by we must have looked pretty desperate, slumped on the path looking mournfully at the door to the promised land cruelly slammed shut in our faces.

"I told you we should have come yesterday," someone remonstrated.

"It doesn't say it shuts on Monday in the book... wait, yes it does."

Two synchronised sighs.

However, we weren't to be defeated by the vagueries of the Japanese opening hours.  After a whistle stop tour of the area (i.e. walking off in the hope of finding beer before getting lost and ending up back where we started) we found ourselves at the aptly named Beer Station.

Inside the shrine, the many lanterns all beautifully decorated
 Here, much imbibing occurred.

Suitably pickled, we consulted the LP again for something to while away the evening with.  We poured over pages, whilst simultaneously pouring more beer into our gullets.  "Aha!" My companion cried, "here's something... shrine... to a dog!  Of all things..."  He'd said enough.  Off we raced.

Our destination turned out to be Shibuya.  We got off the subway in what seemed to be another underground city.  Reasoning, correctly despite inebriation, that the shrine was likely to be outside, we headed up the nearest flight of stairs marked exit.  Sadly, this led us into a very tall, but very thin mall.  Not only that, but smack in the middle of the women's underwear section.

The Hie Shrine
 There was not a man in sight.  Realising we could look like a couple of foreign perverts we mounted the nearest escalator to escape the brasseries before any scandal could occur.  We headed up, and up, and up.  Finally, we conceded we had to gown down again - and ended up in another floor of bras.  Was that all this store sold?  We repeated the process several times, before finally (and accidentally) we ended up in a stairwell that led us out of danger.

Outside, Shibuya crossing presented itself in all its neon glory.  Huge signs lit up the night; hordes of people scurried too and fro, or stood patiently waiting for the lights to halt the streams of traffic.  Music blared from a large TV on the corner of a building.  It was mental.

A couple of banners

"Right," my mate said, undaunted.  "Dog - this way!"  He strode off into the mass.  I followed.  we went round.  And round.  And round a bit more.

"I think this is where we started," I said timorously.

"Do you?  Damn, I thought so too.  Well, lets try again.  This way!"  We proceeded off in the same direction. 

This process continued just long enough to be reminiscent of the film Groundhog Day, until, completely by accident we found the statue.  The problem turned out to be we were looking for something huge, possibly neon and flashing.  Hachiko, the dog in question was rather smaller.  He was honoured for turning up to the station to wait for his master every day for ten years to wait for his master.

Torii gates lining the steps to the shrine
 Now, he is a meeting place for Japanese people about to attack the delights of the Shibuya area.  Photo grabbed we went for a wander - boggling at the many love hotels, arcades, karaoke bars and shops.

Suddenly we stumbled on an Irish pub.  Japanese Guinness?  Worth a try surely?  Many beers later we stumbled back onto the subway to Ginza.  It was Kyoto the next day.

andytite says:
In the private collection? : )
Posted on: Jan 07, 2011
jethanad says:
very nice pics, enjoyed reading. Bras, bras bras, there ought to be bras , where are those pictures ?
Posted on: Jan 07, 2011
andytite says:
Thanks very much, very generous praise!
Posted on: Aug 04, 2010
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Sotobori-dori in south-west-centra…
Sotobori-dori in south-west-centr…
The National Diet Building (Japan…
The National Diet Building (Japan…
The Hie Shrine
The Hie Shrine
The main entrance to the Hie Shrine
The main entrance to the Hie Shrine
Inside the shrine, the many lanter…
Inside the shrine, the many lante…
The Hie Shrine
The Hie Shrine
A couple of banners
A couple of banners
Torii gates lining the steps to th…
Torii gates lining the steps to t…
The Yasukuni Shrine. This is the b…
The Yasukuni Shrine. This is the …
The huge torii at the entrance to …
The huge torii at the entrance to…
A memorial
A memorial
A, slightly different style of mem…
A, slightly different style of me…
Another memorial - this one was ve…
Another memorial - this one was v…
The Honden, which is where the ens…
The Honden, which is where the en…
Ebisu in south Tokyo.  We came her…
Ebisu in south Tokyo. We came he…
The covered arcade in Ebisu
The covered arcade in Ebisu
Shibuya crossing - one of the icon…
Shibuya crossing - one of the ico…
Its very busy, very bright and ve…
It's very busy, very bright and v…
Success, and the point of the trip…
Success, and the point of the tri…
Some services offered by the local…
Some services offered by the loca…
very small pet shop
very small pet shop
Neon-ness
Neon-ness
Wait - does that place serve Guinn…
Wait - does that place serve Guin…
View from bar
View from bar
Me - sceptical about the upcoming …
Me - sceptical about the upcoming…
Mark, proving beer = good
Mark, proving beer = good
Tokyo
photo by: maka77