Saturday, December 1, 2007

Trip to Japan Part III

The weather was glorious on our third day in Japan like springtime. We took the opportunity to travel to one of the greener parts of the Toyko area, Chōfu. This part of the megalopolis has Jindaiji Temple, the second oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. So we headed out from Omiya by train.

After my SO and I left the train station in Chōfu, we boarded a bus. I kept hitting my head on the overhead handrails and I’m sure that the folks riding with us were laughing on the inside regardless of their stoic demeanor. As we got closer to Jindaiji Temple my wife realized that we weren’t on the correct bus. The one we were on didn’t go directly to the temple but luckily it did stop on a nearby connecting road. So we would have to huff it for a few extra blocks. It turned out to be all right anyway because there was this very odd, cubed shaped house across the street from the bus stop. The strange window arrangement made it impossible for me to figure out how many floors it had or how the inside of it could possibly be arranged.
Strange Huh

After the Bizarro house, we turned onto the road that leads to the Temple and I immediately noticed a drastic increase in the number of trees. In fact there was an obvious decrease in temperature due to the shade. It was very comforting for an overheated Oregonian like myself. What also became apparent as we walked down the street was that there was traditional looking restaurant after restaurant with water wheels. My SO explained that this area is famous for soba noodles.

Before we arrived at the Temple complex, my SO came across a small shrine dedicated two of the Seven Gods of Fortune, Ebisu and Daikoku. I like the Seven Gods a lot maybe because they’re just the kinda thing that would have the fundies pulling their own hair out with cries of idolatry. They also remind me of belief systems that were a part of the western experience long, long ago.

Soon we came to the Jindaiji Temple complex and like most Temples and Shrines in Japan the area was flush with shops and stands selling all manner of knickknacks, food, and gifts. My wife and I had worked up an appetite so we ducked into one of the many soba shops. Apparently this was the best season for soba. The noodles were very fresh as they were white in color, overtime soba noodles will turn a brownish grey. I dipped my soba into a cold sauce while my wife had soba that gets dipped into a hot soup. Both were very good and seemed to be just the right thing to eat on a mild fall day. I'm getting a mixture of daikon and onion to put in my dipping sauce

With our tummies full we walked down the path and up the steps to the temple grounds. I have been to quite a few temples and shrines around Japan so Jindaiji seemed small but it wasn’t crowded so it also felt intimate.
A 3-year-old girl in a Kimono is taken to the temple for a traditional blessing.

Temple goers purify themselves with incense before they approach the temple building.

Jindaiji Temple

Boys go to the temple to receive a traditional blessing when they’re 5 years old, but this kid was trying like hell to get outta’ there. His mother was doing everything but sitting on him to keep him there. I’m guessing that kid must have been scared of the Priest. Oh well, at least the priest had a sense of humor about it. I had to get this pic with the flash off so they wouldn’t notice that’s why it is so grainy.

One of the main reasons we went to Jindaiji was to see the Kitaro teahouse. Shigeru Mizuki created the Kitaro character in 1959. He’s a yokai boy, or monster boy, and deals with all manner of supernatural horrors out of Japanese mythology. Usually, he tries to find a way for both monster and human to leave in peace together. There have been many comics, TV, movies and even a live action film but none of it has ever been translated into English as far as I know, but on my first trip to Japan I was lucky enough find some bilingual Kitaro comics for Japanese wanting to learn English. So I was able to read a few stories but I want more. Most of the creatures are very different then western monsters and maybe the entertainment folks don’t feel they would translate to the states very well. For me though, the strangeness of the Yokai makes them that much more interesting. I picked all sorts of Kitaro goodies including finger puppets, canned drinks and postcards.

The Kitaro Teahouse

A close up of the Teahouse. Kitaro is on the left and his ratman buddy, Nezumi Otoko, is on the right. They both have umbrella yokai. On top of Kitaro’s head is an eyeball. It’s all that remains of his ghost father Medama Oyaji. The eyeball is also Kitaro’s guide and gives him all kinds of advice.

All the main character’s from Kitaro’s adventures.

