On Sunday morning, I got up early and met Keith at Asakusa Station. I watched volunteers set up for the Toyko Marathon while I waited for him! Asakusa is a more traditional area and is also called 'low town'. Once he came, we walked a ways to the Shopping Streets. They were incredible! It was like a big long market street, with everything! I had to resist buying anything...we decided to do the temples first and come back to the shopping streets. It was neat to see the architecture and think of the history and culture behind the temples.
We visited Sensoji Temple, a temple built in the 7th century! In front of the temple is an incense stand, with several incense sticks burning. You are wave the smoke onto yourself, and you will be lucky wherever the smoke reaches you. I wondered how many people actually believe it, and how many people do it out of tradition. After you make yourself lucky, you go to the fountain and wash your face, then your left hand, then your right hand, before entering the temple. The temple was beautiful with ornate architecture and shrines. There was a large pit covered in grating for prayers. You throw in some coins, clap twice, bow your head and say a prayer to the ancestors, then clap twice again and bow. It was interesting to watch everyone go through the ritual. After Sensoji Temple, we visited some other small shrines and temples in the area, and took a look at the 5 story Pagoda and Dempoin Temple. Dempoin Temple is off-limits to visitors which is unfortunate because it includes a large beautiful garden. We stopped for a snack and had some chocolate bananas, something that is sort of symbolic of Tokyo.
We went back to hit up the shopping streets...wow. It was quite the mix of things! Some stores had little junky toys that were 'Made In China', and others had beautiful silk robes and hair combs and fans. I didn't buy anything because I'm still here for 6 more months and will have lots of chances, but it was difficult not to! We also visited Kaminarimon (Kaminari Gate), a large entrance gate leading to Sensoji Temple. There were massive red lanterns and some statues on it, and it's more than 1000 years old! We had a great time perusing the shops and stands, tried some Japanese treats, and visited the drum museum.
We also visited a miniature amusement park! I was impressed by how much they fit into such a small space. It was a lot of fun, and the rides were surprisingly good! We went on the Rollercoaster and Space Shot. We didn't expect much because they were short and small, but they were great and had us laughing and screaming.
After we finished hanging out in most of Asakusa, we threaded our way through the marathon crowds and took the train to meet Thomas in Akihabara - a large electronics district. I was pretty tired, so after a bit of walking and a crepe, I decided to head home. I managed (proud of myself!) to find my Shinkansen train and get on in time, even a few minutes early!!
Overall, it was an awesome weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I can't wait for the next one...