Circling Japan - Summer 2014 travel blog

at the Imperial Palace

the group

riding in the rain

Imperial Palace

Meji Shrine

Meji Shrine

Meji Shrine

purifying hands

torii gate

prayer tablets

prayer tablets

Tokyo Tower

view from above

view from above

Zojyo-ji Temple

Zojyo-ji Temple

Zojyo-ji Temple

miscarriage figures


We rode bikes and walked the city from 8am - 5pm. That entire time we did not see one speck of garbage - not a gum wrapper, plastic bag, cigarette butt. There were trash cans here and there, but the real message is that everyone here views it as a personal responsibility to put their garbage in an appropriate place. This is part of the group think that exemplifies the Japanese. Everything is done for the greater good. In the public buildings floors gleamed. We saw many employees running floor cleaners. It felt like you could eat off of the floor. What an immaculate city!

The sun was shining brightly when we met our guide and group for the 17 mile ride. The ride was punctuated by some heavy downpours, which made the guide stop to buy us ponchos. We followed him down twisting, winding lanes that could have been there for hundreds of years, although all the buildings on them had been rebuilt since World War II. On the busier roads riding on the sidewalks was allowed. We made good use of our warning bells and pedestrians quickly got out of our way.

We saw a lot and also ended the day feeling like we had hardly seen a thing. Tokyo is a huge city. We went to two temples - one Buddhist and one Shinto. At the Shinto temple we learned how to purify ourselves at the water trough equipped with bamboo cups and bow twice and clap hands twice before beginning to pray. Wooden tablets were for sale. You could write special wishes on them. The guide said prayers for passing a test were common here. The Buddhist Temple was quite new and the bright orange Tokyo TV Tower loomed over it. On the grounds there were rows and rows of what looked like doll figures, brightly dressed with crocheted hats. These are erected by a couple when they have suffered a miscarriage.

Then we came to a more modern part of the city graced with the sort of architecture made famous to us by the film "Lost in Translation." The rain came down in buckets when we got to Roppongi Hills, a huge complex of stores, restaurants, movie theaters. The lunch stop was at another huge complex that posted guards at every door, exercising such vigilance inspecting everyone that walked by with their eyes, that it felt like they had just gotten a bomb warning. They had little ear bud walky talkies and we got exhausted watching them. We wondered how many hours someone could do this job, when nothing really was happening at all.

The final stop was on the grounds of the Imperial Palace. We could see guards and a watch tower, but the royal family is carefully protected from prying tourist eyes and paparazzi. They are facing a big dilemma since the only descendant of the current emperor and his son is a granddaughter. So far, women are not allowed to move to the throne. Japan needs to follow the British to a modernization of the rules of succession.

By the time the tour came to an end our legs and backs let us know that we had done a lot. We were much older than the others on the tour and the hills and final hour ride back to the start point and walk back to our hotel, left us ready for a decent rest. The tour staved off the jet lag during the day, but that rest turned into a two hour nap.

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