Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Day 5: Asakusa/Kappabashi/Inaricho

Woke up at 6am today, after falling asleep around 1am. I had wanted to watch the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig episodes that were supposed to air at 2am, but I missed them.
Today is another beautiful, dreary day in Tokyo. And now it's starting to get tired. I'd like to see the Sun again, it makes my pictures better. But, I'll take an overcast day in Tokyo to an overcast day in Philly, all things being equal.
I still have about $25 in change in my pocket and it's starting to wearing a hole through my jeans, must take care of that today.
We meet the crew again in the lobby at 10:30am and off we go to catch the Yamanote line to Ueno and then the Ginza line to Asakusa. I don't really have a feel for the system yet, as I haven't had to really figure it out on my own yet, which I think hurt me today, when the JR Suica vending machine ran out of cards when I was buying some for Donna and myself. Not only did we have no idea what we were doing, but we were in the way, holding up other commuters. Erica hit the call for assistance button, before I could register what was going on, and we kinda just stood around like stupid apes waiting for help to arrive. Instead of someone coming up to us, a panel on the vending machine wall, opens and we see the head of JR employee who starts speaking rapid fire Japanese at us, wondering what's going on. The very nice obaasan who we were holding up, got it straightened out for us, when I started getting that glazed over look in my eye. Within a few moments the machine was back up and running and we were on our way, but not before we thanked the nice lady profusely. Being a stupid foreigner has it's advantages I suppose, but unlike Blanche Dubois, I'd rather not depend on the kindness of strangers, if I can help it.
So, finally we're off and running, and eventually make our way to Asakusa without much trouble. Once there, again, Erica has only a vague sense of where we're supposed to be heading. Which is fine with me, as getting lost would probably be more rewarding; we'd see things that average tourist never would.
We do find the shrine (the Senso-ji) and along the main road to the shrine (Nakamisedori) There are little shops on either side, selling all kinds of things, though it was mostly touristy kind of knick-knacks. The area surrounding the shrine caters to tourists from everywhere, though, so the shrine seems to have inadvertently become a shopping center. The plan is wander on our own for about an hour and a half and then meet up at one spot.
Erica, Patty, Laura and Erin immediately head for the shrine, Donna, Kelly, Bruce and I go in search of food. We wander down the side streets and find this tiny Ramen shop. And I mean tiny. It was slightly larger than one of those lunch carts downtown. It had a bar and about 7 stools around the bar and that was about it. We sit down, and Bruce deciphers the menu and we order our ramen. Hot, delicious and cheap, the way Ramen was meant to be, all for about 5 bucks a head.
After lunch we continue to wander around the side streets looking at everything and then made our way back to the temple to meet up with everyone.
I'm not sure if there was any significance to yesterday, meaning if it was a holiday or something, but it certainly felt like it. Though, now I wonder if it's just a cultural thing, We saw a lot of Korean and Chinese tourists here, as well as westerners, and it seems that the thing you do when you tour a temple, is to take a lot of pictures and pay homage to kami that reside there. So we did. First we purified ourselves with incense and water, then we entered the temple. We paid homage to the kami with come coins in my pocket, and prayed. We each paid our ¥100 and drew a fortune, Kelli and Bruce drew "Bad Fortune", while I lucked out and drew "Excellent Fortune." :-D Kelli and Bruce tied off their bad fortunes and we were off again.
Eventually, we all meet up and start walking to the Kappbashi, or the Plastic Food District. It's basically like 2nd and Front around Arch and Vine, the restaurant supply district, only much larger. Plus they have these stores that sell the plastic food that restaurants put in their windows to entice customers into their place. They are all very well crafted, and generally kind of expensive. I wasn't really interested in taking pictures of plastic food.
At this point, the chill in the air and all the walking is taking it's toll on our group, so we head back and I discover that I've taken about 90 pictures today. And I have to say the Lithium batteries I bought before we left, are amazing. I put them in the camera on Saturday when we arrived and I haven't changed them yet.
Anyway check out my pictures here and here. I've been playing with the contrast in iPhoto, so these will probably look better than the others.

**** EDITED 4/14/2005 : Added some names and the fortune stories, and fixed some typos. ****


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