The Kitaro Car, I'm not sure what they use it for, but it looks pretty cool

We left Jindaiji and headed to Shimo-Takaido Station in Setagaya. It’s a trendy area with lots of foreign students and accessible shops.

A street near Shimo-Takaido Station

My wife has a cousin who owns a coffee shop there called It’s Café. He’s got a Japanese blog here. It’s a nice cozy place not far from the station. We had a wonderful conversation and I had a yummy piece of pumpkin cake that tasted a lot like pancakes. We gave him a CD of Pink Martini’s album Hang on Little Tomato. He was very appreciative as he’s always on the hunt for new and unique music to play in his café. When we left It’s Café and Shimo-Takaido, I thought this would have been a great place to stay when I was a college student.

It’s Café’s location near Shimo-Takaido Station

It’s Café’s Storefront from the blog

For the last stop of the day my SO and I headed out to Odaiba to see the Fuji TV building. They’re the station with the eyeball symbol, so appropriately they have a huge ball suspended in the center of their rather amusingly designed building.

My picture of the building didn’t turn out so well as it was night, So wikipedia will have to do.

The lobby had all kinds of toys and gifts from Fuji TV’s various shows but the dog mascot was the big draw.

Here’s a view of downtown Tokyo from the Fuji TV ball. You’ll notice the Rainbow Bridge in the middle.

After an enjoyable self guided tour through Fuji TV, My SO and I headed out via monorail over the rainbow bridge to downtown Tokyo to catch a train back to Omiya.


Selba said...

Nice pictures!

Beside sushi, I also love soba :)

ladybug said...

That sounds like a really fun day! You know that means the Beaniac will be endlessly talking about going to visit.....

Don Snabulus said...

It is almost like being there...except for the experience part. So, it is more like hearing from someone who has been there. Yes, that's it.

Great pix. You cut a very manly set of forearms.

Pandabonium said...

Great trip. That house is like totally "cubular" dude. I'll take a mix of houses with one like that over the cookie cutter burbs I grew up in.

Jindaiji Temple has an interesting history - was just reading on the link, never been there. Love the pick of the boy trying squirm out of his mother's grasp.

The Fuji TV building is very cool. Did you see the Statue of Liberty that is nearby?

Thanks for sharing your day. If we're ever in Chofu, we'll have to stop in at It's Cafe.

Arkonbey said...

Given the nature of your visit, would it be callous to say: "cool"?

I must admit that the picture of you eating soba makes me think longingly of Tampopo and then it makes me hungry.

And the photo of the antsy little boy in the temple cracks me up. (the grainyness makes it look as though you made a print of a slide you found in an abandoned house)

The Moody Minstrel said...

I don't think I've ever been to Jindaiji Temple. In fact, I haven't been in the Fuji TV building, either...

I need to GET WITH IT!!!

Swinebread said...

Selba – I never ate that much soba before but it’s nice and light when it’s hot.

LB - I guess you need to make plans…

Snab – thanks I work out everyday by shoving food into my mouth

Panda – It was a very interesting bldg I wish I knew the story behind it and what it looked like inside.

Jindaiji Temple isn’t the biggest or the best but if you go in the fall you can eat some great soba. I wish I had tean another picture if that kid.

We did see the Statue of Liberty from a distance but after you seen the real one it’s not as impressive.

Actually the café is in Setagaya, but if you go I’m sure my SO cousin will appreciate it.

Arkonbey – it’s OK to say it was cool, I thought so. We wanted to make the most out of our trip despite the fact were there for serious reasons.

The Soba shot is kinda saliva inducing isn’t it?

That shot looks really old it’s true. I actually zoomed in on Photoshop and upped the light so you could see it. I didn’t want to zoom in with the camera without a tripod, as it tends to get too blurry.

Moody – Actually the kids would probably like the Fuji TV tour a lot, and Odaiba offers fantastic views of downtown Tokyo. Make sure you ride the monorail as well.

Dean Wormer said...

So much there. Thanks for sharing--

That story about the kid is hysterical.

Pink Martini is an awesome band.

That eyeball on top of a building reminds me of somebody else... Are you sure you weren't in Mordor (Washington D.C.?)

Swinebread said...

Well, Mordor with less sugar