An afternoon of azaleas

 

One of the things about having a 9am Saturday class means that it really cuts into my adventuring opportunity.

Really I’m just trying to make myself feel better about being kind of boring this week. Although I did do quite a bit of responsible, adult-type stuff such as buying my books for classes, going for a health check-up at the university (an arduous and confusing process that took up my entire Friday morning), and signing a lease for my apartment in the Fall.

So, being the semi-responsible, semi-adult that I am, I spent my Friday night doing homework, and my Saturday morning repeating Japanese phrases that I only semi-understood.

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I was determined to do something interesting with what little free time I do have, so I decided to go over to the Nezu shrine in the Bunkyo ward near Ueno Park. The shrine is hosting its annual azalea festival which lasts for almost an entire month, but is currently at its peak.

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Although the shrine ground are quite expansive, the garden itself was fairly small. This meant that the thousands of azalea bushes were densely packed onto the one hillside, and the many winding pathways gave the sense that the garden was much larger than it was.

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Naturally, there were tourists and visitors, all of whom wanted their pictures taken amidst the fields of pink and white. I was asked by several different groups to take their pictures – something that seems to happen quite often here. Maybe it’s the fact that I usually have my professional-looking camera around my neck, or maybe it’s just

Anyways, I managed to get my share of pictures, although it was often a struggle to avoid having a strangers head

Although the main attraction was understandably the flowering bushes, the shrine itself was extremely beautiful, and detailed.

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The grounds also features many of torii gates, which form skinny tunnels along the peripheral paths.

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These tunnels, which are barely high enough to walk through without ducking your head, are supposed to represent a pathway from the secular into the sacred space. Which I just find super cool and interesting. And it’s true, walking through the tunnels certainly does create a sense of spiritual transportation.

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Or at least, it would if it weren’t for the endless stream of tourists all trying to make their way though the arches, and  congesting the thin path.

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I’m still getting used to the fact that a festival – even if it’s in a sacred shrine – means that there will be food and souvenir vendors lining the entrance paths and competing for attention.

It just strikes me as odd, since for some reason I have this notion that temples and shrines should necessarily be peaceful and quiet.

Interestingly, the vendors at the Nezu shine were a little lack lustre, probably saving their full efforts for the next two weekends, when the festival is at it’s most popular.

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However, wandering around the outskirts of the temple gave me a little bit of that peacefulness that I had been looking for.

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Although the shrine is actually located very close to both Yanaka and Ueno, I decided to call it quits on the earlier side, and head home to relax. I had plans to go out to karaoke with a group of friends from my residence, so I wanted to prepare myself for a late night.

One thing I’m really going to have to get used to is the fact that, in Tokyo, a night out on the town necessarily entail staying out until at least 5am. That’s just the way it works, especially if you go anywhere further than walking distance. But luckily most parts of Tokyo are extremely safe, even at 3 o’clock in the morning, so wandering the streets is not an issue. More importantly, there is always some sort of fast food restaurant open and willing offer greasy food and sanctuary to a group of stranded karaoke-ers who have an hour to kill before the subways start running.

 

 

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