Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tokyo January trip - V(!)

The next four days of our trip were filled with as many interesting things as the previous! (and will probably provide for as many posts, too, LOL)

On Thursday (24th) we decided we'd give it a shot and try to get a glimpse of elusive Mount Fuji (Fujisan, 富士山). It just happens that it's not easy, as Mount Fuji usually hides behind clouds, and you do have to be somewhat lucky to see it. Anyhow, we went up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices, and waited patiently. And waited. We were about to leave when, slowly, the wind started pushing the clouds to the side! we weren't sure how long it'd take, or if the clouds would move far enough, but we sat, waited some more... and finally! Granted, there was some glare and that made it difficult to make out the outline, but we were very glad to know we weren't leaving Tokyo without seeing the famous mountain (the same that had served as inspiration for those amazing paintings by Hokusai we saw at Tokyo's Edo Museum!).

And since we were into symbolic sites, we then headed to Tokyo's most important temple: Sensō-ji (浅草寺), also known as Asakusa Kan'on (浅草観音), erected in the 7th century in honour of the Goddess of Mercy. To be honest, we weren't too crazy about the architecture of the place, parts of it reminded us too much of China (not that there's anything wrong with Chinese architecture, but we had seen PLENTY of it already), but what was very enjoyable was the whole atmosphere: the roads leading to the temple were some sort of temple fair, with trinkets and souvenirs and tons of DELICIOUS Japanese sweet snacks (I'm telling you, I couldn't have enough of those!) and fantastic hot saké; amongst the crowds, there were also islets of peace within the compound, with trees, water, simple lines...; and finally there was a delightfully small and modest shrine to the statue of the Goddess of Mercy, recovered from a river, and which started the whole thing.

After leaving the temple, and before heading for an onsen (温泉, a kind of Japanese spa) we took this picture of the Asahi building:

The onsen was OK. It was a local one, close to the temple and not fancy at all. We didn't stay long, we just wanted to try the experience. There were two pools there. And we soaked in the scalding one. Because the other one was TOO HOT. I couldn't get my foot in it, and yet some old man was submerged to his neck there! And I am a man who loves really hot showers, but that was just way too much. Ah, and, of course, we had to meet a so-called yakuza there! there was this guy, with his torso covered in tattoos. That was supposed to mean he was part of the Japanese mafia (yakuza), and he used what little English he had to make that clear to us, but for all I know he could have just been some rebellious adolescent! LOL

Still in the mood for trying local things, we went for some tempura at a some restaurant close to the temple and the onsen. It looked very tasty: some battered veggies (for me) and shrimp (for my habib), in a thick, dark sauce, on a bed of steamed rice. The sauce looked particularly rich and enticing... yet, unfortunately, it was the very first meal we had that we didn't like! Well, you can't blame us for trying!

Ah, another post dedicated to just one day's activities! Next time: we move to a traditional Japanese hotel, a Ryokan! we visit Ueno park (both at night and during the day), we discover Pakistani Buddhas we'd never seen before, and receive training of surviving disasters like fires and earthquakes!