Yanaka

One my last day in Tokyo, I decided to walk to Yanaka since it was just a short walk from my hotel and I had a few hours before having to head to the airport. What a hidden treasure. No tourists, an old cemetery, temples and shrines all over, and a little walkway with shops of all kinds selling goods. I was there early enough to see the shop owners start setting up for the day.  It was miraculously spared the carnage of the Allied bombings in World War II, and as a result still has the narrow alleys and streets and has an old Tokyo feel to it.

Tennoji Temple

The bronze Buddha dates back to 1690.

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Yanaka Cemetery

Once the burial grounds of Kanei-ji and Tennoji temples and opened to the public in 1874, this is one of Tokyo’s largest cemeteries. Among its more than 7,000 tombstones are graves belonging to famous public figures, artists, and writers, some of whom lived in the area.

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Choanji Temple

Established in 1669, it was dedicated to the god of longevity, one of Japan’s seven lucky gods.

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Kannonji Temple

A small stone pagoda to the right of its front entrance is dedicated to the 47 ronin, masterless samurai who avenged their master’s death and then committed ritual suicide in 1702.

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Old wall that was once part of the temple.

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Yanaka Ginza

An old-fashioned shopping lane free from cars. Lining the lane are shops selling both modern and traditional toys, crafts, clothing, sweets, household goods, tofu, rice, fish, and vegetables.

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 Daienji Temple

One of the very few temples to house a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine under one roof.

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Nezu Shrine

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Random Pictures

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Shibuya

Shibuya is a crowded with people, shops, restaurants and game centers. The famous cross walk, Shibuya crossing is so busy and crazy. The lights turn red at the same time and when they do, traffic stops completely and pedestrians spill out from every direction. It didn’t seem that busy when I was there. Below is my photo and then a comparative photo when it gets really busy.

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Coming out of the train station is the Hachiko statue. According to a famous story, the dog waited for his master every day in front of Shibuya Station, and continued to do so for years even after his master had passed away.

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Shibuya crossing – many of the buildings have giant video screens on them and there are also sounds coming from everywhere.

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A restaurant where you purchase a meal ticket from a vending machine outside then go inside and hand the ticket to the staff.

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The concept of a love hotel was explained to me in Nojiri as we passed one and I was asked if we have them in the US. Well yes, but they’re shady and likely involve illegal acts. There’s a high concentration of these hotels in Shibuya. Love hotels are a type of short-stay hotel which exist in order to give Japanese couples privacy and intimacy – especially if they still live with their parents at home. I’m sure shady encounters happen as well. Each hotel seems to have its own theme.

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Akihabara

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Akihabara, also known as Electric Town, is a major shopping area for electronic, computer, anime and games. I read that it started as a place where street vendors (mostly college students) used to deal in radio parts at the black market just after World War Ⅱ.

Otaku is the Japanese term for what we would call geeks in the US. Some people engage in cosplay (costume play) and dress up as anime or manga characters and walk around the area. This culture inspired some strange things, one being maid cafes, where waitresses dress up in maid costumes and treat customers like masters and serve them food with pictures they have drawn in condiments, and sometimes even spoon-feeding customers. Some customers will pay to just sit and have a conversation with the maids or play cards or video games with them.

It was really cool to see Akihabara around sunset as the neon signs started to light up the area.

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Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple felt touristy compared to all the other shrines and temples I visited. It was crowded and to get to the temple, you had to pass through a small walkway filled with shops selling food and souvenirs. It is a Buddhist temple and is Tokyo’s oldest temple, dating back to 645. During World War II, the temple was bombed and for the most part destroyed. It was rebuilt later and is a symbol of rebirth and peace to the Japanese people.

There were many little drawers around the temple. For 100 yen, you can consult the oracle and divine answers to your questions by  taking a stick from one of the drawers and reading the answer.

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Crowded market walkway to the temple

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Five star pagoda

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View of the Tokyo Skytree

There was also a large incense burner outside of the temple. People would try to spread the smoke of the incense over themselves to purify, heal, and bring them luck.

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One of the very few temples where you are allowed to take photographs

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Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine is located in one of the very few green spots in Tokyo and has over 170,000 trees! The shrine was constructed in 1920 and is dedicated to souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt shortly after. It was a peaceful and cool stroll through the park to get to the shrine.

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Harajuku

Harajuku is the center of Japan’s extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles. On Sundays many young people gather around Harajuku Station and engage in cosplay (costume play), and dress up in excentric costumes. I visited the area, but because I left on Saturday, was not able to experience the crazy costumes on Sunday. But below are some images I took from the web so you can see some of the costumes.

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Just some random photos of shops and signs. I was there sometime between 9-10am and people would be lined up outside of clothing stores just waiting for them to open.

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Back in Seattle

I made it back safely to Seattle! The first things I noticed were the cooler weather, the abundance of trees and green spaces, and the smell of the northwest.

I didn’t have time to make updates while I was there since it was so hot and by the time I would get back to my hotel I would shower and fall asleep shortly after.

I will continue to make posts throughout the week for those that are interested in seeing pictures from my last few days in Tokyo.