It must have been the continued adjustment my body was making to the time-zone change because I managed to wake up around 4 this morning wide-awake. Well maybe not “wide-awake” since I did manage to fall back asleep (but only with a lot of difficulty and waking Tim up in the process). The second-time around, at about 8 am I think, we did actually get up. We showered in our bathroom that was only barely big enough to take one step forward or one step to the side, making toweling off particularly tricky, and when we stepped out, we rushed to shut the door behind us for fear that the steam from the shower would set off the fire alarm as we had been warned several times it might.
So, before stepping out of our hotel, we’d managed not to bruise ourselves too much while toweling off nor set off the fire alarms. Success. The next task was finding breakfast. The hotel breakfast was about $11 per person but didn’t look all that appetizing. We’d heard you could buy little rice balls/cakes stuffed with different things and wrapped in nori sheets for about $1 a piece at the 7-11, so we decided to make that our breakfast.
With our mystery rice cakes in hand, we set off for a place to eat. Fortunately, not far from us was a small park where we could sit (evidently it is taboo for the Japanese to walk and eat). After breakfast, we then discovered a mysterious lack of trash cans in the area. The only thing we managed to find were trash cans placed next to vending machines, but those were specifically for cans and bottles. So, we hauled our trash around for awhile until we found a place to ditch it. We would discover in the following days that today wasn’t a one-off. Tokyo really doesn’t use trash cans, but more on that another time.
*Just a reminder, as we said in the last post, we are trying out new picture options. Again, click on the picture to see a bigger version and to read the caption.
Our first destination in Tokyo was to see the famous Sensoji Temple, the oldest in Tokyo.
I took an awesome video of the geishas playing their instruments and of a dragon snaking his way through a crowd, but the new blog site is not having it.
Anyways, after the impromptu performance, we finally made our way to the temple. Since we aren’t Buddhist or speak Japanese, most of the significance of our surroundings were lost on us. However, I did (thanks to a tip from our old French tutor) hop in line for a temple stamp book so that I could get my first “stamp.” The stamp is a tradition that began with people making pilgrimages from temple to temple. A person, would ask to meet with the head monk, who if available would meet them and sign (in calligraphy) their pilgrimage book. If they weren’t there, you might only get a stamp to prove that you’d at least been to the temple or shrine. Since then, it has evolved as a sort of souvenir/money making scheme for the temples.
First stamp in hand, we headed over to the National Museum to check out some of Japan’s cultural artifacts.
Following the museum, we stepped out for a little bit of nature in the city.
After the museum and the adjacent park (see above), we wandered around Tokyo which was a contrast of cuteness (like the little lantern pig below) to modern cities, to Buddhist temples tucked around everywhere.
At some point, we stumbled onto a park/temple complex where there was street food in every direction. Tim, of course, could resist. I was able to resist until I saw a giant cucumber on a stick.
Following the palace, we ended the day with dinner and sake. We settled on a sushi restaurant. We would discover in Japan that the sushi rolls we are used to in the US don’t really exist here. Instead, most everything is served as a slice of raw fish with rice. Our dish included shrimp (cooked), clam (cooked I think?), squid (also cooked), a couple of kinds of white fish (raw), some raw tuna and salmon, and I’m not sure what else. Some of the textures were interesting, but overall it was good.