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  • Lyndell Daniel

How to spend a day in Tokyo

Every year we plan to spend some time in Tokyo. There's so much to do and see, including day trips to Nikko Mura, the Bay area of Tokyo, Sumo and so much more. We arrived late into Tokyo from Sapporo and opted in stay in Asakusa, which for us, is central to everything we wanted to do. Akihabara (秋葉原) (the Electric District) which also has a Yodabashi store; Kanda (神田) mainly for the sporting goods; Ueno (上野) famous for Ueno Park and Zoo; plus wanting to spend time at Sensō-ji Temple again.

Welcome to a new day as the sun rises over Tokyo SkyTree. These stunning morning sunrises are just one of the many things I like about staying at the Richmond International Hotel, Asakusa. Photographing through the window though never provides the best picture, but still, you get the idea.

As the sun continues to rise, you will find that Tokyo is a place that does not rise early, which is so different to our 5am walks on the beach at home. Most of Tokyo seems to commence trading around 10.00am and stays open until around 8pm. So for those of you who like sleeping in, this is the place to be.

A different angle of the city from our window.

Sensō-ji Temple

Staying at the Richmond International Hotel, means we are so close to the famous ancient Buddhist Sensō-ji Temple. It is Tokyo's oldest temple, and one of its most significant.

The area to the left of this photo is where you can engage in omikuji ((おみくじ): A Guide to Fortune Telling. The fortune that one is granted can range from having a great blessing (大吉) to a big curse (大凶).

omikuji ((おみくじ)

To start the process of getting your omikuji, you place ¥100 in the slot and then shake a cylinder full of numbered sticks that will decide your fate. As you shake the cylinder you ask a question and select the stick that protrudes from the hole in the cylinder, read the number, and place the stick back in the shaker. Based on the number that your stick had on it, select a fortune paper (omikuji) from the appropriate drawer. After selecting your fortune from the drawer, read it. Some temples (such as Sensō-ji) will have an English translation of the fortune on the back of the paper for you, while some will not. If you select a bad fortune like I did, do not keep it! The tradition is to tie your fortune to a pole, a tree, or between a door and leave it at the site of the temple.

Sensō-ji is one of Tokyo's most colorful and popular temples.

The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo's oldest temple.

There are many ways to visit Sensō-ji and appreciate the temple and its surrounds, but the standard is to start from the Kaminarimon Gate and move up. The two statues guarding it are of the two rather obscure deities Fujin-sama and Raijin-sama, “god of wind” and “god of thunder and lightning” respectively. The latter (i.e. the left one) has given his name to the gate since another reading of “rai” is “kaminari”. Incidentally, this is what the characters on the big red lantern say: “Kaminarimon” or “thundergate”. When passing through the gate, check under the base of the lantern—you’ll find a dragon hiding there! This is because the official name of Sensoji Temple is “Kinryuzan” or “Golden Dragon Mountain”; the same thing is written on the green plate above the lantern.

Sensō-ji was the reason the insignificant village of Asakusa became a town. Ieyasu, the Tokugawa shogun who created the great city of Edo and made it Japan’s de facto capital in the early 1600s, saw in Sensoji a very convenient symbolism. Being the toughest warlord of his time, he needed all the help he could get from the gods and Buddhas. According to ancient geomancy, potential invaders come either from the northeast or the southwest, the front and rear “demon gates”. Sensoji Temple was the guardian of the northeast gate and Zojoji Temple in Shiba, near Tokyo Tower took care of the southwest; Ieyasu made them both his family temples.

You will see people wearing a kimono around Sensō-ji temple and there are places to rent them also.

A shopping street of over 200 meters, called Nakamise, leads from the outer gate to the temple's second gate, the Hozomon.

Alongside typical Japanese souvenirs such as yukata and folding fans, various traditional local snacks from the Asakusa area are sold along the Nakamise. The shopping street has a history of several centuries.

Akihabara (秋葉原)

We had decided to spent the night in the Akihabara district.

Akihabara (秋葉原), also called Akiba after a former local shrine, is a district in central Tokyo that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan's otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district. On Sundays, Chuo Dori, the main street through the district, is closed to car traffic from 13:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from October through March).

Peter had been searching all day for a special Dragon Ball figurine for a friend from Jujitsu. He finally found a shop that had one - it is impossible to imagine the size of these shops and the amount of floors they have filled with figurines, until you actually enter one. One hour after he entered the shop, and me waiting patiently wandering the streets, he finally emerged from with this Dragon Ball figurine in toe.

Good night Tokyo.

Next stop, Jōetsumyōkō Station and then on to Lotte Arai.

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