|Ginza district at night.|
|Ginza district closes the street to traffic.|
|Side streets lit by neon signs.|
|Inside a pachinko parlor|
|Looking at the city from across the moat.|
|As close as I came to the royal palace.|
|Beautiful fall colors.|
|Having coffee in the cafe.|
|Inside the Liz Lisa boutique.|
I thought it might be a good idea to buy a kimono. The shop I visited had a selection of the robes on display. They were beautiful. They would better decorate a wall than any painting or photo. I looked at the price and had to look again. My rough mental calculation of yen to dollars suggested that the particular kimono I was examining was in excess of $500. It was way more than I wanted to spend, of course, but it was certainly worth that price. It wasn't even the most impressive or most expensive, but it was the one that most appealed to me. There was a gentle click-click-click as my brain slowly chewed over the cost, then there was an almost audible "bing!" This kimono was not five hundred bucks, this kimono was more than five thousand bucks. I would not be hanging this kimono on my wall ... but I thought briefly about a fur tapestry.
What I really like about Tokyo is the fact that cars are not the rulers of the city. The area where I was walking around had almost no cars. There are plenty of bicycles, of course, but few cars getting in the way of everything. The roads were practically alleys, they were so narrow, and people walked through the streets like Americans walk through the mall corridors.
Having experienced crowded trains on the weekend, I could not imagine what the weekday commute is like. On a Saturday morning, I took the train to Asakusa to see the most famous shrine in the city, Sensō-ji. The train was packed with people. I got off the train too soon and found myself in the middle of ... well, wherever I was in Tokyo, but probably not the middle. I was fortunate to fine a policeman who knew enough English to point me in the right direction. In the end I was lucky to have exited when I did as it afforded opportunity to see more of the city.
|Outside the Bandai headquarters|
When I arrived at Sensō-ji, I was a bit overwhelmed. After passing through the first enormous gate, I found myself in a lane leading up to the shrine, each side of which was crowded with shops. I was actually pleased to see so many potential souvenir items in one place, but I thought it a bit odd that a sacred place would be so commercial. I later learned that since ancient times, the merchants had been allowed to set up their small shops in exchange for looking after the temple grounds.
|Visitors pull incense smoke toward themselves near the shrine gate.|
I barely made it to the first gate when I was approached by three college students. They wanted to be my guides at the shrine because it gave them an opportunity to practice their English. I was quite suspect, but dropped my guard when I realized they were sincere. As they told me about the gate we were standing beneath, I was distracted by small groups of people walking with, what looked like, fishing poles in bags. I asked my guides to help me figure out what they were doing. We learned they were all coming from an archery tournament held at a recreation center near the river. This was my chance to see one of Japan's most famous art forms!
|The archer's equipment.|
In a room as long as a bowling alley, a group of six immaculately dressed archers methodically took their place at the shooting area with their great seven-foot bows. They went through a bit of a ritual as they knelt down to prepare their arrows, then slowly stood to take their shot. With the help of my interpreter guides, I gained permission to photograph them unobtrusively.
|Preparing for the shot.|
I spent as long as I dared, not wanting to distract the competitors with my presence as I moved behind them, looking very out of place with my western garb. My guides took me back to the shrine and we continued where we left off.
Once we had completed the tour of the shrine, my young guides asked my permission to return to the entrance so they could meet more more English speakers. I was quite taken aback by this, but they were the epitome of politeness. I was worried that I ran them off their feet, but they admitted that they had fun. They wished me good luck and took off through the crowd, back to the first gate.
|I have no idea what he was selling.|
While I did not see a lot of them, the ones I did see were very professional looking. Any one of them could have an entire animated TV program dedicated to them, but here, they were the American equivalent of sign flippers.
I stopped a young couple as they were entering some sort of bank. Fortunately, they spoke English. The bank, as it turned out, was a karaoke place ... so much for my powers of observation and deduction. He pulled out his smart phone and used the map application to identify bank machines. The three of us followed the directions, going from bank to bank, all of which lacked the service I required.
I was impressed by the guy's stylish attire and asked his girlfriend if he was a musician. She assured me he was. "Ah-ha, he is a singer in a rock band, isn't he?" I claimed. The two of them laughed. She said he was a singer, but that he sang opera. Now it was my turn to laugh, but she assured me that he sang opera. To test him, I (badly) hummed the opening bars of my favorite aria, Nessun dorma. He picked it up right away and began singing the lyrics in a quite, but powerful, voice. I stopped dead in my tracks. He really was an opera singer!
|Opera singer and girlfriend.|
|One of the many little bars in Asakusa.|
|Sensō-ji at night.|
|Soy sauce flavored Kit Kat bars? Only in Japan|