Day 8

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2007 (DAY 8)

  Most of the teachers are all packed up and ready to leave to go to their host-cities and will arrive there sometime late this afternoon or tonight.  There are 3 groups that don’t move until tomorrow!  With that in mind, those remaining here have one more day to do some exploring.  I am included in those 3 groups.  Once again, a wonderful breakfast buffet was laid out for us.  I made mine fairly light so I could hit the road quickly.  Out the front of the hotel and to the right is one of the largest temples in Tokyo and one of the oldest.  In fact there was a time that this temple needed funding, so it sold off a bit of its property and the hotel group bought it, hence the Tokyo Prince Hotel.  There are all kinds of shrines.  The figures are of carved stone and then decorated with knitted red hats and scarves.  There are hundreds of these and some are holding multi-colored pinwheels.  These are dedicated to the spirit of a child that might have died or was not born.  Also, this is the shrine of travelers.  Inside the smaller Buddhist temple I purchased a temple book.  This book can be signed and stamped by the monks in each attended temple that I visit, for a small fee.  Then I went to the large temple.  It was beautiful.  The wood floor was highly polished, monks were preparing for something to take place.  Suddenly there was a gong sound and several people in dark suites and ladies dressed in dark slipped off their shoes and went to a padded mat on the floor. And then a ceremony began.  I think it might have been a funeral. Chanting by the monks began and gongs rang.  The gong was a massive bell that was struck by a mallet.  I observed for awhile and then headed on.  In the front of the temple was a tree that had been planted by President Bush, during a visit when he was Vice President.  There were several other small shrines around the property.  From here I headed to the World Trade  Center, caught the subway to Ueno.  Ueno is the station where the museums are.  I finally figured out how to get out the station and followed the people.  I didn’t get to the museums, but wound up on several streets that had a market on them.  Thousands of stalls and shop fronts all hawking their wares.  I walked up and down several streets looking at all the things for sale.  Clothes, shoes, bags, food, dried fish in bags, whole dried squids of different colors, pharmacy type items, and more. I even ran across another temple, so I had my book stamped.  They were very nice, asked where I was from, and then afterwards, gave me a special pouch of tea for luck.  Back to the market, I purchased a giant wedge of pineapple on a stick…the stick was a chopstick…for Y100.  (less than a dollar).  I headed back to the station to see if I could locate the museums.  A girl helped me and pointed me in the right direction and eventually got to the museum complex.  This area housed all kinds of museums, but I was interested in the National  Science Museum.  The admission was Y600, that’s about $6.00.  It was very well put together.  It had the science of Japan, the formation of Japan, how Japanese live on the land, and then galleries on more typical things you might find in a science museum.  I was there a couple of hours and then wanted to head on.  I walked around the museum campus, had a mango ice cream cone by the fountain and then down to the shrines and temples found in this park.  There was a memorial flame that was burning there that was taken from the fires that burned from having dropped the A-Bomb on Hiroshima.  After I had my book stamped, I headed to Harajuku by subway.  This is the fashion and trendy area normally filled with teenagers and young adults looking for the “off-beat” clothes.  It was amazing.  Thousands of the most interestingly dressed people and with different hair styles filled the alleyways of this area.  It took me well over 90 minutes to walk through a small street due to the amount of people all packed into this space.  I walked through and wanted to head to a park, the Shinshuzu  Park, but never made it as I never found the entrance as it is surrounded by a huge fence.  But because I walked the outside of the park, I made it to the area of Shinshuzu and the worlds largest department store.  It was 14 floors.  The escalators up and down were filled with people and each floor of the store was, too.  The Christmas (commercial Christmas as it is known here) decorations had just been turned on.  The had a giant illuminated Tokyo  Tower being attacked by a giant dinosaur…probably Godzilla.  There were even full stores inside this giant department store.  I headed to the subway and took the train back to the World  Trade Center and started back to the hotel.  It was 7pm.  I realized I had not yet eaten much of anything and was very hungry.  I stopped at a restaurant noodle store.  There I bought a ticket for food and drink, no sooner did I sit down the food was served.  I had a giant bowl of noodles with broth, meats, and vegetables, and a tray of pot-stickers. It was very delicious.  Then back to the hotel.  Tomorrow I relocate to another hotel and head to my host city of Ota.  Good night.