blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Getting our bearings in Tokyo

On the Metro
"Ohayoo gozaimasu!" they kept saying around the hotel and in the street, with a bow to us; I guessed that meant "Good morning!" and so it did.

Two Buddhas offering wisdom and mercy at Sunsoji Temple
Today we began to master the Tokyo Metro system by taking two trains to Asakusa so that we could take a look at the Sensouji Temple gardens near that station. The ticket machines require some previous study  if you want to use them with confidence, but I was lucky enough to find a metro man in uniform to help me on my first attempt. You can also select a display in English on their screens and can buy two tickets at once, which saves time if there are two of you. If you make a mistake with the fare selection it doesn't matter as long as you realise that you can pay the difference in your fare at the end of the journey at a Fare Adjustment machine (look out for it; it's yellow). There are PASMO cards available, like the London Oyster cards; I haven't bought one yet. If you don't have one of these, covering all the networks, you may have to cross from one network to the other (Lines A, I, S and E are in another system from the others) and pay for a separate ticket as you change over, which is a nuisance. Anyhow, we had plenty of time to spare today and one another for mutual comfort in the face of adversity. Every station we walked through today was spotlessly clean, with artwork on display; Suitengumai has travellators on a slope as well as escalators.

We paid attention to the advice given in English: "Be careful of the door! ... Mind your steps!"

Many visitors at the Sensoji Temple
The Sensoji Temple had a main hall where the Buddhist faithful were queuing politely to offer their prayers and throw coins into a large coin receptacle in front of the screen that protected the Buddhas. Some stopped on the way to waft incense smoke onto their clothes, by flapping their hands in the smoke from the incense burners. It was highly reminiscent of our temple experiences in China. In the gardens were stone Buddhas and other statues, one labelled the Shibaraku Statue, that Chris thought would be an apt symbol for the RIM employees' "Be bold!" campaign in Canada. It was of the 9th Danjura Ichikawa, a 19th century Kabuki actor, "depicting Shibaraku, his forte" -- the role of a fierce warrior wielding a sword. Another sight to remember was the pair of giant straw sandals, O-Waraji, at the temple gate, that symbolised the power of Ni-on. "Wishing for being goodwalkers, many people will touch this," the notice in English explained. On the other side of the gate stood a pair of muscular, far larger than life Deva Kings painted red, the one with "opened mouth style" showing all his teeth in a snarl. The other was a "closed mouth" one.

After a walk down the line of outdoor hut-shops, ever so like the Christmas markets in Munich and Stuttgart that I remember from recently, except that they sold Japanese ware (of quite good quality), we had a disastrous lunch at a nearby Starbucks, disastrous for Chris at least who took one look at his chicken sandwich and couldn't face it, containing melted cheese, gravy and cabbage. I ate all of mine and most of his. I was hungry and drank some green tea with it. Chris did manage to consume a carton of orange juice and a cinnamon bun there. Later, on the river boat, I had a large cup of iced oolong tea as well.
Buskers at the river cruise departure point

Bridges across the Sumida River
We bought return tickets for the river cruise from Asakusa to the Hinode pier some 16 bridges further downstream on the Sumidagawa (gawa means river, I assume). The next bridge would have been the last one (the Rainbow Bridge) before the river reached Tokyo Bay and its container port. I won't describe the cruise in detail here. I enjoyed it so much I may do it again before the week is out.

"Rainbow" Bridge with the port of Tokyo beyond
A street in the touristy Asakusa district 

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