I am ready to tell you what happened last Friday.
In the morning we slept a little bit too late. Dave needed to do some unexpected work, so Steph, Casey, John and I set forth on a journey to Ueno. We headed straight from the train station to Ueno Park, where we immediately got drawn to a set of stairs that led up to Kiyomizu Kannon-Do, a temple which was almost secluded fro the rest of the park. I got some gorgeous video of the area outside the temple, including a fountain where people blessed themselves with water from a dragon's mouth.
Outside the temple we met a man from Australia named Gavin. We began a great discussion about The Venus Project. We traveled with him for the better part of the rest of our day. He didn't know why anyone would want to visit Australia, but we all told him we're going to visit him.
We also met an elderly Japanese man named "Hidah Ka." Hidahka-san told us that he was very worried about th youth of Japan. I could write an entire entry on our conversation alone. He mainly said that Japan never recovered after World War II. The world thinks of the Japanese as being quaint, quiet and gentle now, but they've over done it and now they are isolated. He says that because of their reputation, they can't compete on an international level in anything from sport to art to acting. He says because Japan is so isolated the youth of Japan are depressed. So many teenagers kill themselves every year, he watches the desperation kill them. He says when he was young he was encouraged, as were all boys, to marry a foreigner and bring them back to Japan. But it wasn't enough. He said that we needed to reach out to the youth of Japan and open up their world. When we were left speechless, he took the opportunity to share some culture with us. He also told us the temple we were at was nothing compared to the shrine down the road, and he pointed us that way before we parted.
He was right. We found ourselves at a Toshugo shrine. This is any shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu.
It was a gorgeous place to walk around. I have many photos from that day. The path leading up to the shrine was lined with trees and statues and places to hang blessings an prayers written on wood. It was also the home of The Flames of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is the story of how the flames were preserved and joined into one flame. I stood and stared at the flame for a long time and felt like the daughter of a war criminal. It was a very hard thing to see and think about.
The rest of the park was just a beautiful respite from the city. There was a large pond with koi and ducks, and cats just wandering around happily not bothering anyone. Steph became personal friends with every cat. Every single one. There were duck boats, which we delighted in, being from Boston. And turtles... there were turtles everywhere too.
Once we walked away from that we passed through many trees and then found ourselves near the entrance to the zoo where there is also a small amusement park. We found a restaurant that served soba, and ate there. This time I did NOT spit any food out. Despite John's best efforts.
It got late and we had reservations on a traditional Japanese party boat for later on, so we decided to head to the train. We rode to Yurakucho ("no, YOU are") station and then walked to Shinagawa Station to meet Dave, Ken and the rest of our friends from Impro Japan.
The walk from Yurakucho to Shinagawa was beautiful. The weather was just perfect, we walked over a bridge with breathtaking views of the city as the sun set and the moon rose. We moved through quiet traditional neighborhoods tucked in the midsts of sky scraper views with playgrounds and laughing children home from school. We only lost our way twice, and thanks to Casey's magic and John's spacial relationship skills the four of us found our destination easily. Once there, we stopped to nap on a lawn near the station. We may have looked homeless, but we were so happy. Then it was on to a quick cup of coffee at Chat Noir cafe before boarding the Yakatabune.