Back to Japan – Day 9 Part 1 (Nikko)

It was an early start for the long road trip to Nikko. It was also the second last day of the trip, which meant all our snacks were packed and we were all set to share the munchies during the 3 hour ride with our familiar guide Mikko さん. We were met with bright blue skies and cotton clouds dancing above the bright green rice paddies, the occasional rivulets and romantic by lanes disappearing up into the forested hills which is where most fairy tales are probably set.

20170706_094114

Rice fields and forests

We alternatively napped and snacked and got lost in the beauty outside our windows until we reached a rest house. You would think that restroom entrances don’t need to be cute to entice you to go in, but this one was with its origami mobiles swaying in the wind and fresh flowers arranged artistically at the washbasins. It was a quick 10 minute stop and we were off again past worlds we’d never know and people we’d never meet until we finally came to the famously mysterious vermillion lacquered Shinkyo Bridge or snake bridge, as it’s also called. The legend goes that a priest looking to cross the river Daiyo was aided by two snakes who magically transformed into the bridge we see today (okay so maybe this particular version of the bridge was reconstructed after several natural disasters, but it still counts). We were afforded only a momentary glimpse of the beautiful curve of red which stood out over the blue of the flowing river, before we pulled up at our destination – the Nikko Toshogu Shrine, also the final resting place of our very own villain turned repentant sinner Iyeyasu who had requested to be buried in Nikko. We had finally come full circle in the life of Iyeyasu.

The walk up to the shrine was simply divine. Water trickled down on either side of a gently sloping grey gravel path cutting through trees that touched a sky which had lost its vibrant blue, as though sombrely dressed for the occasion. I could have stayed there forever, but we had to move on until we reached a 5 storey pagoda standing tall before the main entrance to the temple, tinting a grey sky with vibrant reds and greens and tips of gold.

20170706_120210

Blending in and standing out

We gathered together, collected our tickets and climbed up through the Yomeimon Gate which lives up to its name Higarishino mon, the gate you’ll never get tired of looking at. The structure reminded me of the humble and demure Nijo Castle, yet this place was a glorious and gaudy tribute to Ieyaysu, filled with some of the most famous sculptures delicately carved – an elaborate and intricate labour of love. To this day, festivals take place commemorating the procession that had once carried Iyeyasu from Shizuoka to his final resting place in Nikko.

20170706_114934

Intricate carvings cover every structure

We were told to look out for three carvings in particular, which is rather difficult considering everything is covered with such beautiful carvings that everything looks like a masterpiece. The first one we were asked to spot was the famous 3 monkeys with their see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil mantra. And there they were, sitting on a beam over the entrance to the sacred stable in which stood a single tall white horse – a still and silent witness to the hordes of people flocking to the shrine. Despite all the people and all the constant chatter, I couldn’t help but thinking that he must be so lonely in the crowd. It’s a familiar feeling, and I pass on, unable to find the words to say I feel the same.

The next carving was of the imaginary elephants, not because they’re not really there, but because the artist who carved them had never seen an elephant before and had carved them based on what he had heard they looked like. It must have been quite the gamble, but he seems to have done rather well considering. I know I couldn’t draw an elephant even though I have seen one before. Sometimes it’s not the eyes in your head you need, but the ones in your mind.

The third sculpture came after we passed the storehouses and the ablution area and made our way to the entrance of the Inner Shrine. There sat a cat, peacefully asleep for all intents and purposes, in a beautiful field of peonies (which are incidentally considered as the king of flowers in Japan… fun fact). Except on the other side of the entrance directly behind the cat, is the carving of a sparrow. It’s an interesting carving, at once symbolizing harmony and at the same time conveying a sense of caution, that no matter how peaceful things appear, a cat can always eat an unsuspecting sparrow if so provoked. It’s an artistic reminder not to take advantage of someone’s good nature because everyone has another side to them that they’ve just been nice enough not to show you.

