Monday was Vernal Equinox Day (shunbun no hi), a national holiday in Japan. While the MYO musicians spent the day with their homestay families, the adult chaperones planned a day of sightseeing in Tokyo. But first, we had an unexpected side trip to Naruto and the ChibaPrefecture countryside. (The railway clerk told us the wrong platform number for the train. Perhaps she had mixed up English numbers.) When we arrived at the end of the line, we knew we were out in the country and not in Tokyo! We stayed on the train and waited for it to return to Chiba. We found the correct train and took it to Tokyo's Hamamatsucho Station.
At Hamamatsucho we booked an afternnon and an evening sightseeing tour. There was time to walk around the Shiba neighborhood in Tokyo's Minato-ku district and to have lunch before the afternoon sightseeing tour departed at .
Street in Minato-ku
We walked to ShibaPark, home to ZojojiTemple. ZojojiTemple, established on the present site in 1598, once marked the southern entry to Edo. Notable sights on the grounds were the Sangedatsumon (Main Gate) of 1612, theTempleBell, and Taiden or Main Hall (rebuilt in 1974 after damage in World War II). Notable too were the O-Jizou (Jizobotsatsu) statuary.
Our group had booked an afternoon Tokyo sightseeing tour via Hato Bus from the Hamamatsucho train/bus station. First stop was TokyoTower and a panoramic view of the city.
Statuary at Zojoji Temple
Next,we drove by National Diet Building or Parliament (1936), National Diet Library, and Tokyo Central Station (1914--a structure that survived the Kanto earthquake of 1926 and World War II bombings). The ImperialPalace was next. Unfortuantely, we did not get very close to NijubashiBridge to take the famous view of the ImperialPalace, seeing it only from afar. We did see the picturesque Shogun Gate, Police Gate, and Tsunami Gate. The next stop was Sensoji(AsakusaKannonTemple). This temple had also at one time marked another boundary of ancient Edo. Here we saw the Kaminari-mon (Outer Gate), Hozomon (Main Gate), Hondo (Main Hall), aPagoda, and temple garden. Like Zojoji, Sensoji was rebuilt after World War II. Also on the grounds was Asakusa Jinjya, a Shinto shrine dating from 1649.
The temple and grounds were mobbed for the holiday.
Outer Gate, Zojoji
A large incense burner was in the middle of the courtyard. Vendors lined the walk between the outer and inner temple gates. They have always been there--a postcard view I found dating from early in the 20th century prestents the scene much as it appears today. The guide explained the use of Omikuji (fortune paper slips). A worshipper makes an offering and then shakes a box until a stick falls out. The characters on the stick match those on a cubby. One then retrieves a fortune paper (Omikuji) from the cubby.The paper may have a good or bad fortune. The paper is then tied on a tree.
Nearby was an impressive statue of a 19th-centuy Kabuki actor 9th Danjuro Ichikawa. (The area behind Sensoji had once been a residence for Kabuki actors.) To conclude the tour, we drove by the Kabuki-Za Theatre (1889) and Ginza. Back at Hamamatsucho station in the late afternoon, we proceeded to embark on a Tokyo by Night tour. First, we drove over RainbowBridge to Odaiba, a man-made island reclaimed from TokyoBay.
Main Hall at Zojoji Temple
We enjoyed a Japanese dinner at Washington Hotel with a nighttime view of Tokyo. I selected the beef sukiyaki. It came with Miso soup, rice balls, and green tea. Them it was on to see the Statue of Liberty replica, Panasonic Centre, and Tokyo Big Site (a convention center), all on Odaiba.
We drove through the Ginza district, now fully illuminated enroute to the MoriTower at Roppongi Hills. The MoriTower also had an observation deck with a panoramic nighttime view of Tokyo. MoriTower display of detailed models of city planning in New York City, Tokyo, and Shanghai. The tour bus dropped us off at Shimbashi station at We caught a Sobu Line Rapid train back to Chiba, arriving at .