Today I’m reporting from Nagoya. We took the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) from Tokyo Station to Nagoya station this afternoon and have been checking things out on foot here. Yesterday was a VERY busy day. We took a walking tour in Hase and Kamakura. These are small towns outside of Tokyo where we visited some really neat shrines and temples. We also got to eat an authentic Japanese lunch. It was exhausting to say the least, and when we got home yesterday after figuring out how to get home from Tokyo station, my head was pounding and I passed out around 8:45. The mugginess really takes it out of you, even though it was only 75 or so for most of the day and rainy. Anyway, let’s recap!
Our first stop on the walking tour was to the town of Hase, where Hase temple can be found. Hase is a Buddhist temple on a hillside. It was misty and rainy and very surreal to visit. Everything is very green, and again, the architecture was very beautiful. Here is the large red lantern at the entrance to Hase temple.
Once inside, before approaching the stairs leading up to the main part of the temple, there is purification area where the same purification ritual I described for Meiji Jingu is done. We did it again here and declared ourselves very pure after two days in a row of this!
We proceeded up the stairs to an area where there were hundreds of little statues called Jizo. These Jizo statues are usually purchased by parents who have lost a child (either by miscarriage, or the child died after it was born). The statues are then placed here at the temple so that the spirit of the child will be assisted in the afterlife. It’s sad to see so many of them. There was another section of these statues across the path from the ones pictured.
Also at Hase is a cave area. In the cave are statues of Buddhist deities. Visitors can purchase, light, and place a candle in front of these deities and say a prayer. This cave was very dark and eerie. The candlelight only increased the surreal effect of the place.
At the top of the stairs is the main part of the temple. This temple features huge, beautiful gold images of Buddha and Kannon (the goddess of mercy, same one from Senso-ji temple in the last post). Again, unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures because the sites are sacred. The statues were HUGE. Kannon’s statue was probably 2 stories tall. The legend says that it washed up on the shore of a beach and it was shining. That’s a pretty big object to just wash up on a shore…but who knows? Here’s a picture of the top half of the statue I found on Google. Someone was daring enough to take a picture despite all the staffers and the signs that say “No photography.” I am not so bold.
The architecture here, as I mentioned, is very beautiful. The intricate roofs and brightly colored pillars stand out from the scenery, but also fit in very well. The area had an otherwordly quality about it.
Our next stop on the walking tour was just a 15 minute or so walk from this temple. We went to visit the Great Buddha statue. And wow, was it great. And by great I mean huge. Here’s the gate leading to the temple. On the right side of the gate is a statue with open mouth saying the syllable “a”, our tour guide explained. This is the first syllable of the Buddhist sutra, and represents birth. The statue on the left has a closed mouth, and is saying the syllable “n”, which is the final syllable of the sutra, representing death. As you pass through the gate, therefore, it is symbolic of being alive – you are between birth and death. Pretty neat. I know the statues are hard to see in this picture, but they are inside the gate columns.
Once inside, you are greeted with this:
It’s hard to really show how huge it is without actually being there. Here’s a picture of me in front of it for some perspective. I am standing directly underneath it and am 5 feet 4 inches tall.
It’s pretty awe inspiring to see. I had seen pictures of it before, but never really understood how big it actually was! Our tour guide gave us some information on just how this huge thing was constructed. You can see horizontal lines across the statue. Each piece was carefully molded and completed, then the next piece would be added directly on top. You can go inside the statue and get a look from there. I went in and took a picture, but it isn’t very exciting. Mostly just cool to think you’re inside this giant, hollow Buddha.
After checking out the Great Buddha, we went to a nearby restaurant for a Japanese style lunch. Mmmm.
I just realized how totally unappetizing the stuff on top of the rice looks, but I can assure you that it was very tasty. The rice had scallops mixed in, and was sticky and steamed in that bowl. There was chicken and a soy wrapped tofu piece, which was pretty good (the thing in the yellow dish in the top right). The blob in the blue dish up there was a spongy thing that I took a bite out of it. We were told what it was, but I can’t quite remember. It was soggy and I wasn’t really a fan, so I just left it and shut my mouth. In the flowery blue bowl was some chicken. In the bowl in front of us are noodles and veggies – very tasty, if a little salty. Accompanying this meal was water and tea. Gram I stopped downstairs after this to get an ice cream (they called it “soft cream”) from a shop. We headed back to the train station and checked out the small 100 yen shop there where I bought a crappy pair of sunglasses (my current sunglasses are broken) and Gram got an umbrella. I was finishing my ice cream cone and took a bite from the cone only to have the remaining vanilla ice cream spray on the umbrella stand in front of me. Luckily nobody but Gram and I saw it and we cleaned up the small mess. We’ve been getting good at doing at least one embarrassing thing every day! It was pretty funny. The ice cream just melted too quickly in the muggy heat!
