I’m all on my own today. P and I ate breakfast and he hopped on a shuttle bus to Narita, after which I slipped out into the hazy glow of morning. I only had one thing on the agenda for the day, and I knew it would likely have to be accomplished in the morning, as rain was in the forecast again.
I boarded the crowded subway line, exiting at Asakusa, where Senso-Ji awaited. This is a Buddhist temple that dates to 628 AD. The image is iconic.
There are actually two sets of these gates. Passing the first gate, I encountered a series of vendors selling all sorts of souvenirs and food. The faux autumn leaves projecting from the booths were quite festive. As I glanced over the offerings I couldn’t pass up the hot roasted rice crackers, which seemed to be soaked in soy and grilled. Later in the afternoon I would return for an ice cream.
People always show the torii with hanging lanterns, but they never show the bottom of the lanterns.
I don’t think people consider looking under the lanterns, and yet the image is striking.
Moving past the second gate, visitors were doing their best to take in the large cloud of perfumed smoke emanating from a large metal vat.
Into the temple, the loud rattle of wishing rods can be heard. For a price, people make wishes, and shake a container containing marked rods. Each rod corresponds to a different response, a full text of which is available in the drawers nearby. You can see people reading the replies to the left, above. I did not make any wishes this day.
I exited to the left of the temple, where this statue of Buddha sat in silence.
And nearby was this small garden with its little waterfalls.
I continued out into the streets of Asakusa, where I explored the many nearby shops.
For lunch I had okonomiyaki, a pancake made with cabbage and pork and topped with green onions and an egg. The chef cooked it on a grill right in front of me. I have read about this and was hoping to have it while here. It was delicious.
As I continued my exploration, diving into one last temple, the expected rain finally came, so I hopped back on the subway and returned to the hotel.
Later that evening I ventured out to a restaurant specializing in tempura, where I sat at the bar and watched the master at work. It was perfect! As each item would come out of the hot oil, he would gently deposit it on my plate: delicate shrimp, kombucha squash, eel, and maitake mushrooms being just some of the things I ate. Handing each item off, he would advise the best way to eat it: with sauce, grated radish, or salt. I couldn’t have asked for a better final dinner in Tokyo.
Tomorrow, I go home. This has been a long trip and I am ready.