Because we are meeting my Honolulu nephew, his wife, and their 5-year old in Tokyo at the end of the month, we decided to front load the vacation with a walking tour. Last year we passed on meeting them at Disney World in Florida, instead promising to meet in Japan. Our pre-family visit plans expanded to include a Sumo match and a Backroads of Japan walking tour.
We arrived in Tokyo during the summer sumo tournament (Natsu-basho) that runs for 15 days in mid-May. The daily matches are from about 8am to 6pm. The matches for the top division wrestlers start about 4pm and go to 6pm. We figured that two hours of sumo was probably enough for first timers. We were fortunate to have a knowledgeable couple from Hawaii sitting next to us who were able to explain what was happening. For instance, the last match of the day was an upset so the audience in the box seats around the ring threw their cushions at the ring to show their dissatisfaction. The whole thing was fascinating.
|The wrestler loses when his foot goes out of the ring|
On our first visit to Senso-ji, the day before the big festival, it was already getting crowded. In Japan at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines for a 5-yen coin (about 5 cents) you can find out what fate awaits you. This is called O-mikuji. To learn your fate, insert a 5-yen coin (5-yen coins are considered lucky) into the money box. Next, shake up a container that contains numbered sticks, choose one stick, go to the drawer with the corresponding number on it, take out the slip of paper.
|School Girls discovering their fate with O-mikuji|
In the Buddhist tradition, incense purifies; in the Shinto tradition, water purifies. Sometimes both purification methods are available. For the water purification, with the right hand fill a ladle with water and using a small amount rinse the left hand, switch the ladle to the left hand and rinse the right hand. More water is poured into the cupped left hand so the person's mouth can be rinsed. Then the ladle is held in a vertical position so the remaining water runs over the handle. The empty ladle is returned to its position near the fountain.
In our three days in Tokyo, we returned to Senso-ji many times to enjoy the festival parades and the food.
On Friday afternoon, we watched the Daigyoretsu Parade with its procession of priests, city officials, geisha, musicians and dancers all in Edo period costumes.
Later neighborhood groups brought out their portable shrines and to spread luck and prosperity, paraded through neighborhood streets accompanied by Japanese drums and flutes.
|Gates for Senjo-ji|
|Senso-ji in Asakusa|
|Plastic food display of the types of fruit popsicles available|
|Grilled Trout on a Stick|
|Grilled Mochi on a Stick|
Also near the Asakusa neighborhood is the Kappabashi Dogugai (Kitchenware Town). The shops carry everything anyone would ever need in their kitchen or restaurant. There are also shops with plastic food that is purchased by restaurants to use as a pictorial menu.
|Plastic ice cream cones|
By the time we arrived just piles of fish heads remained, and most of the fish sellers already had their knives and work surfaces clean.
Hotel Sunroute Asakusa, 1-8-5 Kaminarimonn Taito-ku Tokyo
February Cafe, at 1-7-8 Kaminarimon on a side street next to Hotel Sunroute Asakusa. A great place to get espresso drinks and pastries.