Sunday, August 05, 2007

Thursday in Tokyo

On Thursday, I tried heading off the beaten tourism path to visit Yanaka. Many of Tokyo's shrines and temples were relocated to this area a few centuries ago because of the fire hazard the thatched roofs of the temples posed. Back then Yanaka was on the outskirts of the city, but now it's a residential area of Tokyo.

I was following a walking tour in one of my guidebooks that pointed out the different sights and provided some historical and cultural background. As I walked from one point of interest to the next, I would pass two or three other shrines, temples, or pagodas that weren't even mentioned. The whole neighborhood is chock full of small religious sites.

There aren't any major tourist attractions or businesses in Yanaka. It mostly consists of small homes and stores on tiny alleyways giving it a much different feel from other areas of Tokyo I visited. There aren't any neon signs or high-rises or expressways, so despite the fact the heat and humidity were hellish, the morning I spent in Yanaka was really relaxing and pleasant. Here are some of the highlights.

Daienji Temple

These picket-fence looking things with writing all over them are in all the graveyards. Does anyone know what they are?

Choanji Temple

Kannoji Temple

Also in the Yanaka neighborhood is the home and studio of the sculptor Fumio Asakura, which has been opened as a museum. It was the only place in Tokyo where I was required to take off my shoes to enter. Kindly, they provided green rubber slippers with the price of admission. Photography wasn't allowed, but this is one of his sculptures in front of the museum.

I lifted this photo of the interior off the internet.

Also stolen from the internet, this is a picture of one of his many cat sculptures. There was a whole room full of kitty statues.

Tennoji Temple

In the afternoon, I had planned to go to some other temple or park or something, but the humidity was killing my will to live. But, suddenly, I had the bright idea to go to the Tokyo National Museum. Indoors! Air conditioning! Sheer, unmitigated genius that brainstorm was. It was everything I hoped it would be - cool, shady, full of beautiful cultural artifacts. And! Photography was allowed.

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