Local Life, Culture and Traditions, Tokyo
At Japanese shrines you will constantly find walls full of little wooden plates and strings full of paper loops. They are called ema and omikuji respectively.
Ema can be purchased mostly in front of these walls. If you have a wish you write it on the back of it in whatever language and than attach it to the wall.
The little papers called omikuji are a kind of oracle you make a donation and then draw a paper. Sometimes you have to use a box with sticks in it with a hole on the bottom and the stick that comes out, tells you a number und you have to get a paper from the according draw. These papers tell you whether you have bad, normal, good or excellent luck. In order to strengthen the positive prediciton or for the bad prediction to not come true it is looped around the strings.
In Tokyo there is now a system of tours by volunteer guides. Cost varies from free to Y1000 to Y2000.
As of 1/2005, there are five tours available which take 2-3 hours. Languages available are English, Korean, Chinese, German, French, Italian or Spanish.
Just next to Tokyo`s famed Yoyogi Park, you will come to a little concrete plaza, bordered on one side by the weirdly soaring form of the National Gymnasium (based on a samurai helmet and considered an architectural masterpiece) and the NHK TV studio.
Although guided tours of the studio are available, the real attraction here is the street performers - young people flock to sing, dance, and perform standup comedy and theatre in the hope that they will be "discovered" by the star-makers who work in the studios nearby.
Unfortunately though, most of the performers are pitifully untalented, making a walk down this boulevard of broken dreams both hilarious and a little sad.
On weekends, teenagers flock to the street to see the free entertainment (and laugh at the very worst performers). There are frequent festivals and events in the plaza area - everything form Thai foodfairs to hip hop concerts - as well as a biweekly flea market. And Shibuya is just a short stroll down the hill, walking past the NHK studios and away from the park, making it easy to stop by on walking tour of Shibuya,Harajuku and Yoyogi Park.
See "Yoyogi Park" for more street culture.
If you are in Tokyo in April, you have to go a bit off the beaten tourist track and visit the Nezu Shrine. Not only is it a beautiful religious complex -- one of the few that survived World War II -- but it boasts firy azaleas of all different colors. Azaleas only bloom for a couple of weeks each spring, so you have to go in late April if you're going to see them. but it's worth the trip.
Several times in history, Tokyo has been almost destroyed -- by fires, earthquakes, floods and war -- but it has always rebuilt itself. That might explain why it retains only vestiges of Old Japan. You'll find an amazing hodgepodge of old and modern architecture, often side by side, and a maze of streets where even taxi drivers lose their way. You can get utterly lost just a few moments' walk from your hotel. It is a safe place, however, and a relatively good city to be lost in, with kobans (police boxes) interspersed throughout the metropolis and shy but friendly people who almost always help if you ask.
HANABI festivals...... Japanese summers never be completed without seeing one of them! Never!!!
The great festivals are... (by number of fireworks that set off)
1. Sumida River Hanabi Festival (20,000)
2. Edogawa-ku Hanabi Festival /w Ichikawa-shi citizen Hanabi Festival (14,000)
3. Adachi's Hanabi Festival (12,000)
4. Tokyo Bay Grand Hanabi Festival (12,000)
5. Katsushika Cool-breeze Hanabi Festival (11,000)
Well, a Japanese convenience store (konbini) is part of modern Japanese culture and are very different from Western convenience stores. These days you can buy concert tickets there, pay all of your bills, do your banking, buy some lunch (with some beer), read a magazine or two, and buy a strawberry and cream sandwich (huh!!) or a yakisoba roll (double huh!!).
If you like traditional arts you must see this group, they describe themselves like this on their page: "Kodo is a group of japanese drummers that perform on a worlwide scale but remain rooted in the local comunity of Sado Island Japan"
It's amazing, if you hear about a KODO tour get a ticket, you will never see something like that if it's not in their shows.
Place to stop for sword enthusiasts, but for people not intested it is a bit out of the way to find.
When I was there, there were about 100 swords on display, the information about the place boasted about more but I didn't find them. There was a part that appeared to be closed off, which might have had more on another floor or wing of the place, but couldn't get there at the time. However, there is a lot of well preserved Japanease weapons, a few rusted old ones but everything is in good condition and well taken care of.
Well, wondering what statues are these.
Due to the high abortion in JPN, these are represent the little baby who passed away in JPN. You will find them right behind the temples or ji.
DO NOT wake them UP !!
For some high tech hysteria you have to go play some games in an arcade. I wouldn't blow my money on the games where you try to win a stuffed animal. But the ones for pure fun are amazing. The photo booths &
"neo printo" little sticker photo booths make great souvenirs.
"Taiko" is the traditional japanese drums performance. I had the chance to go to such a performance by one of the most famous Taiko groups in Japan.
I really enjoyed the powerful rythm and the amazing coordination and technique of the drummers. If you have the chance of going to a Taiko performance don't miss it. It's just amazing.
Indulge your sweet tooth and head to one of the crepe kiosks on Takeshita-Dori, Harajuku. There are several dotted along the street and serve crepes with as many different fillings as you can imagine, mostly sweet but there are some savoury options there. You can even have a slice of cheesecake in your crepe if you want!
I opted for a strawberry crepe but when I asked the woman in the kiosk for a strawberry crepe she produced a laminated picture menu and pointed to all the strawberry crepes on offer (at least 5 different varieties!). I picked a strawberries and cream one which was delicious!
Gwen Stefani loves 'em!
To quote wikipedia- "The term "Harajuku Girls" has been used by English-language media to describe teenagers dressed in any fashion style who are in the area of Harajuku"
Harajuku is where you are likely to find the trendy and insanely dressed people of Tokyo. They all come out to play on a Sunday but we still spotted a few kooky girls on Takeshita Street on a midweek afternoon.
Ok go and visit all the parks listed in the "Things to Do" tips. But give yourself some time to just wander aimlessly.
One day I wandered into a park, expecting the madness to have spilled into the gardens, fountain areas and walkways. But all was quiet except for a few elderly ladies strolling slowly past. Perhaps I was there at the wrong time, maybe in the evenings it would be invaded by a younger crowd. I picked a path enjoying the peacefulnes. I started to notice, hidden in the trees, many cardboard boxes arranged neatly. I stopped and took a quicker look. Most of them had been covered in blue plastic sheets. I quickly realized that these were homes. I walked further down the path and came to an area where I could get closer. The box homes were elaborate, with furniture, beds, and cooking areas. Outside were more sitting areas and hanging clothing to dry. I had found Tokyo’s homeless community, living in furnished cardboard boxes, protected from the rain by a sheet of plastic. I was later to learn, that many of them lead full and constructive lives with jobs. But the shame of being homeless was deep, and often prevented them from turning to anyone for help, friends and family included. I also learned that this community had been living in the tunnels at Shinjuku station, but had been thrown out by the police.
I will admit ignorance about Japan’s social system, but the few hints given to me by friends suggests that it is non-existent. I have an impression that ‘culturally’ to require social assistance is a terrible shame. For example, there is absolutely no street pandering in the city. I was never once asked for money, or to make a donation for any cause. I would even go so far as to say such concepts are foreign in Japan. Someone asking for money may even embarrass Japanese. I wonder if I am correct?