Like Nijo Castle, photography is not permitted inside the prayer hall which is where we went next, after having removed our shoes. There are a number of reasons why I’m a big proponent of no photography in places like these. For one, it’s a place of worship and tourists flashing their cameras about not only detracts from the experience of people who’ve genuinely come there to worship but is also disrespectful of the sanctity of the place (truth be told, I’m still waiting for a solution to be found for the haram). And then of course as a tourist you want to be able to truly appreciate the magnificent architecture and the solemn atmosphere and dated rituals, not limited by the scope of your lens.

We entered the prayer hall, lined with portraits of famous poets and their poetry, where prayers were in progress and watched silently as the priest bowed, clapped and bowed again, his small congregation obediently following. Amidst all the opulence, it was a gentle reminder of your place in the grand scheme of things. We filed back out, through the doorway guarded by ornate dragons and went to put on our shoes.

Our tour buddies helped me help ma down the steep flight of stairs painfully lacking a banister and we began the scenic walk back to the bus past tall trees and green brush covered with o-mikuji in a tangled mess of bad white fortunes. The only thing with a bad fortune appeared to be the trees though, with all that wasted paper tied to them like a bad joke.

20170706_121015

A more fortunate plant with less bad fortunes tied to it

Thanks to the beautiful weather and the long walk, we were now pretty hungry and looking forward to lunch at our next stop, Lake Chuzenji.

Missed Day 8 in Tokyo?

Stay tuned for Day 9 Part 2 in Nikko!

 

Back to Japan- Day 8 (Tokyo)

Good news and bad news. The good news is it’s time to hit the streets of Nakamise and Akihabara for some shopping! The bad news is that I’ve already bought everything on my list. More good news. This means I won’t be (theoretically) breaking the bank.

We met up at around 9 in the morning all set to go to Nakamise Street which lines the way up to the famous Sensoji Temple. Despite the fact that we had come here two years ago, I didn’t know much apart from the rebuilding history of the temple. This time though we learned more about how the temple came into being. Legend has it that two brothers were fishing on the Sumida river, when they pulled in a statue. Alarmed, they let the statue go, moved their boat further on and continued to fish only for the statue to appear in their nets again. The dropped the statue back in the river, moved further along and for the third time the statue appeared in the nets. Now positively alarmed, they took the statue back to their village where a village elder recognized the statue as the Goddess of Mercy and erected a temple for its worship – now the Sensoji Temple.

20170705_105650

Kannondo Main Hall

The bus dropped us off under the bright blue sky, a far cry from the rainy night it had been, a short walk away from the famous Kaminarimon which was under renovation. We passed under the lantern and were ready to begin our trip down Nakamise lane. Now most locals would tell you that the main street is a tourist trap filled with overpriced goods potentially made in China and that the back alleys are where you’ll get to experience the real flavour of Japan. I would agree with them, except for the fact that there are quite a few authentically Japanese gems on the main street too. For us the find of the day was a store selling Furoshiki Bags which are made from hand printed cloth made in Japan, and are DIY purses, if you would believe such a thing exists. We got to pick out not just the pattern of the purse, but the handle to go with it and then watched as they demonstrated how to put the purse together. They were amazing enough to give us the instructions as well, and promised us they’d be uploading a tutorial on their website soon (yayy for technology!) With our beautiful bags and Z’s Japanese themed ties, we were now all set for an adventure.

Two years ago, we had come here with Hondaさん and at the time I couldn’t eat noodles so we had set off exploring the back alleys of Nakamise in search of some place where we could grab a halal non-noodle bite to eat. And that’s when we stumbled upon Candy, with its sandwiches that melt in your mouth. We were on a mission to find this place again so we could pack some lunch just in case the Japanese lunch of the day turned out to be another cold soba affair. I started my search online a month or so before we left for Japan, only we couldn’t remember the name of the cafe and which back alley it was in. I searched a number of cafes on Google maps to no avail. Which is when we decided to go through Z’s set of pics from the trip and see if his foodie adventures had somehow captured the name of this accidental place. They had – in a reflection. And so, with the name we read in the reflection captured in a picture taken two years ago, I began my online search only to find a lone review on Trip Advisor but with no location in French, which confirmed that this was indeed the place we were looking for – they too had chanced upon this cafe with its divine omelette sandwiches. That’s when I decided that I would throw my question out to my language exchange community and see if anyone could help. Help came in the form of a Korean lady who I’ve never met before, who located the cafe on Google Maps which showed the location in the Korean version of the maps (but not the English) and sent me a pin to verify if this was the place we were looking for. It was! 만세!

