JANUARY 17, 2016
It was the last day of our company outing (but not last day in Tokyo for me and a few colleagues) so we had to check out at Hotel Monterey Akasaka.
Our first stop during our 4th day in Tokyo was the MEIJI JINGU (or Meiji Shrine) in Shibuya. It was just around 8AM so there were only a few locals when we got there.
Toshi-san explained that “shrine” is a term used for sacred areas under Shintoism while “temple” is for Buddhism. He taught us how to pray like the locals and explained a bit more about Meiji Jingu.
I kind of drifted away from the group when I saw the ema at one side of the shrine. I only saw these in some anime shows I watched so seeing them in reality was a delight. Most of the ema are written of course in kanji, but I still found it fascinating to look at some of the ema with cute drawings.
When I returned to the group, Toshi-san was already giving instructions on meet-up time and place as he would give us free time to explore the place. I followed a few office mates exiting the shrine but I remembered that there was one area in the shrine proper which I did not check out. I traced back my steps and found some locals crowding a wooden box where they were getting a piece of paper.
At first, I thought it was like a fortune cookie where you get to know your luck/fortune for the day… But apparently, they were getting omigokoro which is a poem card written by either Emperor Meiji or Empress Shoken. According to the printed paper in English:
“Emperor Meiji wrote about 100,000 waka and the Empress about 30,000 waka, which are not only excellent as literary works but also constitute significant teachings to enhance the national moral character. Meiji Jingu has chosen fifteen waka each from among their composition in order to provide visitors and worshippers with the divine grace of the Imperial couple in the form of omikuji (oracles).”
After getting an omigokoro, I noticed two women in the other stall browsing boxes then getting a small item and paying for it. I got curious so I checked it out. The items sold looked like amulets but everything was in kanji, except for the price. Then, I found one amulet which had an English translation — unfortunately, I found its purpose not that relevant for me but at least it confirmed that all the items were amulets indeed.
I picked an amulet randomly, praying that it was of more relevance — whether for luck, work, love, or health — then paid for it. I was already itching to go back to the bus so that I could ask Toshi-san what kind of amulet I got.
But, before I left this area, I saw a couple dressed in traditional clothes passing by. A woman and photographer were following them so I guess they were having a pre-nup shoot here. So lucky to be able to see locals wearing their traditional clothing~!
I was able to catch up with two office mates and we passed by Toshi-san who was counting the number of people going back to the bus. I tried to ask about the amulet I bought but he said he would check later.
We went to the souvenir shop first before heading back to the bus. Once we were complete in the bus, Toshi-san mentioned to the group that I bought an amulet. Turns out that what I chose was a luck amulet and he told me to keep it with me at all times. He showed his own luck amulet which he keeps in his wallet. He said that the amulet had been with him for 40+ years already, even before he got married. Amazing!!
Our next stop was the TOKYO IMPERIAL PALACE, where the Emperor of Japan resides. Of course, we were not able to get close and see the Emperor. But Toshi-san said that there are certain occasions when they open a part of the palace so that people can go closer and see the Emperor and his wife when they greet the crowd. If I’m not mistaken, one of the occasions is New Year.
After Toshi-san explained everything about the place, we were given some free time for picture taking before we leave the place…
We went to Asakusa area afterwards and visited SENSOJI TEMPLE, which is for Buddhist worshippers. Toshi-san said that most Japanese people practice both Shintoism and Buddhism so temples and shrines can be easily found.
Most of the people in our group chose to do some last minute shopping around the area, and the ones left behind with Toshi-san are the people who would be extending stay in Tokyo — me + 3 office mates.
We visited on a Sunday so the temple was full of worshippers and tourists, yikes. Toshi-san took us around the whole area of the temple and he took time to explain every area and statue to us.
I love hearing things directly from a local as it makes me feel closer to their culture, and it always fascinates me to hear their own stories and opinion. 🙂
At one point in our walking tour, Toshi-san led us to an area where we could get our omikuji, the famous fortune-telling paper slips in Japan temples. We dropped 100 yen coin each, shook a metal can with wooden sticks and took out one stick, located the drawer with the same number as the one in the drawn stick (note that the number is in kanji though), then get the paper at the topmost. The one I got was…
..the BEST fortune. I showed it to Toshi-san and he suddenly hugged me tightly. He patted me at the back and happily told me that I was really lucky to get this one so I should always keep it with me. Apparently, drawing daikichi (great/best fortune) is quite rare. Yay! If one gets bad luck/fortune, the paper slip must be tied to a nearby tying station (not sure what it is called). Toshi-san said that this is practiced so that you leave the bad luck/fortune behind.
After exploring the area, we started to walk to our meet-up place with the rest of the group. We passed by a long alley of different kinds of stores — souvenirs, local delicacy, bags, accessories, etc. Toshi-san recommended a local food, can’t recall its name though since the matcha flavor I got did not taste that good.
After regrouping, we had our lunch in a restaurant nearby…
…then traced back our steps to go back to our bus. The four of us who would be extending would get our luggage while the rest of the group would head back home that evening.
We parted ways with the rest of the group, bid our goodbye and said our thanks to Toshi-san and Yamada-san (our bus driver). After that, we took a cab going to the Airbnb unit I booked for our extended stay in Tokyo. It was a good thing that the Airbnb listing was just in Asakusa area so paying for the cab was not that bad. I chose a listing from Shoji & Coco (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4807040) because of the following:
- Price per night is at par with other listings but this one has a spacious area that really fits 4 people i.e., not cramped
- Clean bathroom
- Walking distance to Oshiage station, Tokyo Skytree, and Solamachi (mall)
- Responsive and helpful hosts
After settling down, we headed to UENO PARK to start our museum hopping… which ended up in us going to just one museum since we were too tired already. We only visited the NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE — a bit of a bummer though that most of the stuff inside do not have English translation, but we were still able to appreciate the displays inside.
We took a rest in one of the coffee shops in the park then headed for Shinjuku. We went back to BIC CAMERA (visited a few days ago) to purchase a 3-day unlimited train ticket for 1,500 yen. Note that this is only for Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines — thankfully, most of the stations we rode were under these lines. We only paid extra for a few stations under JR line.
We shopped in the nearby Uniqlo afterwards then headed to Ichiran Ramen for dinner. The line was long though and an employee said that we would have to wait for about 40 minutes. We decided to look for another place since we were really hungry, and we stumbled upon a place that sells food in sizzling plates. We waited for about 10-15 minutes since the place was small and full of customers.
It was worth the wait since the food was good. Also a welcome break from soupy dishes!
We went back to our lodging after this dinner to get a long rest and prepare for the next day. 🙂
LINKS TO OTHER TOKYO 2016 POSTS: