Thursday, June 15, 2006
I must have finally become acclimated to the time zone change, because I managed to
sleep late. Ms. Okabe had also slept late, so we had a late start for the day.
We were supposed to go to a bar to watch the hockey playoffs, Ms. Okabe is a big
We arrived at the Maple Leaf Bar, in Shibuya, after the end of the first period.
The Maple Leaf is a Canadian sports bar, and attracts a lot of Canadian and Europeans, and
because of the time zone difference, the hockey game was on in the late morning.
We took a booth, had some breakfast, and watched the game.
A reporter went from table to table, interviewing people for a story about hockey fans
in Japan, and he spotted Ms. Okabe sitting with me at our booth, and thought he had a
real story, gaijin hockey fan with a young Japanese lady watching the game. Well, he
had an interesting story, but not the one he thought. He started asking me questions,
and I quickly explained that Ms. Okabe was the hockey nut, and I was just the tag along,
she was a real Pronger fan, and if the Blues weren't playing, I really wasn't terribly
concerned with who won the game. The reporter seemed a little confused that his
preconceived expectation was so far off, and started asking Ms. Okabe questions. He
ended his interview and said he might use some of it in his story on Canadian TV and
The game ended and Ms. Okabe's team won. She seemed very happy.
We left the Maple Leaf and walked through Shibuya, stopped at a few electronics stores,
and headed for our next stop.
Shinjuku and the Meiji Shrine
Ms. Okabe assured me that I would be seeing some of the strangest costumed people
when we arrived in Shinjuku, but the damp day and its intermittent drizzle must have
scared them all away, because there were none to be seen.
We headed over to the Meiji Jingu, or Meiji Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to the
Emperor Meiji, who opened Japan to trade with foreign countries and encouraged development
within the country. Under his reign, Japan became very prosperous, and the Emperor is
credited and revered for this accomplishment.
The Shrine is on a very big scale, as would be expected for an important shrine that is
located in a large population center like Tokyo. The walkways are very wide, lined with
large trees. It is quiet and solemn with the feeling of walking through the forest,
despite being in a park, in one of the largest cities in the world.
We encountered more tourists and patrons as we approached the Main Hall.
Notice the thick headed gaijin, washing his hands in the purification ambulatory font,
and allowing the water to drip from his hand and back into the font. Proper technique
is to let the water roll off your hand and into the trench around the font. Each time
I did this at a different shrine, I would realize what I had done, and remember my mother
telling me not to drip water from the sink, onto the floor. A mother's training nagging
trumps the best of a gaijin's intentions to follow local customs.
Approaching the Main Hall.
The Main Hall. The donation troughs are located in the doorways. Again, the visitor
walks up, places feet together, tosses a coin into the donation trough, claps twice,
holds hands together in the familiar prayer manner, bows, and pauses for a second or two
in meditation and contemplation (praying or otherwise).
To the right of the Main Hall is this wall of prayers. Visitors can buy the little
wooden plaques and write out their prayers, and hang them on the wall. Oddly, some
were written in English and other European languages.
We stopped and I picked up a few more Omamori, before walking around the Shrine grounds.
We found the gift shop and a snack bar style restaurant, and I found another opportunity
to have some more green tea flavored ice cream. Ms. Okabe and I each had an ice cream cone
before leaving the Shrine park.
One last picture before we left.
We spent the rest of the afternoon dodging rain showers while walking and shopping
in Shinjuku. There are lots of discount electronics stores, and we looked at cameras,
computers, and Ms. Okabe was shopping for a DVD player and recorder.
As I had mentioned previously, I seem to always be in Japan when the World Cup Soccer
competition is taking place, and there is always a lot of the Japanese national soccer
team memorabilia everywhere. I wanted to pick up a replica soccer jersey, but they
were selling for $150 and up. I'm not really a soccer fan, just wanted a nice shirt,
so my desire was somewhere less than $150, and I passed.
We happened across another strange thing I've never seen in the US. I thought it was
the Subaru headquarters, but I was mistaken, it was actually an urban car dealership.
American car dealerships are always in suburban areas, with big parking lots to store
all the cars. In Japan, they put the show room downtown, and I guess they store the
cars they sell somewhere else.
The show room actually took up only a small area of the first floor, but the sign on the
outside gave the appearance that it would be entire building. But the displays included
motorized transmission and engine cut aways that showed the machanicals in action, the
type of thing that could only be seen at the Detroit or Chicago International Auto Shows
Dinner would be another treat, curry. Ms. Okabe also knew I love curry, and found a little
curry restaurant in the Koenji area.
We had a very good dinner, followed by several rounds of Chuhai, Shochu, and Sake, and
spent the evening talking about old times.
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