20170705_103855

The unassuming Candy with its familiar green canopy

In a world dominated by corporations that are either swallowing up minnows through acquisition or killing them off entirely through markets of scale, it’s refreshing to step in to a cafe that’s unique and far removed from the familiar franchises plastered around every city in the world you visit. おばあさん from two years ago wasn’t there, but おじいさん was there, ready to make our sandwiches and Z’s shaved ice. He went about his work methodically – a system developed perhaps from years of trial and error or perhaps more symptomatically designed to cope with old age and all that comes with it, carefully noting down the order, preparing one order at a time and accepting payment once our takeaway bags were ready.  Z wanted to take pictures, but おじいさん explained that it wasn’t allowed to take pictures anymore, thanks to countless Chinese and Korean tourists who’d come and stolen the design and theme of the shop, opening their own counterfeit versions of Candy back home. I can’t imagine what it must feel like when tourists come to the cafe and tell おじいさん that they have the “same” thing back home. You could see that his pride had been hurt, because something that was put together over a lifetime was stolen in a few pictures and that also, in poor taste. Whereas Japan’s Candy uses only fresh ingredients, cafes trying to pass themselves off as the real thing tarnish his reputation by using frozen items of poor quality. I felt bad for him, but we left him smiling with pride restored when we told him we’d come back there after two years, this time with ma in tow, simply because there weren’t sandwiches like his anywhere to be had.

We rendez vous’d with the rest of the group near the five storey pagoda just in time for the headcount and were all set to go to Ameyoko. The day had become rather hot and せんせい wisely decided to change the itinerary so we’d skip Ameyoko and go straight to Fuji TV instead.

20170705_103241

The beautiful Sensoji Temple and the even more beautiful 5 storey pagoda

Last trip, we had the option of visiting Fuji TV but had gone to Aqua City instead so I was interesting in seeing what we’d missed. On our way there I learnt that the Fuji TV building had not only an observatory which afforded great views of the Odaiba area, but also had a rooftop garden and a “Wonder Street” where we could to explore the studios and sets where some of our favourite TV shows are made.

20170705_122822

Time for fun at Fuji TV

We decided to skip Wonder Street and headed straight to the top. The view was more stunning that I had expected, thanks to the beautifully clear blue skies. We managed to just make out Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree in busy skyline behind the Rainbow Bridge, but Mt. Fuji was lost to view. We even managed to get a bird’s eye view of the mini Statue of Liberty that we’d seen last time and I could even point out to ma from the 25th floor, the futuristic boat we’d taken 2 years ago designed by Leiji Matsumoto the famous manga author.

20170705_114515

Rainbow Bridge

While Z disappeared with せんせい on a quest to complete all the stamps at Fuji TV (something so Japanese!), ma and I took time out to relax in the rooftop garden where a beautiful breeze was blowing, defying the bright sun on the streets below. The rooftop gardens also gave me a chance to appreciate the beautiful building from below, and if I hadn’t been eager to avoid a social faux pas, I would have lay down and traced the beautiful edges and angles that shaped the sky overhead. There’s something about great architecture that tames the OCD within.

We took a quick trip to the souvenir store filled with goodies from Chibi Marukochan and One Piece among others, and I was convinced that the reason why Japan has a very high household debt ratio is because everything in the country is too かわいい not to buy. With that thought we said goodbye to Laugh, the blue Snoopy-like mascot of Fuji TV and headed straight to lunch.

