The Wonders of Tokyo

 

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From the subway. An upscaled stop compared to the other stops.

By: Cat Palm

A small group chose to attend the National Diet Building while most of the people went to the Pokemon Center. The Diet Building is similar to the Congress, it has a House of Representatives and House of Councillors, it is a place to pass bills. The 60 minutes long tour is free, and the entrance to the tour isn’t at the main entrance, it is on the back of the building. For the majority of the tour, taking photos inside isn’t allowed. However, the building is gorgeous, if you are a fan of architecture, it is worth going for it alone. If you enter the building blindfolded, you will think you are in the 30s America. The only thing that will break that spell are the signs, they all were in Japanese.

IMG_1694.jpgWendy noticed a mail chute, being the engineer she is, she went in for a closer look and saw a tiny plaque emblazoned CUTLER, MADE IN ROCHESTER, NEW YORK USA.  That was the only moment we wanted to break the rule, just to take a picture, on the entire tour. We all exclaimed at it and our tour guide didn’t understand our excitement, having no idea what the connection to us was!

When we went to the National Diet Building, we didn’t realize that the tour would be done in Japanese, however, they did provide us with an English pamphlet filled extensively with information about the building. The only exception to this was when we were in the Public Gallery of the Chamber of the house of Councillors, when the tour guide pressed a button and the speaker came on in English. We left satisfied with the experience, the group once again split into two. My group headed to the Yasukuni Shrine.

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The Yasukuni Shrine is a shrine to honor Japanese people that died in the service of Japan. It was founded in 1869 by Emperor Meiji. Outside Japan, it is commonly known as being an extremely controversial place. The shrine commemorates more than 2,466,000 souls. Among these, about 1,000 people were labelled as war criminals and 14 were A-Class. They planned and committed deeds of great harm and caused thousands of deaths, during their expansion.  Why this is a major deal is that once your name is at the shrine, it cannot be removed. Your name is now a part of a growing list among other names with their birth dates, birthplaces, and places of death.

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When I was there, it was drizzling lightly, fortunately the subway was a short distance away. I was unsure what to expect because the only reason I knew about the existence of the shrine was from news coverage of the debates surrounding it. The moment my group of 4 exited the subway, we immediately were greeted by a swarm of young school girls with bright yellow umbrellas heading into the subway. As we walked toward the shrine, the girls came in waves. We aww’ed at the group, but then I realized why they were there. It was likely  they were there to learn about the history of their dead.

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One of the many reasons why the site is a sensitive topic, the shrine has a museum, Yushukan, documenting the history of their dead. Yushukan has been accused of being overly nationalistic and providing misinformation about the conflicts during the Meiji Era and World War 2.

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The monument for the mothers.

We were at that point in the trip, since we visited more than a dozen temples, sites were beginning to blur together. But Yasukuni stood out, the whole atmosphere felt different and it looked different. Most of the temples had this orange/red color, but Yasukuni was completely the opposite, favoring darker colors such as black or brown. Many temples had this lavish flair to it, Yasukuni kept everything simple completed with several monuments, dedicated to those who experienced loss or contributed to the shrine in some way. There was a monument that was for mothers that lost their offspring. It also seemed like the other visitors were even more respectful than usual. I left the shrine, feeling grateful that I got to visit the shrine, also apprehensive because I don’t know how I should feel about the whole situation. The school girls extrapolated the experience.

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On the last full day in Japan, a group visited Tokyo Sky Tree. It is the tallest tower in Japan, boasting 2,080 feet. As we ascended up the tower by elevator, taking 50 seconds to reach to the top, we could see the view of Tokyo shifting beneath us. It was cool to see Tokyo in its full form, hundreds of buildings as far as a human eye could see, only to be ended by the mountain range and Mt Fuji (on a clear day), and Tokyo Bay. It was an impressive sight!

Let Tokyo Skytree catapulte us to the upcoming post about Tsukuba! 😀

Tokyo the Sleepless City

By Kali Doubledee

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YOSSHA!

Yossha is a phrase to shout out at the sumo game when the sumo wrestler stamps his feet. There was a stadium by the hotel the class were staying in Tokyo, it was for sumo wrestling tournament. In case you were wondering, yes, we saw sumo wrestlers wandering around outside and inside the hotel! It was marvelous.

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On our first day in Tokyo, we went to Takeshita Street in Harajuku. It is a pedestrian-only street with plenty of fashion boutiques, cafes, and restaurant. All I can say is using sign language there is very dangerous thing to do because you will keep hitting other people. As you can see in the above picture, Takeshita Street was too crowded just like the garbage food covered by many ants. Inside the fashion shops, it was very narrow that you have to be very careful with your surroundings. Otherwise, you would awkwardly hit and make other thing fall down.

After our staying at Harajuku, we went to the famous intersection called Shibuya Crossing. Just like we saw on the internet, it was packed with shoppers, businesspersons, students, and commuters. Before we walked into the crazy and busy intersection, we saw the Hachiko statue. It had been placed there since April 1934. The statue is to dedicated to the wonderfully loyal Akita dog named Hachiko. The story went like this, Hachiko always greeted his owner at the end of each day at Shibuya Station. One day, his owner died by cerebral hemorrhage and never return to the train station. Nevertheless,  Hachiko patiently waiting for him every single day for nine years, nine months, and fifteen days. While he was waiting, the commuters came to give him treats and food. Hachiko had reached his time to die. The tons of Japanese people around recognized his true loyalty and decided to give him a honor by setting the statue up there.

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As well, the class were sightseeing at Asakusa. There is a shrine and shops. Sensoji, is one of main attraction and popular Buddhist temple that built in 7th century. Nakamise Market is a shopping street right across from the temple. Nakamise Market is the great place for temple tourists to buy traditional & local snacks, variety of things, food, and thousands of souvenirs. One advice for you, be sure to save a plenty of money for this one! Don’t miss opportunity to try all local snacks!

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​The class got the opportunity to experience the sincere tea ceremony in Tokyo. The tea masters showed and taught us how can tea ceremony be done. To Japanese people and us, tea ceremony can be symbolized for many things. Some believe that it is to bonding with the guests, being patience, appreciating the environment, and the list goes on. In the end, we all enjoyed our tea very much.

We went to Sign With Me, the restaurant owned by the Deaf in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. Masahiro Yanagi, the owner, has other Deaf co-workers working with him. We learned that Sign With Me recently opened in December 2011. They serve yummy soups and cakes. For hearing customers, they would need to use electric pad, point at food on menu, or writing down on the white board to communicate. Sign With Me quite has a nice environment for the Deaf people to rest and get along with everybody easily.

Emperor’s Palace is another place we got a chance to see. The palace is the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family that built on the site of old Edo Castle. The large park area is being surrounded by moats and massive stone walls. Also, the space there is very wide and enough to hold more than a thousand people. Once you get there, you would see guards standing around just like British Royal Guards. The most fascinating fact we learned about inner ground of Emperor’s Palace isn’t open to public at all except for two certain days only: New Year’s Greeting on January 2 and Emperor’s birthday on December 23. During at those times, people would be able to enter the inner ground and having the members of Japan’s Imperial Family make a public appearance on a balcony. Only two days out of 365 days! When we were reaching time to leave, Chinese women randomly decided to take a group picture with Kali Doubledee and eventually have other classmates joined for pictures. We had a good laugh afterward.

Attention, our readers! The class’s activities in Tokyo will be continue in the next post. Please looking forward to it!