Solo adventures

So last week was midterm week at school, which meant that I have been fairly preoccupied this last little while with school work. Nonetheless, I managed to get in a few adventures over the past few weeks, so now I have a bit of catching up to do wringing them all down.

About a week ago I woke up to an email from one of my professors saying that class for that day had been canceled. So I took it as a sign and began planning a day trip. My first destination was the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, to see a Pixar exhibition that was on display there. As with most of the bigger exhibitions here, photos are prohibited, but it was a really fantastic show, featuring everyone from preliminary sketches of Toy Story (Pixar’s first feature film), to a screening of new short films that had yet to be released to the public.

Afterwards, I set out to find a shrine that I knew was somewhere nearby. It was quite a lovely little shrine, with some wonderful bronze statues around it, and small paths leading though a garden-like area.

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On my way back towards the train station, I found myself walking down a street which lead towards a Buddhist temple. So I went in to take a looks around and see what was going on.

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Apparently it is a temple that is quite well known in Tokyo, and holds many large events and ceremonies. And I’m not exactly sure what this building next door is supposed to be, but it’s pretty darn cool to look at.

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Since I seemed to be on a bit of a roll with the Shrine/Temple sightseeing, and since my train home happened to pass by Ueno I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Although I’ve been to Ueno Park several times already, it seems like every time I visit it’s a new experience. I arrived at the entrance that opens onto the large lake area, and was amazed to find that was was typically a body of water was now completely covered by a layer of bright green lily pads.

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I also realized that this means pretty soon there will be water lilies blooming all across this vast expanse of green, creating an even more remarkable sight. So I guess I’ll be returning again soon.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s because I was visiting during a weekday, or because I just happened to come during an off-season, but the area was surprisingly void of the collection of stalls and vendors that I was expecting from my previous visits.

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I’d just like to take a moment to compare to my first visit…

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Needless to say, the lack of stalls and people revealed an array of statues and small shrines.

I had already visited two of the major temples that were on the park grounds, but I hadn’t been collecting go-shuin (shrine stamps offered at almost every shrine and temple in Japan) at the time, so I decided to re-visit both in order to add to my book.

I also knew about a shrine located in the park which I had never been to before so I made a point of visiting both of those before leaving.

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First off, yes that is an amusement bark in the background, which created an odd juxtaposition with the peaceful shrine entrance.

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This shrine is particularly well-known for its large, gold-covered gates.

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Unfortunately, the inner area of the shrine was under construction so I was unable to see much of the grandeur that was supposedly held inside.

On my way out of the shrine, I noticed quite a large set-up, so I went over to take a look.

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It turned out to be some sort of azalea bonsai contest, where each plant received a ranking, and some had prize ribbons next to them.

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Directly behind thisI was thrilled to find about 20 stalls, all filled with pottery and ceramics.

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Many seemed to be original works, sold for rather high prices, most likely made by the vendors themselves. While I enjoyed looking around, many of the pieces were a little out of my price-range, even despite several of the vendors who attempted to haggle with me when I looked interested.

However, there was one stall that had large signs offering discounts and deals.

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Upon inspection, it seemed like many of the pieces were quite generic and mass-produced, however it was hard for me to pass up such good deals. I ended up purchasing this great bowl for only ¥400 (although I could have had 3 for ¥1000).

I celebrated by making hummus when I got home to go in my bowl, which came with a convenient plastic lid, which I just find so hilariously typical of modern Japan.

Anyways, on my way out of the park, I noticed a path of tori gates leading down a set of stairs. At first I though this was connected to one of the other temples I had previously visited, however upon further inspection I discovered a rather secluded temple/shrine complex.

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By this point, I had collected 6 shrine stamps, and was feeling happily tired and satisfied with the day’s adventures. I headed home and spent the rest of the evening working on some homework and relaxing.

This was not the end of my adventures however, as the weekend was fast-approaching and had lots in store. Saturday I headed over to a local shrine in Shinjuku which was hosting an annual shrine festival.

Wedged in between two skyscrapers was the entrance to Hanazono Jinja.

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Indeed, the entrance is so unassuming, I walking right past it the first time.

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Although it was a fairly typical as far as shrine “matsuri” go, I will never cease to be entertained, both by the amusing variety of stalls and vendors…

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(Including one stall where you could attempt to catch your own pet miniature turtle!!)

… and by the ceremony itself.

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Then on Sunday I got to enjoy the sunshine while volunteering with the BLENDER organization which was hosing another picnic in Yoyogi Park.

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As seems to be the trend, I ended up making some friends and exploring the local area until late into the evening. As per usual, I saw some strange sights (including a men’s razor advertisement in the form of a fountain) and even found this awesome Moomin postcard!

It’s been back to normal since then, although with several more adventures. There’s another post to come, and this time it will be soon, I promise. Until then, I’ll be collecting stories, memories, and possibly a new friend or two.

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