Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tokyo - Day 3

OK, this is the really busy day! We headed out early to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market. Yes, this is one of the world’s largest fish markets with something crazy like 2,000 tons of seafood (of about 450 different species) traveling through this place every day. This is the home to the big tuna auctions that you always hear about, but unfortunately the public can no longer attend the auction. Kelly and I were all prepared to be at the market at 5:00 AM, but since the big earthquake, the public can’t see it or the behind the scenes dealings until a little later.

We did get back into the wholesale area with thousands of booths tightly packed in a crazy fray of noise, blood, fish and people.

I have no idea what these are?

There are transportation carts and people running everywhere and if you don’t watch yourself, you’ll get run over.

We weren’t able to see the tuna auction, but Kelly’s attuned ears heard the sound of a band saw and we followed the sound to a stand where the men were cutting up one of the HUGE tunas that was completely deep frozen. The freezer said -56.1 degrees Celsius! It is quite the ballet of workers hauling the fish, cutting the backbone out, hacking off the fins, cutting smaller sections, etc.

Cutting off the fins.

After getting our fill of dead fish, we perused the stalls around the market that sold a variety of fish, vegetables, kitchen wares and, of course, sushi. The plan was to have sushi for breakfast, but we ran out of time since we had to get across town for our reservation at the kabuki theatre.

Lining up to get into the restaurants for sushi for breakfast!

Stop two: the Japan National Theatre for an Introduction to Kabuki class. The class was mainly for Japanese students (almost the whole theatre was full of high school students in their neat little uniforms), but Kelly and I managed to glean some information about kabuki from the interpreter head set she rented. Kabuki started around 1603 in Kyoto with a troupe of dancing girls, but they were considered "unorthodox" (kabuki meant that in the 1600s).  So the troupes of women were banned and replaced with dancing boys.  They were later replaced with adult men and the meaning of the word kabuki was also changed to become ka (song), bu (dance), ki (technique).

I managed to snap these photos before we were told no photography!

The experience was kind of like watching an opera – amazing costumes, dramatic singing and something you feel you should experience although you’re kind of bored while doing it!

From the theatre we headed over to the Imperial Palace gardens. The gardens were closed when we were at the Palace on Friday so we had to go back. They are very beautiful and serene and we were quite fortunate for having seen the irises in bloom.
Going into the gardens - note the damage on the building behind Kelly.  This was one of the few evidences of earthquake damage we saw.

From the Palace gardens we headed to the northeast area of Tokyo to see a famous temple, the Sensoji Temple. We came out of the Metro into the basement of a department store that was loaded with all kinds of places to buy food and a grocery store.  We picked up some yummy-nummies, but passed on the $235 pack of 3 mangoes and the $260 pack of 2 cantaloupes!

We ate our nummies while sitting in a park over-looking at the Asahi beer factory headquarters.  The building is supposed to look like a mug of beer.  And the thing next to it?  Well, it was supposed to look like the flame on the top of the Olympic torch, but because of earthquake safety, they laid it on its side and now it looks like a giant golden poop.  To get an idea of the size, look at the bottom of the photo to see a truck driving by on the highway!

Speaking of large size, check out these hydrangeas in the park where we ate our lunch - they were huge!

There were all kind of rickshaws you could hire for a tour.

So we finally made it to the temple.  After you pass through the first gate, you run through a gauntlet of shops and booths and other places to spend your money and, well, Kelly and I got a little distracted by these and ended up missing the temple before it closed! Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.

The first gate.

But when else can you shop for handmade washi paper in a shop that open in 1873? The streets around the temple were so interesting and it was a lot of fun just looking around (again, an advantage of no kids and husbands!)

Racks of handmade washi paper.

What says Japan then two ladies walking down a street in kimono and umbrellas?

A whole store of bean paste treats.  I bought some for Cannon who confirmed they were delicious!

Unfortunately, at this point in the day, my headache that I’d been ignoring all day flared up beyond control and we had to head back to the hotel. The “Eve” medicine that I bought at the pharmacy made me really shaky and nauseous and didn’t do a lot for my headache so it was quite the challenge to get back home – thank goodness for Kelly! Lights out on Day 3 at 8:00 PM!

1 comment:

  1. LOve, LOVe, LOVE Japan! So much about Japan offers serenity and beauty. They're self-sufficient, talented in the arts but maintain the traditional respect to their families and ancestors.