A day in the city

Chip is wondering why Mama is walking away and leaving him with this strange man.

Way before Chip-chan busted his leg, we had a tour to Tokyo planned for this weekend. Not about to let a little challenge to mobility get us down, I crossed my fingers and off we went. In the past week Chip has become much more resigned to life in his stroller, so I think that he actually enjoyed getting wheeled around Tokyo. There are probably few cities on the planet better for just taking it all in, after all.

Our day started at the Meiji shrine in Shibuya. The shrine was built in 1920 to honor the spirits of the Meiji emperor, the one who opened and modernized Japan in the 19th century. The shrine is set in a dense urban forest, and is open and understated. I think it is the most peaceful big shrine I’ve been to in Japan. It being a beautiful last Saturday of summer, there were lots of weddings going on, too.

A shinto wedding. I really like the bride's ensemble, but I love the men in morning suits.

Chip always doffs his hat while touring religious sites. Really he just hates wearing a hat.

Next up was Tokyo Tower built in 1958 and over 1,000 feet tall. The main purpose of the tower is to broadcast radio and TV signals, but it also is a tourist attraction. Shops and restaurants are located in “Foot Town” the appetizingly-named lower floors of the building. We had a nice lunch in Foot Town. It was a clear day and so there were expansive views of Tokyo and beyond from the observation tower. The city just keeps on going and going…

The view from below. Godzilla free.

Our last stop of the day was the Asakusa district of Toyko. I had been wanting to see “A-sock-sa,” which I had been pronouncing “A-sa-koo-sa,” because it is supposed to be a neat little slice of old Tokyo. I wasn’t disappointed. The center of the district is anchored by the giant Senso-ji temple. The temple site is the oldest in Tokyo. The temple itself, and much of Asakusa, was fire-bombed to nothing during WWII, and the temple has just recently been renovated. The ancient-looking structure is actually made of concrete and steel and its new roof tiles are titanium, which should last about a million years.

The new Senso-ji temple.

View from the temple courtyard.

The Nintenmon gate to the shrine, one of the oldest structures in Tokyo. And Chip. The gate was built in 1618 and somehow survived earthquakes and bombing.

From the gate to the temple hangs a huge lantern, and the street leading up to the temple has been a shopping area since the 18th century. It was crowded and charming, and full of street food. Chip and I couldn’t resist fried noodles with octopus (the octopus was a surprise) and peach soft serve.

The main gate and the lantern.

The main gate is at the right, and in the center is Tokyo Tower's new competition. The Tokyo "Sky Tree" will be Japan's tallest building when it's finished, and will take over broadcasting digital signals.

I think this was my favorite part of Tokyo I’ve seen so far. It just seemed to have everything. It was very crowded and touristy, but here and there I still saw older ladies in aprons taking their dogs for an evening walk and neighborhood people buying fresh pears from the backs of trucks. Best of all, Chip saw a monkey. There was a baboon in a pair of shorts performing outside of a shrine. Chip pointed and started making his monkey noise, which is a recent development. (For some reason, the monkey is the only animal he wants to vocalize…)

We also saw real, live sumo wrestlers. Asakusa is near the stadium where the annual fall tournament is being held and we saw two just waiting to cross the street, like anyone else. They were wearing their cotton kimonos and had their hair pulled up in topknots and no one else seemed to be paying them any attention. What does a sumo wrestler go out for on a Saturday afternoon? Noodles and soft serve?

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