Down town, all around

So, another week come an gone, and I definitely have some photos and memories to show for it! The festivities, as they were, started off last weekend. I got together with a group of friends on Saturday night for a karaoke party.

We had a blast (although it’s hard not to at Japanese karaoke)! And I think all our voices were a little sore the next day!

Despite the relatively late night, I was up and running the next day, headed for Shibuya to investigate an event called the “3rd Annual Shibuya Renaissance”. Not really knowing what to expect, I was amused to arrive at a blocked-off street with stages on either end.

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Basically, the way it worked was there would be some sort of performance going on at one of the stages, while on the other end of the street, something else was being prepared. So about every half an hour or so, the entire crowd of onlookers would move from one end of the street to the other; the people at the back, rushing for a position at the front of the next performance.

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I arrived just in time to catch the end of an ensemble of traditional taiko drummers accompanying a group of tap dancers.

The theme of traditional merged with contemporary art forms seemed to continue throughout the day’s events. I throughly enjoyed watching a group of jazz singers perform songs by The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, and such, while a large group of percussionists got the crowd stomping and clapping.

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Next I got to enjoy a front-row view of a traditional Japanese dance and music style known as “Gagaku”.

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The finale of the whole event took up the entire street. Onlookers were told to stand behind a rope, blocking off the middle section for a variety of costumed dancers.

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As the music started, each group of dancers was given a turn to show off their unique styles and costumes.

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Eventually, all the groups came together for one large and impressive collaboration.

 

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Then, quite suddenly, all the barricades were removed, and onlookers were dragged into the crowd of dancers to join in the fun.

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I happily allowed myself to be swept up in the commotion, and ended up being pulled up on stage for a media coverage photo shoot.

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I left the event with my ears ringing and a smile on my face that lasted the rest of the day.

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Although this was definitely the highlight of my week – and even of the highlights of my whole trip so far – the adventures didn’t stop there. The rest of my week was certainly much more mellow, but I made the effort to go visit several new areas.

Most notable was a day trip I took to the Bunkyo district to visit some temples and shrines. To be honest, I didn’t have too much of a plan except for the names of several shrines that I knew were in the area. When I arrived, I was surprised and happy to discover that the streets were practically lined with temple after temple. Most of them were quite small, and I’m guessing privately owned, however there were some more notable ones which I was happy to come across.

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I especially enjoyed exploring the grounds of this rather spacious temple – which apparently is called Kichijōji.

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Although the actual temple itself was rather unspectacular, there were several statues such as this lovely bronze Buddha.

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As well as this lovely little guy.

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My curiosity was especially piqued by this small figure who clearly has some association with books and possibly travel. After a bit of research online, I discovered that he was named Ninomiya Sontoku, a philosopher and economist from the Edo period. Apparently he is actually buried in the Kichijōji temple graveyard, but since then, I’ve seen several other statues of him around the city.

Anyways, after that I made my way along some back streets, exploring some of the smaller, less visited shrines. Soon I came across a shrine with the word “Fuji” written in English.

 

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At first I was a little as a little confused as to why the shrine would have been given such an iconic name, however as I approached, it quickly became clear:

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I later discovered it is actually called “Komagome Fuji Jinja,” and is one of the many “Fuji shrines” established to allow people to pay their respects to Fuji San without having to make the long and difficult trip.

Nonetheless, the steep staircase still proved to be a bit more challenging than expected – I swear, the stairs are much steeper than the photo does them credit!

However, when I reached the top, I found myself almost instantly feeling isolated from the rest of the world.

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Although I absolutely love Tokyo and the big city lifestyle, one of the few things I do find myself missing is the solitude that small-town Canada provides. Maybe for the first time since arriving in Japan, I was able to enjoy a wonderful sense of seclusion on top of this private little mountain.

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However, as I suspected, the moment didn’t last very long. Within about 15 minutes, someone else had come to visit the shrine.

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So I made my way back home towards home, feeling refreshed from the day’s wanderings, and the seclusion that the area provided.

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