We spent a couple nights in Tokyo where I could not pass up the opportunity to see the Godzilla statue – I am a fan from way back. The Imperial Palace itself is not open for visitors but the grounds around the palace – including some old ruins – are public accessible. The bridge onto the palace – the Seimon Ishibashi bridge – remains one of the most photographed locations in Tokyo, it is said.
The days in Tokyo fluctuated between unusual heat and persistent precipitation. At a single drop of rain, a forest of umbrellas would unfurl hinting at a deluge that never fully came to fruition. The weather remained serviceable enough to visit the gardens around the Meiji Shrine, the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, the famous Sensō-ji temples, and the traditional Yakana district. The Sensō-ji temples are popular and often very busy with locals and tourists. The Meiji Shrine, nestled within a large city park, is suggested as a quieter alternative. Despite that large number of visitors at the Meiji Shrine the crowds were more diffuse and it was a more relaxing experience.
I wanted to see the Yasukuni Shrine as much for the controversy as for the shrine itself. The shrine honors those who fought and died for Japan from the mid-Nineteenth Century onward. The debate arises due to a number of convicted war criminals memorialized there. Each visit of a high-ranking Japanese politician to Yasukuni raises the anger of the Asian nations attacked, colonized or subjugated by the Japanese honored at the shrine. There is also a museum recounting the history of the Japanese military – including military engagements – from the Meiji period to the present day. The narrative at the museum is not often to the liking of Japan’s neighbors and previous adversaries. Photographs in the museum are not permitted as much, I suspect, to protect the items within as to limit the instant adverse reaction should these accounts be quickly shared on social media. The displays are well annotated in English, with the exception of several potentially controversial areas which are in Japanese only.
The Yanaka area promises a bit of old Tokyo with narrow pedestrian streets and traditional style buildings. It is also the home of a number of temples that had been relocated here due to the fire risk of the temple roofs. The Yanaka Cemetery – and the adjacent Tennoji and Kanonji temples – are worth the visit. The cemetery, which has its own police substation, is rumored to be quite lovely when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Tokyo being Tokyo, we needed to sample some particular sites and experiences including the hectic Shibuya Crossing (and the nearby statue of Hachikō), the Tokyo Skytree, and the theme park-spa Onsen Monogatari. But high on my list, about as high as the Godzilla statue, was to visit a hedgehog cafe where you can rent some quality time to play with the adorable critters. Tokyo also has other pet cafes where visitors can get their animal “fix” if they are unable to have pets of their own. I think that the hedgehog cafe we visited also sells them as pets, but I am not sure about that.
The Yama-dera mountain temple, outside of Yamagata, known for its impressive views (and 1000 steps)
And, of course, the stunning Mount Fuji (a few of the more than thirty-six images taken)
For your viewing pleasure, a sped-up version of Shibuya Crossing. It was on a Sunday in the rain so not as dramatic as a weekday, but you get the idea)