Day 5 – Japan

This morning an outing was planned to the Tsukiji Fish Market. There are multiple auctions held there for businesses every morning. Spectators can go to the tuna auctions that start at 5:30. To do that, some in our group met at 2:45 AM in the hotel lobby. They walked to the market, got in line, and waited for about two hours to get in as the number of spectators is limited to 120. The auction lasted about 15 minutes and was very lively. None of our group went, but I elected to watch the video. 🙂
After breakfast our entire group went back to the fish market to look around. It opens at nine and at that time sells only to businesses until about noon when anyone can buy. It was enormous! There were many rows of booths and literally tons of things from the sea. I saw fish, squid, octopus, sea urchins?, clams, oysters, and things I could not identify. It smelled fishy, but it wasn’t unbearable. The vendors were bustling and we did our best to stay out of the way. To the side of it is another building where vendors sell produce in bulk. It smelled much better. About 18,000 people work there and they arrive shortly after midnight to prepare for the auctions. This is the last year the fish market will be at this location. The government owns the land and they are relocating the market to make the land available to build a facility that will be used for the upcoming Olympic Games.
Next we went to see the Yasukuni Shrine and museum. Although it’s a shrine, it wasn’t built to honor a deity or prestigious person. It was built to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for their emperor/country. As you enter the gate there are many cases of floral arrangements on the left. Each is made in the ikebana style. There must be three elements – one for earth, one for human, and one for heaven. The arrangement must also be asymmetrical and contain a triangle in the design. To the left was a structure containing prayers papers. People are not allowed to take a picture of the temple after they enter the gate. Many people approached the worship altar while we were there. A person walks up, puts yen in the donation box, bows deeply, holds his arms far apart and brings his hands together to clap two loud claps, and then bows his head to worship. The claps are to get the attention of heaven. After worship is finished, he claps two times again, bows, and then leaves. I saw quite a few people do this while we were there. The Yasukuni museum was very interesting. It chronicles all of the military events in Japan’s history so it, of course, included World War II. It felt odd to be reading about that war from the perspective of the country that was the enemy of my country at that time. I didn’t totally agree with some of the wording in the exhibits, but I guess that’s to be expected. It was a very interesting experience.
Next we went to the Asakusa Shrine and Sensoji Temple The huge, elaborate gate at the opening of the property is called Kaminarimon. The structure has the god of Thunder on the left and the god of wind on the right. Right after you enter, there’s a road for pedestrians leading to the temple. It is filled on both sides with booths of merchants selling everything imaginable. There’s an opening at the end of the road just before the temple. There is a wooden structure/cart with a top, and it’s filled with some type of sand and incense. It generates a lot of smoke. You are supposed to go to it and use your hands to wave/draw the smoke onto yourself for good fortune. The temple itself was built to honor Kannon, the goddess of mercy. It is a favorite of women because it is perceived as being female although gods are typically not gender specific. Everything in the temple was colorful and beautiful. To the right of the room there was a structure containing many drawers. It reminded me of old school card catalogs at the library. There was a steady stream of people paying for Omikuji, to know what the future holds for them. I’ve included some pictures. The bus then dropped off about half of us at Kabuki-za Theatre where we bought tickets to see “Makumi.” The actors were in kimonos and had heavy white face paint and exaggerated makeup. Like Shakespearean plays years ago, all actors in Kabuki are male so female roles are played by men. It was something that I’m glad I experienced, but we of course didn’t understand a single word that was spoken. We were given a synopsis of the story in English, but there was little action and almost exclusively dialogue so we really couldn’t follow anything. Another way it was like plays during Shakespeare’s time is that members of the audience call out actors’ names, call out compliments and suggestions. They just shout these out while the play is going on.
After the play we walked back to the hotel and turned in for the night. Our last day in Tokyo was lovely. 🙂

Man at work in Tsukiji Fish Market

Man at work in Tsukiji Fish Market

Some goods for sale in the vegetable side of the market.

Some goods for sale in the vegetable side of the market.

me and a couple of less fortunate visitors to the fish market

me and a couple of less fortunate visitors to the fish [caption id="attachment_746" align="alignright" width="300"]getting fish ready for sale getting fish ready for sale

market[/caption]
more fish for sale

more fish for sale

clams anyone?

clams anyone?

imageimage
octopus for sale!

octopus for sale!

I'm not sure - sea urchins?

I’m not sure – sea urchins?

Squid

Squid

Entrance to Yasukuni Shrine. Rather than a shrine to an important person or a deity, this shrine is to honor all those who died in military service to Japan.

Entrance to Yasukuni Shrine. Rather than a shrine to an important person or a deity, this shrine is to honor all those who died in military service to Japan.

You write your prayers on one of these papers and attach to the string.

You write your prayers on one of these papers and attach to the string.

There is a display of floral arrangements at the shrine. They are called ikebana because of a prescribed style. They must have three elements that represent earth, humans, and heaven. They must be asymmetrical in general, but also have a triangle in the design.

There is a display of floral arrangements at the shrine. They are called ikebana because of a prescribed style. They must have three elements that represent earth, humans, and heaven. They must be asymmetrical in general, but also have a triangle in the design.

Statue to honor boys/young men who accepted military missions from which they were not expected to return. (Think kamikaze pilots in WWII.)

Statue to honor boys/young men who accepted military missions from which they were not expected to return. (Think kamikaze pilots in WWII.)

Yasukuni shrine

Yasukuni shrine

First course of lunch at Aoi Marushin

First course of lunch at Aoi Marushin

entrance to Nakamise shopping area

entrance to Nakamise shopping area

Entrance to Kaminarimon Gate. That's the God of Thunder above me.

Entrance to Kaminarimon Gate. That’s the God of Thunder above me.

Street scene in shopping area

Street scene in shopping area

the tallest pagoda in Japan

the tallest pagoda in Japan

You are to stop at this structure and wave your hands toward you to draw smoke onto yourself. It is to bring blessings and happiness.

You are to stop at this structure and wave your hands toward you to draw smoke onto yourself. It is to bring blessings and happiness.

imageimage
Steps to enter Asakusa Temple, built to honor Kannon, the goddess of mercy. One of the most popular shrines in Japan.

Steps to enter Asakusa Temple, built to honor Kannon, the goddess of mercy. One of the most popular shrines in Japan.

lighting a candle for prayers and petitions

lighting a candle for prayers and petitions

Asakusa shrine

Asakusa shrine

people getting fortune papers (Omikuji)

people getting fortune papers (Omikuji)

placard of directions and advice for fortune papers

placard of directions and advice for fortune papers

Waiting for the verdict!

Waiting for the verdict!

posing with Buddha

posing with Buddha

These school children on a field trip to the shrine are wearing hats to help them stand out. It's really crowded In this whole area.

These school children on a field trip to the shrine are wearing hats to help them stand out. It’s really crowded In this whole area.

entrance to Kabuki-za theater

entrance to Kabuki-za theater

Kabuki-za theater. We saw a stage performance of "Makumi"

Kabuki-za theater. We saw a stage performance of “Makumi”

three young ladies at the Asakusa Shrine

three young ladies at the Asakusa Shrine

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