03/31-04/01/2024 9.93 miles

Nine point five three miles.  That’s how far Kathy and Dave walked today on their tour of Tokyo.  Normally, that is not that much for them.  But on the concrete and asphalt of a city more than 4 times the population of New York City, well, let’s just say that last night was a Vitamin I night (aka, Ibuprofen).

Today in Japan, Kathy and Dave will celebrate Happy Dingus Day! In NY it is Easter, so no matter what side of the world you are in we are celebrating with you! As we write this post, it is again somewhere around 4 am.  One would think we would have adapted to the time at this point. Dave is of the opinion if Kathy would stay up past 7 pm she would not be up at the awful hour of 4 am!

Today, though, was a fully packed day, full of ups and downs.  Starting bright and early, we waited in line to get to eat breakfast and Kathy’s much wanted (needed?) cups of coffee.  The line was long and slow.  But!  Then, the hotel staff came by with a sign stating that there was another temporary breakfast location on the fourth floor, and since we were right next to the elevator, we jumped at the chance.  While waiting for the elevators to open, a side elevator opened and Kathy jumped inside, while the rest of us, seeing a bunch of Japanese writing plus the word “PARKING” on the elevator, said, “No, no, no.” to Kathy, assuming that elevator only went to the parking garage. However, Kathy was vindicated when the staff said that the elevator also went to the fourth floor!  Now, we were first in line for breakfast, and Kathy was Dave’s hero.  While, at first, we were “down”, having to wait in line for breakfast and wishing we had arrived earlier, we then were “up” in the elevator and got to the front of the pack!

The morning while we waited for our guided tour was spent trying to verify we had our Mount Fuji tour for the next day.  We found the tour office, but they had never heard of us! We were “down”.  Dave was convinced somehow the company we booked with for the 5 days here in Tokyo lost us for one day. Oh well, we need to meet our guide for the day so figuring out what happened will be left for later in the day.

Meeting our guide, Miyakago, our companion for the day, started out without a glitch. Having our own private guide was nice as she was willing to answer all of our questions as they popped into our thoughts throughout the day and we were able to adapt and change our tour if something piqued our interest. Our first stop was the first of many train platforms that saw us through the day as we traveled to the various historical sites. First stop was the Meiji Shrine where we respectfully paid homage to the spirits and former Emperor Meiji by bowing at the Torii gate before entering the shrine. Along the path into the main shrine we saw empty barrels of Sake and wine that are given to the shrine to honor the spirits of the deceased Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The Shinto shrine is surrounded by a lush forest and is a sea of tranquility in an otherwise bustling city.  Upon entering the shrine we felt honored to see a wedding being held in the temple. The bride, dressed in a traditional white kimono, was simply breathtaking. The visitors to the shrine put a coin in the fountain, bow twice, clap their hands twice, make a wish, and then bow one more time. It is said that if you do all this, your wish will be granted. Dave and Kathy had no coins, but we did bow and clap and we are pretty sure since we short changed the fountain our wishes will also be short changed.

Next stop was the Imperial Palace where we learned the history of the palace and saw the 400 year old stone walls and moat that guard the palace. Dave asked Miyakago if we could have tea with the Emporer.  She said she would try to arrange it.  She then proceeded to tell us that the palace grounds are only open to the public for one day, no, it was two days a year:  once on the Emperor’s birthday and once on January 2nd.  Forgotten by our guide was the fact that it is also open for two weeks:  on week in spring and one week in autumn.  Today was the last day of the spring week! Of course, Dave figured it was really open today only so that Dave could have tea with the Emperor as promised.  A portion of the grounds called the Imperial Gardens is also open to the public year round.  Since we had a private tour we opted to delay lunch and stroll through the gardens. Next on the agenda was a tea ceremony where we learned how to grind “matcha” leaves (or green tea leaves) and the history of the ceremony.  Climbing into a small chamber, designed that way to create equality for all who enter the chamber (every person needs to kneel to clamber through the small opening and it is too small for the samurais to bring their swords) we watched as our host completed the intricate ceremony. The ceremony started with us eating a sweet bean dessert (yes it sound awful, but it was actually kind of good. Not chocolate good, but still tasty.) Next came the ceremony of the preparing and drinking of the tea.  It was a zen-like experience and we are glad we did it, but matcha tea is still not something that will be on our diet. It has very healthy qualities, but Dave still thinks it tastes like lawn grass.

Soon we were off again, but this time to find a meal that was safe for Kathy to eat. Settling on a vegan/vegetarian restaurant, we had a nice vegetable salad that had one option for some chicken so all three of us had a few slices of chicken with a variety of fresh vegetables. The food court was in the heart of the subway system and was like a small underground city teeming with people enjoying the day. We enjoyed our lunch and conversation with our guide as we discussed what was next on our agenda.

Opting to change up the tour, we headed to the oldest Buddhist temple, located in the Asakusa District, called Senso-Ji where we navigated a few blocks of narrow shopping stalls.  Kathy found some replacement sunglasses and a kimono for Jill!! SCORE!!! At least someone scored today as at about the same time, we got updated and saw that the Buffalo Sabres were shut out at the latest home game.  While Kathy was happy to have finally got new sunglasses for the pair she lost, she was sad that it is looking grim for her favorite team to enter the playoffs.

At the Senso-Ji temple, as at the Shinto shrine, you put a coin in, bow, and make a wish and supposedly it will be granted by the Buddha.  By this time had some coins, so we are hopeful to having our wishes granted.

Dodging people back through the narrow shops we ascended up to an observation tower that overlooked the narrow streets teaming with people that looked more like ants. In the distance was the temple overlooking the shops. Trying to get to the top deck in the elevator was another example of ups and downs.  We entered the elevator on the first floor.  Unfortunately, it was headed down to the basement.  Then we went back up to the first floor where more people entered the small elevator.  Then we ascended to the second floor, where we fund no one waiting.  Finally, we went up and up until we arrived at the top of the tower for our destination.

Last thing on the agenda were four train rides to get back to our hotel.  We said our goodbyes to our kind and gracious guide and went to our room.  Much to our delight, when we arrived at our room, we had a note from our next-day tour company which said they had found our reservations!! That was a huge “up” for us!  Dinner, much different than our norm when we travel, was at McDonald’s where Kathy felt confident that she could eat dinner without having an Epi Pen on standby!! Plus it was close by, we were tired, and we could bring it back to our room J !

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