The Trip of a Lifetime: Part 2

March 25, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Another busy day ahead of us, but hey - it wasn't raining! Monday morning we took a cab to the World Trade Center to catch a bus for our tour. As soon as we exited the taxi, April reached for her phone to figure out which direction to head...except she couldn't find it. We all searched & came to the conclusion it had fallen off her lap and was driving off to another area of the (massive) city. Luckily, she had kept not only the receipt, but her cool.  :  )  She almost passed on going with us on the tour, but wisely put her resourceful husband in charge of calling the cab company to track it down (possibly with help of his tutor who happened to be meeting with him that day). Up the Tokyo Tower we went - it is modeled after the Eifel Tower in Paris (320 meters high), but it is 333 meters high & serves primarily as a broadcasting/communications tower...and tourist attraction, of course.

See this little lady? She was our wonderful guide, and she informed us her nickname was "Ninja!" Her family is part of a long line of samurai warriors, and a long time ago they worked for the Japanese government to carry out assassinations! They are even depicted in the movie, "The Last Samurai." She also took over the track-down-April's-phone-from-the-cab-company mission! I wrote down my favorite quote of her's after she'd given us instructions for getting back to the bus on time: "Thank you for your cooperations!"

April introduced us to one of her favorite beverages there - Milk Tea. It was pretty delicious. Fun Fact: at some point in the year, some vending machine items become warm. So, one day you might get a cold milk tea (or soup or coffee), then BAM! the next day it comes out warm! Brilliant! But, again so wasteful of energy, right? This stop on the tour was supposed to have us seeing the Imperial Palace, but the police had closed the gates & we weren't allowed entrance. Ninja thought the Emperor might have gone out that day, as that is the most common reason they close the gate to visitors. Bummer.

Next stop: Tokyo's oldest temple - Senso-ji (Buddhist). They had the same water cleansing fountain option as Meiji Jingu (Shinto), but also offered an incense option, which we took part in. There was a quiet garden, a few Buddhas to bow to, a bathroom (with Western-style & traditional Japanese restroom options), a pagoda, the main temple area & a large gate guarding the whole campus (with ominous-looking statues within it to scare away evil spirits).

The bottom of the large lantern in the gate | the gate | the pagoda

Inside the main temple, we donated 100 Yen to shake out our fortune stick, match it up to one of the 100 corresponding doors (seen behind MBH), and reveal your fortune. My mom's actually said, "The lost article will be found!" And, could that apply to your completely hospitable hostess' lost phone, maybe?! Once you have read your fortune, you tie it up on this contraption & leave it up to the gods...

Before exiting the temple, we attempted to reach one of the massive O-Waraji (straw sandals). It is said if you touch it, you will have 'good walking.' April got me in action on the first attempt & was impressed with her photographic skills! I channeled my former high-jumping skills & was thrilled to jump that high on the first attempt! ha ha

On our way out, we walked through an adjacent street of little shops. MBH wanted to get some snacks to take back for her class of 2nd graders, so we stopped at this stall selling rice crackers. How adorable is this rice cracker server!

And, some teenage girls wearing their best kimonos caught me trying to (and not-so-discreetly apparently) get a picture of them & they quickly gathered to pose for a better shot - thank you! Notice the cell phone in-hand. Their culture is such a clash of traditional vs modern.

We departed from our tour group at this point, because of timing. We weren't too far from the temple when we got a great glimpse of these 3 attractions - the Sky Tree (tallest structure in the world), the Asahi Beer Hall (made to look like a beer with foam on top...yep, now you see it, don't you?), and the Asahi Beer Flame (lovingly referred to as 'The Golden Turd'). It was at that great photo op that I also caught the moment April received the news from Eric saying he'd taken a 35 minute train ride to the police station to see if it was actually her phone that had been turned in by a taxi driver - it was! Japanese culture at its finest! What a sigh of relief for her, for all of us, really.  : ) And, we were thrilled to have him meet us at one of the nearby train stations to return it to her. What a great guy!

Eric also hooked us up with directions to a nearby ramen joint (which was another food request of mine). It took us a little bit to find it, as it was not clearly marked with a numerical address (see the blue 13-13 sign in the picture below? That's what we were looking for, but on the OUTside of the building). We ordered some amazing ramen dishes + gyoza (pan fried pork dumplings).

As we were finishing up, this gentleman asked us if we had heard about Manpuku from a guide book. He started chatting with us about how this place was actually the 2nd oldest ramen shop in the whole city & was explaining surrounding streets (and a few other things that were somewhat lost in translation/accents, or I've just forgotten by now). But, how cool was that to stumble upon? Again, so friendly...

After a brief pit stop into a stationary shop on the way, we reached our next destination - Kabuki 101! April had gone to see a single act of a Kabuki with her aunt & cousin back in the fall (usually 3 or 4 {non-related} acts are grouped together in a session). She totally hooked us up for this experience, setting up a pre-performance meeting with Kazui for matcha tea & Japanese sweets at a Japanese Tea Salon and a run-down of Kabuki in general, as well as specifics on the shows/actors we were about to see. She was awesome. I was expecting the performances to be a bit livelier, but they were still really good. If you go to see a performance, be prepared for random yelling from the audience. And, be sure to schedule a pre-performance meeting with Kazui, and rent the English-speaking headset. Again - we had a super friendly audience member sitting next to us! He shared his binoculars with us throughout the whole session! We were able to see some Living National Treasures perform, so all-in-all, it was a pretty amazing experience. (because I don't think I've mentioned that at all, yet)

After our Kabuki experience, we headed back to Roppongi Hills. And, since it was the clearest it had been since we arrived, we decided to go up Mori Tower to get a night view of the city. What an amazing view. Good night, Tokyo!

*See the 1st post here*

***See the 3rd post here***

****See the 4th post here****


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