Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Japan Day 2

A few pics to go along with the last post of our first day in Japan:
 ps: you'll be seeing more pics from these sites when I get L's camera so get excited :)

Our first sight: the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, a Shinto Shrine in Kamakura (about an hour train ride from downtown Tokyo) was nothing short of spectacular! Who knew that Japan had so many trees!

 Closer up, with our tour guides
 The Daibutsu (in Kamakura), the second largest Buddha in Japan. Made in 1252, it has stood in the open since a tsunami washed away the hall that housed it in 1495.
 The Hase-Dera (Kamakura). Built in 736 AD to house a statue that washed up on the beach. A little info on all of these structures-pretty much everything is made of wood and are occasionally repainted so they are super well maintained and look like they would right after they were built. Part of the Shinto religion was that the shrines were rebuilt every 20 years-not the case for Buddhist temples-they don't do that now, too expensive, so they just do a repair or repaint every 20 years so many were very bright colors orange/red (which all the guides thought were the same color, seriously, I kept asking people why are some red and some orange and they would be like "they are all vermilion", the honestly acted like there were not the two different colors). Buddhist temples were painted bright red/orange as well originally but the Buddhist thought is that they just let it go (don't repaint) so they were not as brightly colored.

Japan Day 2:

I awoke to L screaming in the bathroom-she had tried the bidet and was apparently quite surprised.
-as a side note the toilets in Japan are quite elaborate affairs. Wikipedia described them as "advanced".
 Saw plenty of these, I guess the toilet slippers are a nice thought
actually, I saw plenty regular ones too, but with these:
That's right, how could you possibly perform your morning ablutions without the aid of 39 buttons? (Yes, it took me 10 min to figure out how to flush the one in the airport) In common places, like train stations, they have an entire panel of controllers to flush, two different pics of spraying (not sure why), seat warmers with various temperatures, and music/flushing sounds. From there, they just go up. While not altogether unpleasant, there is something very disconcerting about sitting down on a steaming toilet (it is no coincidence that they are called LAVAtories).

So, after a night with ambien (slept fantastically) I began my day to 5am screams (not really the strangest thing when you know L) and a blazing sun (they have never thought of daylight savings time and so it is bright as noon at about 3 am). We started out visiting a Japanese church (could not read the hymns, not even pretend to sound them out, those Kanji characters are a bit of a mystery), then walked through a great park nearby, then headed over to the Senso-Ji Temple.

as we approached the Temple we were accosted by a group of nice high school age kids who wanted to practice their English and take us on a free tour.
gotta love a nice pagoda. I wondered about these rather magnificent creations the entire trip and finally found out about them. They were built as burial shrines to hold the spirit of Buddha (so they were never used as temples for the priests, housing etc, they are like mausoleums or tombs. And also, I have like 20 Japanese friends on facebook now)
Awesomely nice kids, not a lot of historical info on the Temple.  Fortunately, my guidebook was there to supplement. This Buddhist Temple was first built in 628 AD to house a statue that was miraculously fished out of the ocean (there is a strange history of throwing statues in the ocean and then hoping they will miraculously wash back up later). In Japan, as everything is built of wood, things seem to constantly burn down. However, when they did, they were just rebuilt or repaired so the shrine looks like it did when it was built in 628 though the most recent structure was rebuilt most recently in 1950.

These places are quite honestly amazing. Can you imagine building a structure on this scale in 628?? I thought the same thing when I saw the Pantheon and Grecian Temples in Sicily. People are surprisingly industrious!

btw-we also saw the Beer tower, a famous tower in Japan next to the Temple. I have no idea why it looks like this.

We happened upon a Monkey show while we were there-it was fantastic!! A tiny little monkey (wearing cloths) zipped about and did all sorts of tricks like sitting on a stool and jumping over a very high limbo bar. I cannot describe how cute he was, I was so tempted to reach out and touch him (he was literally about 5 feet in front of me doing his act). Smart little thing, I really wanted one (or thought at the very least Hogle Zoo could get themselves in gear and get a show going). It was an utter delight!

 -another side note, we had to secretly eat out snacks (each of us brought 30 snacks) bc no one eats in public, on the trains etc. At the start of the trip we were pretty good but by the end we were so hungry (those chopsticks are pretty hard to use) that we just pulled things out, poured them into our mouths, confirming every stereotype of Americans etc.

We finished up the day with a walk through Ueno park, a visit to the Tokyo National Museum (I know nothing about Japanese art) and a run (fairly literally) through the National Museum of Western Art
(for some reason they have a bunch of Rhodin statues including (one of the many)Thinker, a Tintoretto, paintings by both Jan and Pieter Brueghel (L was mad for those of course), some Rubens (typical mounds of pink flesh), Manet, Monet, Pissaro, Renoir, (who doesn't love a nice Impressionist?), Cezanne, and even a Van Gogh! among their collection. This was followed by curry for dinner (good curry, not quite as good as Thai curry). L's little friend M dropped us off at out hotel and left us for  a few days. L and I hung out in the hotel room (which meant we were sitting down on the bed, me trying on the pajamas things that were in every hotel we stayed in) and L sleeping/mumbling about how tired she was etc. Finally (at about 8pm) we gave up and went to bed.

Day 3 to come:
-the mystery of the umbrella is solved-forcibly bowed at the first Shogun's tomb-is it possible to pay too much for a mango-is the queen creeped out by shopping malls or a trip to Coraline's world-why hamburgers are so good.

1 comment:

Jesse said...

I want to go to Japan so bad now!