Thursday, April 14, 2005


Went to bed at 11pm and woke up at 6:30. I think I've finally settled in here. When I woke up the light from outside was saturating the heavy curtains on the windows, so I knew it was sunny out today. Sure enough, I peek out the curtains and beautiful, wonderful sunlight poured into the room. Today is gorgeous.
We roll early today, to get some breakfast before we meet up with everyone, since that maybe the only time we eat. Kelli shows up around 9:30 am and we wander down to the AM/PM to grab breakfast. It was pretty crowded in there, with all the people picking up stuff on their way to work and school. Donna and I each pick up these hot dog looking thingys; they're longer than the bun, thin, and the bread is this sweet pastry style bread that's at least half the length of the hot dog wide. Mine had just cheese on it, while Donna's had ketchup on it already. Oh and it was cold, and wrapped in very, very loose plastic. I also picked up this pancake thing, which was two pancakes joined together in the middle, with a cream filling. Donna had something else as well, but I don't remember what it was.
At 10:30 we meet Erica and Patty and Bruce in the lobby. Erica has some business to attend to today, as her hobby is threatening to become a legitimate business, so Patty is going to whisk us away for Inari Shrine hunting.
First stop Nezu, so off we go onto the Yamanote Line toward Ueno, get off at Nishi-Nippori and take the Chiyoda line to Nezu. Today, I started to get the hang of the transit system, just a bit, since Patty wasn't nearly as confident with the system as Erica. People density on the the trains was high today, but later on we'd find out what that really meant as we went back to the Ikebukuro during Rush Hour.
I'm not sure if I can articulate this properly, but Nezu felt like a stereotypical Asian city, at least the impression I got from watching movies. Multi-story buildings everywhere, lots of people, but it looked kinda second rate. I loved it.
Anyway, the story about the Inari shrine is basically this: A family of kitsune (foxes) gets caught out in a nasty, nasty storm, and the stumble upon the shrine of Inari and the beseech the God to let them stay in his temple to wait out the storm. Inari agrees on the condition that the kitsune guard his shrines.
What I really loved was the juxtaposition of these ancient buildings, or at least ancient looking in some cases, within spitting distance of the modern buildings. It's a contrast that I could explore all day.
The Nezu shrine was like the Senso-ji in Akasuka in the sense that it spawned a festival/commerce in and around the area of the shrine. I should have taken a picture, but one of the stands was selling realistic toy guns. Naturally, I immediately thought of Dan. But, we were off to the next shrine.
From Nezu we continued on the Chiyoda line to Akasaka, to look for our next Inari shrine. However, it's not as easy to find as we thought. Akasaka is the home of TBS and right out of the station they are building a new TBS tower. We wander down the street and see a large, beautiful gateway to a hilltop shrine. Not sure that's it, we decide to have lunch. Donna picks a sushi place and we have our first semi-traditional meal. Its only semi-traditional, since we have to take our shoes off, but the tables have a drop to dangle our feet, instead of being fully traditional and we have to sit on our shins. Again, the picture menus save us, since none of us speak well enough to order. Donna and I each have sushi sets and everybody is served miso soup with prawn heads in them, staring at us with their dead, delicious eyes. ;) Patty doesn't really like sushi, but was game for us, and Donna helped her out by eating the things she didn't want to eat.
After lunch we visited the "Hilltop Shrine of Justice" and Patty hears that the shrine we want to visit is just down the street we came in the opposite direction. So, we go in that direction, and soon realize that it's not the right way. Fortunately there's a map, and after a few minutes we figure out that the description in Patty's guide book, presumes the Akasaka-Mitsuke station on the Gina and Marunouchi lines, not the Chiyoda line. (Meanwhile, I discover the Anna Miller's restaurant in the area, and lament the fact that we didn't eat there.) So, to Kelli and her non-sensible shoes' chagrin we have walk to the other side of the city. On the way, we come across two smaller shrines.
Finally, we arrive at the shrine that Patty wanted to see, and I take lots of pictures, until fatigue begins to set in. Then Donna starts taking pictures.
After about an hour we head back to Ikebukuro and crash for a bit, and Kelli lets her feet recover in our room. The plan is meet Patty, Erica and Bruce for dinner, but Kelli's feet have exploded, so she's not coming with. We set up my laptop to play Kung Fu Hustle for her and we're off for dinner.
The plan is to go to Nakano and visit the original Mandarake there. They're in this mall of sorts, and as they grew, instead of taking up space adjacent to them, they picked places all over the mall, so there are little Mandarake specialty stores throughout the entire mall.
We actually stop to have dinner first at this nice soba/udon place, which was pretty good. We took our time at dinner and unfortunately, that meant that Mandarake was closed when we finished.
Tomorrow the plan is to go to Mandarake in the morning, but after that we're on our own. Which works for me.
I took a lot of pictures, today. 190 photos. Check them out here, here, here and here.
More tomorrow.


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