Now lunch was going to be Yakiniku, and our last soba experience had taught me not to be too optimistic, so ma and I shared a sandwich on the bus and saved one in case lunch turned out to be not to our liking. Our fears were completely unfounded, thankfully and I ended up having, what would turn out to be, my favourite meal the whole trip. When we entered the restaurant and climbed up the stairs, I noticed a 한식 menu and was thoroughly confused, wondering if we had come to a Japanese restaurant or a Korean one. It turned out to be a Korean bbq halal Wagyu beef. I’m not really a big fan of beef truth be told, but this lunch just blew me away. I have never had such fine cuts of beef in what can only be described as the perfect marinade. For the sake of the tummy I sacrificed the kimchi and kept announcing every piece as my last, but it was too good to put down without a fight. I ate way more than I’m accustomed to, probably more than I should have, but there’s only so much you can fight your tastebuds before you give in.

20170705_131511

The most epic Yakiniku ever

With that absolutely delicious and filling lunch, we were now ready to hit the streets of Akihabara. With so many places to go…Laox, Mandarake, Anime Centre, Animate, Don Quijote, the Gundam Cafe, to name a few, you’re never really sure where to start but luckily for me, since I’d already done my shopping and exhausted my budget, I had the luxury of simply strolling around to take in the vibrant facades and loud signage without wondering where to go next.

20170705_142124

The riot of colours that is Akihabara

Z opted to head to the Gundam Cafe, while ma and I walked from Mansei bridge down Chuo Dori, looking at a little bit of everything. While I couldn’t convince ma to set foot in a game centre to try a single UFO catcher, I did manage to convince her to use a capsule machine to try and get Aegi a fruit shaped cat hat, which of course she’ll never wear, but just the thought of that melon hat on her is enough for a few good laughs. We stopped in a couple of manga stores looking for a copy of 君の名は in English, but it’s apparently too soon for a full release of all the volumes so I’ll just have to be patient. There were plenty of cat cafes, and even more maid cafes with a variety of themes including a samurai maid cafe. If there’s one thing I don’t get it’s the whole maid cafe thing, and watching those young girls handing out fliers and trying to attract customers in their get-ups made me think that there are ways to exploit women, and then there are ways to exploit women.

20170705_142107

Anyone played Project Diva 2nd before?

After roaming around stores with epic Gundam sales and exercising much self-restraint, we stumbled upon an art gallery which was selling the most colourful and intricate 3D cityscapes. While ma and I debated on what size to get and which Tokyo scene – dawn, dusk or night – we struck up a conversation with the salesperson who, fascinated to learn that we came from Dubai, proceeded to show us the cityscape of Dubai as well! We decided to stick to Tokyo and as if the artwork wasn’t beautiful enough, she topped it off with some well-timed flattery making ma feel years younger and the final cherry on her sales pitch was the offer to change frames free of charge if we wanted to choose another colour. We were sold ^^

20170705_150511

At the art gallery with its multi million yen 3D landscape

We made another stop to see if we could get ma some Japanese cosmetics, but not knowing any brands other than Shiseido and the fact that all labels were in Japanese, we were more than a little lost. Thankfully the salesperson tucked away between crowded shelves (crowded more with labels than products) on the second floor was very helpful and we managed to pick up some products in smaller sizes so ma could test them out first on her sensitive skin before committing to a larger, more expensive purchase.

We finally stopped for a quick restroom break at Bic where we picked up some household goodies (no, no models), marvelled at how convenient Japan made everything and then marvelled some more when we found out that Bic Camera actually accepts BitCoin as a form of payment. Talk about riding the tech wave. With that our short but sweet Akihabara adventure came to an end and we ready to move from the happening place for youngsters to the posh and newly opened Ginza Six.

Coming from the land of posh malls, we had nothing we wanted to see in particular (except the Noh theatre, which we couldn’t go to this time around) and nothing really that would fit our budget, so instead of wandering aimlessly around the mall, we armed ourselves with umbrellas and went straight up to the rooftop garden to enjoy the rain in lush green lawns floating in the air and light rain drops dancing on fountains resting on the ground. I cannot understand how anyone can underestimate the healing power of a garden in the middle of a busy metropolis. It’s high time rooftop gardens caught on around the world.

