We started the day off a little late, but it all went well. We took a wrong turn out of the subway, but it proved to be one that we were very glad to have done so. We are in Japan during what is traditionally the cherry blossom festival, and one of the things we really wanted to do was go through the parks, much like the locals do, and admire the beauty. We didn’t really get to do this the day before, so this wrong turn proved quite fortuitous as we wound up in a park lined with trees that were blooming. Naturally the locals were also in full bloom as well.
After waking down this path for a while we turned, got our bearings, and headed towards the day’s first goal – Senso Ji. This is one of the top destinations for both tourists and locals alike, and even more so during this time of year. One of the more interesting sights was not necessarily the temple and grounds (though they were very impressive, but I’ll get to that in a moment). Instead what I found rather interesting was the number of groups of tour guides, apparently getting trained for the season.
This being a festival time of year, and the weather taking a decidedly nice turn over the cold and rainy stuff we’ve had the last few days, there were a lot of people. And with a lot of people comes lots of food and craft stalls. There are some real bizarre things that are sold – and the popularity of Doner Kebab is rather puzzling. I saw a large number of booths selling Doner Kebab and Gyro, but unfortunately no falafel. Still, for many people, “octopus ball” seems the way to go.
In front of the temple is a cauldron with incense that people burn and take the smoke in and try to cover their heads with it. This is meant to wish for good health. There are statues and other items of reverence all over the place as well. If so inclined you can purchase prayer beads and scrolls and other sundry Buddhist paraphernalia. I shoes to partake of the incense smoke and left it at that.
The temple itself is rather impressive, more so because it is an actual working temple.
After visiting the temple we headed out through the throng of more permanent shops that are part of the temple grounds. There are all sorts of things here, and I wound up finding a great birthday present for my 5 year old son (who turns 6 next month). Some of the shops here sell kimono accessories, some toys, some food, some tourist novelties. It’s a weird mixture of stuff meant for locals and tourists alike. What’s really interesting is how much of this is stuff that can be found in America.
After this we took the subway to Ueno Park to see more of the cherry blossoms.