Sightseeing with Jeff

Tokyo Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 9 › view all entries

Yes, even I can get tired of sightseeing!  So, after 9 straight days, I'm taking a day off to catch up with e-mail and travelogues.


So, where were we?  Ah, yes, we're up to last Saturday. Since it was Jeff's day off, he got to choose.


First, we headed to Senso-ji. Another shrine -- Buddhist. The guidebook calls it "Tokyo's only agreed-upon tourist attraction and its spiritual center". It was very busy on a Saturday, lots of visitors, most of them Japanese. One of the things that sets it apart, besides its size, is that it is preceded (by the most common route) by a major shopping arcade.


This is a covered arcade, several blocks long, with little stalls selling all manner of snacks, trinkets, souvenirs, geegaws, shoes, fabrics, etc. I love this sort of thing. It reminded me of the grand bazaar in Istanbul, but on a MUCH (much) smaller scale. There's such a bustle and vibrancy to a place like this. Everything is affordable because the competition is 6 feet away. :)


I found a little money bag that a friend of mine is looking for (I think). We also tried what I call a "bean bun". It's a small deep-fried pastry. Inside is sweetened bean paste.


Now, that may sound gross to you, bringing up visions of deep-fried 3-bean salad (which would sound pretty gross to me too) but this is quite good. The bean paste is almost the consistency of chocolate in a croissant (not quite so thin), sweetened (but not cloyingly) and very tasty. Sort of a Japanese version of a Boston cream doughnut.


I had a red bean one and Jeff had a green tea flavored one and we both really liked them. I'd go back for more in a minute. The bean paste filling is quite common in pastries here.


The temple enshrines a small golden statue of the goddess of mercy found by fisherman about 1500 years ago. There are several smaller temples and buildings around it and it was all quite lively and interesting. 


Afterwards, we headed to a place that has been on my list from the beginning -- the Taiko-kan (Drum museum).


Have you seen pictures of (or been to a performance of) the big drums from Japan?  Huge things, the biggest being as tall as a man. I went to a performance in DC back in March and really enjoyed it. The precision, cadence, and musicality of it really delighted me (and who knew drums could be "musical"?). (OK, *I* didn't know drums could be musical.)


This small museum (one small-ish room) is dedicated to drums in general. They have an impressive collection, especially for such a small space, of drums from every continent except Antarctica.


And, once again, no photos permitted. <sigh>  If these places are going to keep restricting photos, they REALLY need to get better with the postcards!


The cool part of this museum?  Unless the drums were marked otherwise, you could play any of them. Oh, yeah, that was fun! 


Probably my choice for "who would have thought of that" was one from...New GuineaIndonesia?  Anyways, its a hollow log, maybe 3 or 4 feet long. It's open on one end. You "drum" it by dunking it in and out of water. Each entry into the water apparently creates the "whomp" sound through the hollow core.


That sounds like a hell of a lot of work to drum to me. (There was no pond of water there, so I didn't get to test it).


For a small space, there was an impressive variety of drums from everywhere. Really, there's quite a lot of local variety on what drums are made from and how they are used. The Taiko (Japanese) drums had the best sound in my opinion. I could pound on those happily for a long time.


The gift shop downstairs had no postcards (dammit) but we could have bought a small drum home -- for about $8,000. Maybe I'll put it on my Christmas list. ;)


It was a hot day and after the drum museum, we headed over to the river to have a sit in the shade. Right across the river from us is a sculpture on top of a building known affectionately as "The Golden Turd" (officially known as the Asahi Flame). It's supposed to be a large flame, lying on its side. It does kind of look like a large golden...well, you know, lying on its side. Quite a sight in the bright sunshine.


We also needed to find an ATM. We found 4 or 5. All associated with major banks. None of which accepted our cards. They were not on the Cirrus or Plus network, which is what most American banks are on.


I had spotted a Citibank a day or two earlier when out shopping / people watching. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near where we were. But, it was the only sure option we had, so we headed back into the metro and across town. Fortunately, I remembered its location pretty well and it was right at the top of the escalator when we emerged from the metro. Success!


But the heat and my fatigue were definitely starting to get to me. As Jeff can well attest, when I'm tired and hungry, I am *not* a pleasant person. The day had also been intensely crowded, in part because we were visiting major attractions and in part because it was a Saturday. 


That pretty much guarantees a Kelly Meltdown. Jeff (who really should end up in the Husband Hall of Fame one day) recognizes the signs and got me to sit down and have a drink. Then we headed home, with the intent of changing clothes and resting before we headed out again for the evening.


To neither of our surprise, we ended up ordering sandwiches to be delivered (you can get chili dogs delivered!  What a fabulous country!) and went to bed early.


Because the next day we were off on a grand bus tour into the country. Which will be my next travelogue.


Till then, yours in Japanese exploration.



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photo by: maka77