20170705_172619

Rooftop garden in the rain

After some much needed recharging, we ducked back inside- ma finding a place to relax at Starbucks while I roamed around the Tsutaya bookstore, filled with its oversized books that need the help of staff to open and peruse, and went straight to Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary tribute book filled with the most amazing pictures of Hello Kitty I’ve never seen including the Kiss version of Hello Kitty  When did THAT happen?

We didn’t have much to do, so we headed back outside, this time to the rain soaked terrace now surrounded by soft lights at dusk. It was going to be night soon, which meant it was now officially dinner time. I would have much rather just sat out there on the terrace, taking in the musty smell of earth that comes with rain, even in a concrete jungle.

20170705_185936

Enjoying the dusk and last moments of rain

Dinner was a short walk away, at Annam, an Indian restaurant which meant we got to enjoy the beautiful views of Ginza at night, with its posh buildings now all lit up in a tasteful rainbow of neon colours under the purpling sky. I always wonder if you notice these things when you live and work in a city for a long time. Does everything lose it shine slowly over time, or is it just that you stop noticing, your nose too deep in the daily grind to look up? I wonder if what I saw in Ginza is what the people there see on a daily basis. I wonder what things I miss back home, or take for granted, that a passing tourist would jot down as something memorable.

20170705_190950

Night time in Ginza

When we got to dinner, our guide, as had somehow become the custom since day one, sat alone at a table to eat. By this time, we’d had enough. Aside from the fact that it’s considered highly rude and disrespectful in Arab and Asian tradition to have someone sit alone at a meal, the great loss of not being able to learn more about Japan from our guide and the equally great lost opportunity of not being able to share our cultures with him was too great a travesty to let pass. And so, with the help of オサマさん and much coaxing and cooperation from the restaurant staff, we finally got him to sit with us at the same table for dinner.

20170705_191657

Time for dinner

It turned out to be a fun and informative session over a butter chicken and naan dinner, as we traded stories about Japan and back home, the best time to visit, our mother tongues and what the difference is between おちゃ, chai, karak chai and masala chai. It turned out that our guide’s mum shared my love for Korean dramas and was a big fan of period dramas and movies. 역시 With that we were ready to head back home. The short walk through Ginza showed that even in fancy Ginza, the shops closed early so with nothing to distract us, we went straight back to the hotel, and started getting ready for the much awaited day trip to Nikko.

Missed Day 7 in Fuji?

Stay tuned for Day 9 Part 1 in Nikko!

 

Depression

Thin veil of smiles cloud
Foggy depressions from sight
As tears trace wet lines

via Daily Prompt: Foggy

Toothbrush

이게 내 칫솔이야?
오빠가 나한테 물었다

자기가 쓰는 칫솔도 모로는 오빠가
아침마다 눈을 감고 양치하는가 봐

그럼 내 칫솔은?

Is this my toothbrush?
My brother asked

He must be brushing with his eyes closed every morning
For him not to recognize his own toothbrush

But then, what does that make my toothbrush?

via Daily Prompt: Toothbrush

Toothbrush

Back to Japan – Day 7 (Fuji)

We’re going to Fuji and no swollen feet are going to stop us. Despite all our attempts to talk ma out of a long tiring day she insisted that the trip just wouldn’t be the same if she didn’t see Mt. Fuji. And that was that. The sole concession we could reach was to skip the ice and wind cave and the walk through the Suicide Forest between the caves.

We had packed everything we could possibly need for the long drive, from umbrellas to rain jackets and extra shoes and of course… snacks! We got together with the rest of the group before 9 and that’s where we met our guide for the day. It was, unbelievably, the same guide we had two years ago – Mikoさん! We’d had a great time with her before and while I’m always thankful for a familiar face a sudden realization dawned upon me. With Mikoさん as our chatty guide, between her folk tales laced with revenge, intrigue and rather questionable morals and stories of her attempts to scale Mt. Fuji, it was going to be very difficult to catch up on some much-needed sleep during the bus ride.

