Hokuriku Shinkansen, Japan, jetlag, Jodo-sect of Buddhism, kaiseki dinner, Marunouchi, Mori Museum in Roppongi, Nagano, Pasmo card, Shinjuku-gyoen Park, the Marie Antoinette exhibit, Tokyo, Zenkouji temple
My husband and I traveled to Japan partially to escape the gloom that was pervasive in some sectors of US in post-election 2016. In truth (even in this “post-truth” era) I planned this trip almost 6 months ago – but, it did come at a right time.
As usual, the first few days in Japan was dedicated to recuperation from a severe jetlag. (What Bill Murray’s character suffered in “Lost in Translation” was only slightly exaggerated version of what we experienced.) We spend most of these lazy days in Tokyo which I am familiar with.
We went to Shinjuku-gyoen Park to see the last of colored leaves. Since winter comes late in Tokyo the park was still adorned with red, yellow, and orange topped trees. Since we visited the park on Saturday it was full of young families, some of them were spreading picnic lunches on the yellow-browned lawns. (It was slightly odd to see people sitting on lawns which lost their color probably because I am quite used to seeing green lawns in the rainy Pacific Northwest. I suppose Tokyo government was saving water.) It was nice to see so many young children. Later we went to Ginza to shop and to have dinner. We had a Kyoto style “kaiseki” dinner. It was beautiful as well as tasty. (I love the way Japanese dishes are presented in small exquisite dishes. As in tea ceremony in Japanese cuisine serving dishes themselves are often considered as minor art works.) Later back in our hotel room I realized that I dropped my Pasmo card (digital money you can use for transportation and other things in Japan) probably when I pulled out my glove from my coat pocket. Since I had just loaded the card with over 6000yen I felt bad about it. I hoped that some truly needy person picked it up.
On the third day in Tokyo we went to Nagano from Tokyo by Hokuriku Shinkansen. Nagano, which hosted the winter Olympic Games in 1998. It is famous for soba noodle and Zenkouji, the main temple of the Jodo sect of Buddhism. Nagano is a typical local city that developed around the main railroad station in a mountain valley. We had a soba lunch at one of the oldest soba restaurants in Nagano and visited the temple complex. The highlight of this visit was an accidental viewing of a priest’s prayer offered for private family in one of the side temples, which was accompanied by a fire display, drums and cymbal. I don’t remember seeing any of these Buddhism prayers in my life obviously because each sect has its own customs and rituals. We could not capture the image of this spectacular prayer in any form since photographing of this ritual was prohibited.
On the fourth day we went to Marunouchi, the main office district of Tokyo, to retrieve my husband’s repaired watch at the Seiko Customer’s Center. Later that day, we saw the Marie Antoinette exhibit in Mori Museum in Roppongi. It was packed with women, mostly older women. I am not quite sure why this exhibit should be so popular with older women but I find it hard to believe they share the extravagant rococo taste displayed by Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI as well as our current president-elect. My husband anticipated the exhibit of a guillotine but we did not see it at this exhibit. Instead, we saw great many portraits of Marie Antoinette and other French royalty.