We boarded the train back to Kamakura and headed off for our last stop of the day at Tsurugaoka. This is another Shinto Shrine (like Meiji Jingu). Since it had been raining the ground was very slick. I was wearing some flip flops that had good cushion for walking, but the soles were really worn down, so I slipped probably about 6 times on the way to the Shrine. Thankfully I did not fall all the way. On the way we saw rickshaws! You can hop in and they’ll take you around the city for a fee. We did not participate. These guys were very fit, though. They also had hilarious tan lines.
Once we got to Tsurugaoka we were starting to realize much of our tours were showing us similar things in different locations. There was a purification area, an area to receive your fortune, and the main shrine where you throw money, clap your hands, and make your wish. It was, however, beautiful to look at.
This was our last stop on the tour for the day. We did some shopping at a street in Kamakura, and then boarded the train back to Tokyo Station. Tokyo Station is HUGE. We exchanged Gram’s rail pass voucher for her actual pass thanks to the help of our wonderful tour guide. The station is under construction, and so things are not where they are usually located. After the tour our guide took us around the station to where we needed to be. Then we had to find our way back to the hotel, which took a while. I asked one of the station staff. She told me I needed to get to “Otemachi station”, and from there I could get on the correct train line. I thanked her and went on my way. What I neglected to ask was which train would take us to Otemachi station. I consulted maps, checked, and rechecked, and finally we hopped on the Marunouchi line to Otemachi. It was a very long walk. I still don’t know how the fashionable girls do it in their heels all day every day. We were exhausted and we had decent walking shoes on. We crashed that night once we got home. My head hurt from reading signs and asking and thinking. There was a moment in Tokyo station where I felt the panic rise and I wanted to lose it because I didn’t know the answer to my problem and it was driving me crazy, but I took a step back and remembered that breaking down would get us nowhere. Thankfully it paid off.
Tokyo Station has zillions of shops and restaurants. We went in search of a suitcase for me because I needed something to carry a few days’ worth of clothing and other necessary items for our travels elsewhere in Japan, and there was no way I was going to take my giant suitcase with me. We found this suitcase, bought it, and wandered around a bit more. Here is a picture in front of a shoe store in the station. The shoe stores here are out of this world. Every time I see one I am amazed. There are more shoes in these little stores than I see at any department store! I got a pair of super cushion-y sandals for about $30 at the station and they have been great.
Another store downstairs in Tokyo station is this one. A perfect example of the “Engrish” you see on a regular basis in Japan. This store sells luggage. Beats me how they came up with this name, but I just had to take a picture of this one!
On our way home from the station yesterday we had some experiences with the packed Tokyo trains. This wasn’t quite rush hour, but many, many people were heading home after the work day. Gram turned around and snapped a picture of this train as it left the station.
We’ve been having a pretty good time so far. We enjoy taking pictures of the silly things we encounter, and one of the foods we’ve been snacking on lately is this:
Not quite cookie, not quite cracker, these “Digestive Biscuits” make me wonder if they’re really supposed to be doing something for your system or not. I wonder if they have Activia-esque commercials for these in Japan? I have yet to see any.
Here’s another funny Engrish sign we noticed today just outside of Nagoya station. Sure, we know what they were going for, but they really need to run a spell check one of these days.
Today in Nagoya we went to visit the Noritake gardens and factory. I had no idea what Noritake was until Gram explained it to me. It’s a very famous china producing company. They make some really amazing things, and we took the factory tour to see how it all comes together. I was skeptical at first, but it was actually really cool. I gained a respect I never had for china ware. Suddenly you realize why it’s so expensive when you see the work that goes into creating each piece. It was pretty amazing. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of ANYTHING inside the buildings. Instead, here’s a blurry picture of me applying a band-aid to my foot on a bench in the garden.
Lastly, here’s a picture I forgot to post from Tokyo. This picture was taken just downstairs from my apartment. This area is Akihabara, electric town, where my apartment is located. You can see the neon lights of the city – the view from the balcony of my apartment looks right down the street. Pretty cool!
That’s all I have for today! I hope you enjoyed the pictures. Tomorrow we’re getting on the Shinkansen to Kyoto for two days. We’ll be staying in a ryokan there (a Japanese style inn) for two nights, and I’m doubtful that there will be internet access. On Saturday we’ll head to Osaka and stay in a hotel, where I’m guessing there will likely be internet access, but if that fails too, I’ll have internet again at the latest by Sunday, when I return to my apartment in Tokyo.
I’ll write again as soon as I can!
EDITED TO ADD: It’s about 12:30 AM here in Nagoya, but I thought I would add that I found a way to convert the HD videos into a format that is more easily editable, so hopefully I will have some video footage from the last few days to accompany my next post! Stay tuned.