We were also met by some bad news at the lobby – which was that we should anticipate a day of heavy rains brought on by a typhoon. Out came the umbrellas en masse lent to us by the hotel and off we went, keeping in mind that all our plans were now subject to the whims of the weather. More ominously, we were aware that we may not get a chance to see Fuji…again. But no talk of rain or typhoons or any tale Mikoさん could tell could keep me up and when I finally woke up it was to the sight of beautiful green rice paddies at the foreground of dark forested hills interspersed with humble wooden farmhouses with the occasional solar panel installations flashing past my window. It’s such a contradiction – the serenity of the scene contrasted with the arduous labour that goes into producing an annual rice harvest. Quite unlike a cityscape where there’s a constant buzzing and movement for little nothings.

About a half hour before we were due to reach the Ice Cave, elusive and shy Mt. Fuji decided to show herself to us. And what a view it was. The snow-capped tip topped by lenticular clouds and wrapped in the hazy blue grey of the day. There is something to be said about the majesty of Mt. Fuji as it rises from the landscape- a gentle slope spanning the horizon and dominating the sky with it’s cotton tipped peak. We couldn’t take our eyes of Fuji and amid declarations from our guide that we must be a really blessed lot to have seen Fuji on a day when no one expected it to be visible, it was eventually lost to sight as we reached the parking area to the Ice Cave. Dissuaded by the gloomy weather forecast, no one had made it there save us and a school bus full of schoolchildren from Yokohama.

20170704_105146

Mt. Fuji shows itself

While everyone headed to the frosty blue cavern that is the Ice Cave with its promises of fogged up glasses, ma and I took a bathroom break and went off to the Wind Cave area where we’d meet up with everyone once they were done. The souvenir store was empty so we got a chance to look around at leisure. Ma picked herself up a deerskin wallet while I finally picked up a snowglobe for a friend (last trip no one we met seemed to know what a snowglobe was let alone where to buy one) . With that we were finally ready to enter the forest and walk up to the entrance area to the Wind Cave. The temperature in the forest was notably less than outside and thanks to the notable absence of visitors we got a chance to experience the forest as it was intended – in its silence broken only by the sound of leaves rustling in the gentle breeze overhead and the occasional song of birds hidden from view.

20170704_122703.jpg

Walking through Suicide Forest

It was a chance to marvel at the resilience of nature. To watch how trees, seemingly uprooted by the force of hot lava as it had once made its way down the mountain slope, had managed to cling on to life, the network of their gnarly roots exposed to view- a testament to their tenacity. To watch as trees sat in silence, perched above gas vents, watching Fuji breathe. To see trees wrapped around the trunks of other trees as lovers, reaching for the skies. To see the black stones that littered the forest floor covered with a green carpet of moss, lichen and ferns.

20170704_120942

Life in harmony

For the first time I got a chance to explore the forests of Fuji as I would have liked – in all its delicate intricacies, discovering a collection of insects too close for comfort yet impossible to appreciate from afar, pine cones in all stages of their life from unripe and uneaten to chewed on by unknown forest friends to dried brown cones rolling along the forest floor, the undersides of leaves covered in eggs creating a polka dot canopy.

20170704_123810

Polka dot leaves

Ma and I sat on a bench in the forest, grateful for the coolness afforded to us by the leafy canopy and took it all in, until everyone arrived. It was time then for a quick stop at the souvenir store and vending machines, a prayer break in a makeshift spot in front of the deserted vending machines before we all bundled back up on the bus ready for lunch.

Lunch was going to be at a Japanese place near Kawaguchiko, which had been my favourite place during the last trip. I was looking forward to being at the lake more than I was lunch so after a quick attempt to wolf down the rice and warm pumpkin from the hotpot, the rest of which I left intact, I was ready to go. I strolled down, browsed through the souvenir store and then took a walk outside, all the way up to a car tunnel, which suddenly reminded me of the movie Tunnel and with that creepy thought I went back to the restaurant where ma and Z were waiting. We were headed up Mt. Kachi Kachi- the legend of which Miko さん had enthusiastically narrated to us on the bus complete with unique voices for each character. I cannot understand why fairy tales are so gruesome. It was the stairs vs a ramp if we were going to take the cable car up the mountain, so ramp it was, past a fruit vendor selling giant juicy green grapes, the commemorative coin machine, from where I picked up a coin courtesy of the three sisters on the group who donated change to my cause since the machine is picky about what it eats, up a flight of stairs and finally into the cable car. It’s only a three minute ride, but the view is breathtaking- the forest covered slopes of Kachikachi Yama and the rolling mist covered mountains behind lake Kawaguchi- there’s a peace to be felt there that I haven’t felt anywhere else, except maybe at the five storey temple of Nara.

