Day 8 (December 28th, 2014)

After break­fast a new guide picked us up and drove us through Tokyo. The city is huge, we were on the road all day and still in the city area. The dai­ly sched­ule was very extensive.

First we went to “Sen­sō-ji”, an Asakusa shrine (Bud­dhist tem­ple). It is Tokyo’s old­est and most impor­tant tem­ple. At the entrance, a huge lantern hangs in the arch­way, behind it are rows of shops and at the end the shrine. You can buy all kinds of good luck charms there.

Next to the tem­ple is anoth­er five-storey pago­da. Japan­ese pago­das (tō) are con­sid­ered to be an image of Buddha’s bur­ial place. Almost all Japan­ese pago­das con­sist of either three (san­jū-tō) or five (gojū-tō) floors. They have a square ground plan and nar­row a lit­tle with increas­ing height.

They rep­re­sent the old­est type of pago­da in Japan, which was adopt­ed by Chi­na and Korea in the sixth and sev­enth cen­turies. Since that time the mul­ti-storey pago­das have hard­ly changed at all. In Chi­na and Korea, on the oth­er hand, they have now been almost com­plete­ly replaced by stone tow­ers of dif­fer­ent styles. This is part­ly due to the fact that the tra­di­tion­al tim­ber con­struc­tion method in Japan has fun­da­men­tal­ly changed less than in Chi­na, but also to the fact that the struc­ture of the pago­das has proved to be par­tic­u­lar­ly sta­ble against earth­quakes. This is why pago­das are par­tic­u­lar­ly com­mon among the old­est wood­en build­ings in Japan.

One of the secrets of resis­tance to earth­quakes lies in the cen­tral pil­lar, which in most pago­das is not firm­ly anchored in the ground but, so to speak, begins to float freely at some dis­tance from the ground. The pago­da there­fore rests on sev­er­al sym­met­ri­cal­ly dis­trib­uted columns and can even be moved a lit­tle if necessary.

The indi­vid­ual poles of a pago­da are - as in oth­er tra­di­tion­al wood­en build­ings in Japan - not nailed, but rather plugged into each oth­er and wedged, which allows a cer­tain degree of mobil­i­ty and slows down vibra­tions with­in the build­ing. In addi­tion, an earth­quake cre­ates a vibra­tion pat­tern that absorbs the shocks because each “floor” moves in an oppo­site direc­tion. This phe­nom­e­non is known in tech­ni­cal jar­gon as the “snake dance” of pagodas.

The next des­ti­na­tion was a Kabu­ki the­atre, which we viewed from out­side. Kabu­ki is the tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese the­atre of the bour­geoisie from the Edo peri­od and con­sists of singing, pan­tomime and dance, with white paint­ed faces and costumes.

We were also only able to see the Sumo the­atre from the out­side, wrestling scenes were paint­ed on it.

After­wards we drove by the impe­r­i­al palace, which is hid­den behind high trees on a huge island in the mid­dle of Tokyo. Only the guard hous­es at the cor­ners (which can almost pass as a small palace in its own right) are visible.

Guard­house of the impe­r­i­al palace in Tokyo

Our guide told us, that the path around the water moat is a very pop­u­lar about 5km long jog­ging route.

Our lunch - no vanil­la pud­ding again…

After a tasty lunch with sashi­mi we went straight on to the Aki­habara quar­ter. This is a loud and hip tech­ni­cal dis­trict with bright adver­tis­ing signs, cos play­ers, man­ga shops and many tech­ni­cal shops where you can buy all kinds of tech­ni­cal equip­ment. A mec­ca for nerds. You don’t have to like it, but you should have seen it.

Then we drove through the Gin­za quar­ter. Once again it was very dif­fer­ent with chic shops and expen­sive brands like Chanel, Pra­da, Louis Vuit­ton etc. The girls found that much more interesting 😉

Fur­ther we went to the shrine for war vic­tims, the “Yasuku­ni-jun­ja”. Because war crim­i­nals are also buried there, this shrine is quite con­tro­ver­sial in Tokyo. A sim­ple arch­way leads to the small temple.

From there we drove on to Shibuya. The com­mer­cial cen­ter of Shibuya with numer­ous shops and offices is locat­ed around Shibuya sta­tion. In front of the sta­tion is the stat­ue of the “faith­ful dog” Hachikō, one of the most famous meet­ing places for dat­ing in Japan.

In Shibuya we stopped briefly at the famous “all go” cross­roads. This has a spe­cial traf­fic light sys­tem where all pedes­tri­an lights turn green at the same time and at evening-peak times up to 15,000 peo­ple cross the inter­sec­tion in all direc­tions simultaneously.

The Shibuya cross­ing at green light

We con­tin­ued on to the “shrine of the fox­es”. There are at least 100 stat­ues of fox­es and dogs, all of them with a red “bib”, which stood along the paths. Our guide told us, that one of the stat­ues would show anoth­er ani­mal and so we start­ed our search. We actu­al­ly dis­cov­ered it, it is - atten­tion Spoil­er - a frog. So you get as a guide your troop for a while busy!

Final­ly we passed the Mei­ji shrine, which is locat­ed in a large park. So we could stretch our legs a lit­tle after sit­ting in the car.

On the way back to the hotel we made a short stop in the youth quar­ter “Hara­juku-Street” (full, loud and gar­ish) and took some more pic­tures there in the dusk.

These were quite many and also very dif­fer­ent impres­sions in one day and we were quite exhaust­ed. So we went to bed quick­ly after a din­ner at the hotel.