October 30, 2012

Hie Shrine in Akasaka

Hie Shrine, a Shinto shrine in the busy-on-weekdays, dead-on-weekends Nagatacho and Akasaka area.

The fairly long stairs leading up to the main gate. I can understand why an escalator was added to the west entrance.

I like how torii gates look impressive, but never imposing or forbidding.

The main gate, with monkeys flanking either side. The monkeys are actually a couple. Monkey play a special role in Hie Shrine, expressing matrimonial harmony, easy labor for babies, and prosperity of the family.

Husband monkey.
Barrels of sake from all over Japan.

I love how this large, beautiful space has been made acessible amidst all these skyscrapers.

A collection of ema (a wooden plaque on which people write their wishes) over the years. That most of them say, "I hope to get into ____ University" says everything about how we are raised to set goals for our lives in Japan, and the current era of disillusioned postgrads.

Another monkey sighting, next to the main shrine.

I'm guessing the baby was taken to the shrine to be blessed. There are similar pictures in our family album, except us kids are in Western clothing and don't look half as immaculate as this family.

The escalator on the west exit. More pictures to follow...

Pumpkins and Polar Bears

I don't go to the Aoyama/Omotesando area much (I figure I have no money to spend there), so when I walked through Aoyama a couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised. Because Aoyama bleeds into Omotesando, I had always considered the two similar in my mind, but whereas Omotesando is so chock full of international brands, you could be in any stylishly anonymous cosmopolitan city, Aoyama combines a creative edge with its inherent poshness.

Take, for example, this shop window. Japan doesn't really have any business celebrating Halloween (or even co-opting it for its commercial value), but this mix of traditional Japanese art (paper chochin lanterns and ceramics) and US culture is ingenious, and suddenly makes Halloween relevant.

I also loved the aesthetics of this expensive bike shop. You may not want the bike, but you can appreciate the visuals.

I wonder if the store has ever considered selling these bears. Something tells me they could be an even bigger hit than the bikes.

Fuji-san, Interpreted for Fall

 The Mikimoto window display in Ginza.

Taken from the fourth floor of the Watarium Museum of Contemporary Art.

October 27, 2012

From Nagatacho to Aoyama

Walked from Nagatacho to Aoyama the other day.

Clearly, someone told the owner here what "guy's guy" means, and the owner then came up with the title. It is the ludicrous brother to Tea's Tea.

A strange little patch of grass with giant canaries on it, completely dwarfed by the surrounding buildings.

Trompe-l'œil apartment building wall art.

A cleaner on a tricked-out bike.

The park next to the Canadian Embassy.

The park is named after Korekiyo Takahashi, who was the 20th Prime Minister of Japan and was in office from 1921 to 1922. (Even then, it seems, our Prime Ministers were short-lived.)

Shrine Dos

A shrine about 10 minutes' walk from Kamata Station, which offered a respite from the slight griminess on display near the station (in the form of snack bars and hair salons for the ladies who work in them). 

What I found most interesting about this shrine was how discreet instructions had been placed in select areas, such as the temizu here, and the main shrine.

They have the effect of educating a new generation of shrine visitors who were perhaps not raised to follow Shinto customs. As someone who appreciates shrines but has no idea how to behave in them, it allowed me to take part in the customs without feeling embarrassed.

With all the roots showing, an earthquake would tip the tree over.

The three smaller torii gates to the right side of the shrine were to pray for good health and prosperity, among other things.

Not too many fortunes tied up here.

The main gate viewed from the street.

October 23, 2012

Meguro Fudoson

One of my oldest friends grew up in the Meguro area, and whenever I visited her home, I would pass through this temple on the bus. It looks particularly spectacular in cherry blossom season, and is well worth a visit.

It wasn't until I stepped inside the temple grounds that I realized just how vast it is. Built in the year 808, Meguro Fudoson (also known as Ryusenji Temple) is part of the Tiantai sect of Buddhism, and worships the Acala, or "immovable god" (the Fudo in the title).

A small shrine directly across the street from the temple, manned by a tabby cat. Visitors can pray for a successful business.

I'm always impressed by these, for lack of a better description, dragon faucets.

A sword and flame, which looks almost medieval.

In commemoration of a famous wanderer turned leader.

A shachihoko -- the head of a tiger, the body of a fish.

Frog and babies.

 Possibly the largest hand-purification area I have ever seen.

Here, I witnessed the strangest practice: people would use the ladle on the right to get some water from the stone basin. However, instead of pouring it over their hands, they would raise the ladle high, and aim the water at the stone statue in front of them. Since the statue was slightly far away, it looked like a certain level of strength was needed, to the point where it looked like people were flinging water at it. I learned later this ritual brings good luck.

From Meguro to Gotanda

Walked from Meguro to Gotanda a couple weekends ago.

This plant caught my eye, with its thin, layered cosmos-like leaves and morning glory-type flowers.

I have no idea what it is called, and Google Goggles was no help at all.

A park next to a temple whose name I cannot remember. I was quite amazed by the scale of that climbable wall.

Incense near the statue.

An old Japan Post scooter as a toy ride.

Dried nuts and leaves serve as decoration for a traditional snacks store.

The sheer absurdity of this wall made me laugh.

A bicycle repair shop.

An old folks' home with an emergency escape route, or the coolest chute ever.

A car sold as Midget II. Only in Japan...