20170704_145949.jpg

The mountains, the lake and the city

The crowning jewel though of our sightseeing from a height, was the first view of Mt. Fuji as we got off the cable car, enveloped in a hazy blue which made it look like something out of Hokusai’s 36 views of Fuji, in particular Ejiri in Saruga which captures the blue haze so well. The clouds rolled through the skies and every minute that past was like looking at a new view of Fuji. Luckily for us, the crowds were thinning fast so we got to spend a long time enjoying the beauty of Fuji, before we headed back down to the lake.

20170704_150158.jpg

Mt. Fuji in all its glory

The hydrangeas in the bushes on the walk up to the lake weren’t in full bloom this time around, which meant that we were privy to all the different stages of formation of a full blown hydrangea – from the first flat set of florets, to the small familiar round ball of a pinks, purples and blues taking shape. Just looking at the hydrangeas you know that something this beautiful, with all its complexity, cannot be the result of chance.

The lake was as beautiful as I had remembered it. We took the path down to the mouth of the lake, where we crouched down, for lack of a bench, to enjoy the stillness, the silence and the soft sound of ripples breaking against the shore. It’s probably a mark of how serene the place is, that none of us took note of a crossing boat which left us pleasantly soaked by the sudden waves that crashed into the banks where we were sitting. Ma’s shoes were soaked, but since we’d packed an extra pair we weren’t too worried. With that bolt of refreshment, we moved to higher ground, to enjoy the views from a bench. Some of the guys offered us grapes and as we sat under the overcast sky reflected in the mirror of the lake, it was as though my prayers were answered – and it began to rain, a light drizzle awakening a part of you that truly knows what it means to be alive. Our rain-sprinkled happiness however was put out by practicality. To avoid getting caught in a full-fledged downpour that would mean a risky journey back to Tokyo, we had to get back on the bus and bid the lake goodbye.

20170704_160012

We managed to escape any serious rain and were soon back in the familiar dry suburbs of Tokyo. We reached so early that we had time to get some rest before going to dinner, which was just a short walk away. The weather is an amazing thing. Dry one minute and pouring the next. When we got down to head to the Turkish restaurant, it had begun to rain, a nice steady rain which drummed steadily on our umbrellas, angled at times for maximum protection against the rain angling in with the gentle breeze. It was a lovely walk at night learning how to dodge umbrellas, surrounded by the bright Tokyo lights made even brighter by watery reflections on wet roads. It was interesting to note that most people, not all, carry the same white or transparent 7/11 umbrella which means you don’t have to worry about which one belongs to you when depositing at an umbrella stand. It reminded me of the haram in Makkah and Madina where the same philosophy applies, only to footwear.

20170730_095032.jpg

Nighttime meanderings

We reached Saray Akasaka, where we were greeted with the nicest tomato soup I’ve ever had and an eggplant and tomato dish that I wish I could have just taken back home, it was that good. We were happy that Mt. Fuji had given us a peek, well-fed, and willing to walk some more in the rain. Ma and Z were drenched by the time we got back so they went on ahead back to the hotel room, but I couldn’t bear the though of wasting all that good rain by being cooped up inside. Who knows when it’ll rain next back home – next year if we’re lucky. I took a walk to Bic Camera for some exploration to find any uncharted model territory. There wasn’t though so I called it a night and went back so we could figure out just how to dry clothes in a hotel room. We got our things ready for the next day (which would be an all out shopping day in Tokyo), left our clothes on the clothes line and our umbrellas in the bathtub before we finally managed to fall asleep.

Missed Day 6 in Tokyo?

Stay tuned for Day 8 in Tokyo!