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.
Wendy 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 😀