And so we left the Iwako factory and headed to the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple. We opted out of the Soba lunch because my tummy’s not too good with noodles and pasta at the moment and instead walked around the Nakamise Street with Honda San looking for a place to eat. We stumbled upon the cutest cafe called Candy where I opted for a vegetable sandwich and Z for an omlette sandwich. The food was simply heavenly and I’m fully convinced that the secret behind the air-like bread in Japan lies in their flour. Well-fed, and Z with his melon flavoured shaved ice in hand, we strolled down the street looking for some souvenirs to take home- basically just some hand fans, which we found easily enough. Honda San even treated us to some Japanese sweet (I can’t remember what it’s called though!)… a sort of puff pastry like round sweet filled with sweet potato. It was really..really good. We found out that food and drinks aren’t allowed, not just inside shops which is understandable, but also on the main street to prevent littering. Instead there are places on the side street where you are allowed to stand and eat. As we got to the end of the street, we reached the Kaminarimon Gate where we saw the famous lantern- red, emblazoned with the words Thunder God and flanked by statues of the gods of thunder and wind. To be fair, there is an identical, and in fact much larger, lantern at the beginning of the street at the Hozomon Gate but oddly enough this lantern was the main draw. We found out that it was all thanks to a sketch or painting that had been done of the temple in winter, which featured the smaller lantern.
We headed back up the street to visit the temple itself. Outside the temple, as with most others, is a large pot filled with sand into which people place burning sticks of incense. We learnt that after burning the incense, the smoke is consider healing and people will place their hands in the smoke then rub their hands over whichever part of their body requires healing. Incense lit, we headed up the temple steps where we learnt that this temple too had been burned down during WWII but unlike the other temples which were rebuilt from wood, this temple was rebuilt using modern materials like concrete and titanium.
When we asked whether this was a Buddhist temple or a Shinto Shrine, we were told that sometimes it was not so easy to tell, the religions having been intermingled a great deal. The Japanese, Honda san told us, seemed to be easily influenced by external elements owing to the fact that they were an island nation with fixed boundaries. He said landlocked countries did not appear to succumb as easily to change as do island nations. It’s true but I can’t quite pinpoint why.
From the Senso-ji Temple, we walked to the Tokyo Cruise station where we took the Himiko to Odaiba. The ship is incredibly futuristic looking and was in fact designed by the famous manga author Leiji Matsumoto whose manga even our sensei had read! The weather was overwhelmingly hot and humid but as we got onto the ship, it started to drizzle again, just as it had drizzled moments after we had left the hotel in the morning. I was beginning to miss the umbrella that our colleague had lent us the previous day, which we ended up leaving behind at the hotel. The rain stopped, though, before we docked and we ended up enjoying the almost hour long ride with beautiful views of the countless bridges across the water, each painted a different colour – red, orange, yellow, green… a rainbow of bridges.
We finally reached Odaiba, right in front of Aqua City and the Decks. We had the option of heading to Palette Town or the Onsen too and while I was initially very keen on going to the onsen, I was so exhausted by the heat to go so far so I opted to just wander around in Aqua City which would be our final meeting point anyway. Aqua City is a huge mall, conveniently connected to the Decks, where you can find Legoland and Madame Tussaud’s. Unfortunately both were closed by the time we got there so we just roamed around the different shops, including… the Coke store filled with Coca Cola merchandise, which is how we stumbled across perhaps the most important souvenir of our trip… KitKat. There are over 200 hundred flavours of KitKat unique to Japan and while we had scoured every shop looking for some unique Kitkat, we had only come across matcha up until that point. We stocked up on some yummy flavours of KitKat, then headed down to Tully’s Cafe for some much needed rest.
Once we all rounded up, we headed for dinner at Khazana- another Indian restaurant where we had chicken tikka, some vegetable and chicken salan, naan and rice in a thali like arrangement. The food was great and we ended up getting back to the hotel with tummies full and hearts even fuller – with beautiful night views of the Rainbow Bridge. I’d finished packing most of our things the night before so we were pretty much ready for our last day in Japan…It’s not fair that time flies faster when you’re having a good time.
Stay Tuned for Day 9