The famous Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a very nice three day culture festival during the weekend and I was there to enjoy the display of traditional sacred dances, the Kaguramai (神楽舞). Each day had between one and two hours of a few sets of dances, performed by one to four dancers. Some of the dances were very rare and not something most people are likely to see even once in their lives here in Japan. Once again Yasukuni brings the most sacred of traditions to the general public, and free of charge as usual. Thank you, Yasukuni Shrine!
You can tell that Disney is popular in Japan, by the fact that there are two, independent Disney attractions near Tokyo: Tokyo Disney Land and Tokyo Disney Sea. Tokyo Disney Sea opened in 2001 and currently has the world record in reaching the 10 million customer fastest, it took them only 307 days! It is currently the fourth most popular theme park in the world. Unlike Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea is owned and developed by a Japanese company, which explains its slightly different feel, as all Disney characters and themes are merely licensed by the Oriental Land company.
One the many interesting place in the theme park is the Mermaid Lagoon, which has a few outdoor rides but most of the fun takes place indoors (there are eight rides and attractions in total in this area), under the water in Triton’s Kingdom, which is set up to look like how Triton would entertain human guests in the big wedding of his daughter Ariel the mermaid and Prince Eric. If you look up, you can see that the roof is made to look like the underside of the ocean surface and if you look carefully enough you can just about make up the underside of a big ship. The setting works beautifully in real life, more so than in any photos I managed to take. Mermaid Lagoon is mostly popular with the youngest visitors and their parents, but still worth a stroll through for older visitors. There are so many details and hidden gems in this part of Disney Sea!
I have been here a few times but still not seen half Mermaid Lagoon. More exploration is necessary!
The main reason everyone visits the Katsushika Ward neighborhood of Shibamata, inconveniently placed as it might be on the extreme east of Tokyo right next to Chiba Prefecture, is to visit the hugely famous Taishakuten temple. But being as most of us are, much more easily lured by more carnal attractions (in this case, eating, shopping, drinking) what seems to keep most people in the area for the longest is the mere 200m of the the Taishakuten Sando, a remarkably well preserved, picturesque and quaint shopping street leading right from Shibamata train station to the temple gates. The street is lined with old timey shops, eateries, souvenir vendors and purveyors of religious paraphernalia. Most big temples and shrines around Japan have shorter or longer versions of this kind of street, but this is one of the more attractive I have seen so far. I visited very late on a very hot day with dubious weather so I could enjoy the normal crowds to take these photos of the near empty street.
Some people say that Taishakuten and enivrons is Tokyo’s most underrated conventional tourist attraction, and I might agree with them. The place is steeped in culture and post-war romanticism, but even for the casual foreign tourist the place is well worth a visit!
It’s been a tough weekend. Myself and two friends spent a week preparing for the second run up north, delivering supplies to the shelters. Japan as a country is very much like a large ship. It takes time to change direction, but once there it can move with tremendous power and speed. It had been only a week since the first time I went up but life was improving in small, almost invisible steps. I haven’t had time to put up any photos or even get a good night’s sleep, but here’s a few random things I saw in the worst hit areas that convinced me Japan is now back on the road towards recovery:
– At a shelter in Ishinomaki I saw dozens of volunteers cooking and helping organizing a shelter in a local high school. The volunteer were able to take over from the exhausted local teachers and staff that had been continuously looking after the refugees since day one.
– I saw a mailman entering a refugee shelter of about 300, pausing at the noticeboard while looking for the recipients of his mail at the long list of people staying there. It was incredibly touching to see that these mailmen will carry on in their mission no matter what.
– In Kesennuma we met a ferry at the harbor, having just resumed scheduled trips to and from the offshore islands to the mainland. It was almost surreal to see the ticket booth and the vending machine set up in the middle of a city that just four weeks ago were hit by a 20m tsunami and which burnt for 4 days.
– I saw many more people smiling than crying.
– Preparations for school start was underway in many small towns. Some of the schools were still covered in oil and mud, but volunteers had arrived and were working hard to clean up the debris.
More photos and stories to come, once I have had some rest.