Aug 7, 2013

Sightseeing in the Capital! (Tokyo Part One)

Hachiko, the loyal dog.
This is Hachiko, a popular meeting point outside the Shibuya subway station. In the 1920s, Hachiko waited at the station everyday for his human to come home from work. One day his human died, but for nine years Hachiko continued to go to the station, waiting to greet him home.

When I heard the story of Hachiko years ago, I resolved to meet him one day. During my long weekend trip to Tokyo, he was the first thing I sought out. I took this photo of Hachiko, omitting the surrounding benches filled with smokers and resting tourists. How many of them knew the dog's story? How much of life do we live, seeing things with our eyes but lacking understanding because we don't know the back-story, the context, of the world around us?

That's what really makes a place special - the story behind it. Suddenly this statue of a dog has an emotional connection and you can view him as a symbol of faithfulness and love, rather than just another sculpture. People ask me why I became interested in Japan - I fell in love with their stories.
You turn a corner, and suddenly you're in Europe.
Walking down a random alley early in the morning, I happened upon this French restaurant. I wonder why the Japanese are particularly attracted to French culture? This spot looks really charming, though the restaurant wasn't open. I had a hard time finding anything that was open before 11am. Can you imagine if New York were like that?
Meiji Jingu - a Shinto shrine dedicated to the former Emperor Meiji.
One of the great highlights of the trip was walking through the great Meiji Jingu with a friend from the Paris American Academy (thank you so much!). We also toured the shrine's museum of Emperor Meiji's reign. It was raining throughout the day, and the air smelled cool and fresh. Walking along the grounds' quiet forest paths, you'd never guess you were in downtown Tokyo.
Care for some sake?
Before you reach the Meiji shrine, there are rows and rows of sake offerings lining the walkway. These huge barrels of alcohol are donated by successful companies as a token of thankfulness and wishes for continued prosperity. The colorful designs and kanji (Chinese characters) are company logos.
Tokyo SkyTree
Tokyo SkyTree is a broadcasting and observation tower completed in 2012. It was created to replace Tokyo Tower (an imitation of the Eiffel Tower) which has been surrounded by high-rise buildings that block its broadcasting signals. People take timed tickets to go inside SkyTree, and the queue is hours long. I was satisfied to see it from the outside and move on.
Totoro and Mei from the movie となりのトトロ (My Neighbor Totoro).
In the mall surrounding Tokyo SkyTree is a Ghibli store. Ghibli is an animation studio famous for director Hayao Miyazaki, the "Walt Disney of Japan." Watching Miyazaki movies was a major inspiration for me to become interested in Japan. Totoro, the friendly forest spirit, was introduced to the world in 1988 and still enjoys fervent popularity. The cat-bus below is from the same movie.
Reading a book about Ghibli movies while the cat-bus watches benevolently.

Part one of a four part series!
Part Two: Senso-ji, Tokyo's Oldest Temple
Part Three: Akihabara, AKA Nerd Heaven
Part Four: Odaiba, the Island of "Gundam"


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