13th July 2012: Modern & Hip vs. Spriritual & Traditional {Japan, summer 2012}

There was nothing to fear about Friday the 13th, considering that Kinkakuji had predicted me an excellent fortune (yay!), and it started with a niiiice breakfast – Swallowtails‘ cheesecake.

The first stop of the day was skipped due to a train mishap: I missed the stop and did not realise until I had transferred to another line, so backtracking would be expensive. I was not deterred and moved on to my second destination: Ginza [銀座]. Ginza would be the expensive shopping district, and to be honest it did not give me too much of a good vibe.

Not too happy with the place, I decided that since I could ride the Yamanote line for free (Japan Railway Pass = ♥) I would do a couple of other exteriors. The first one was Tokyo Station [東京駅] which was being renovated, so most of it was covered in white fabric.

Afterwards I headed off to Akihabara Electric Town [秋葉原], the place of Tokyo that seems to have more gaijin per square metre. Akiba lives up to its reputation of flashy, hentai, and maido-café infested. Sadly, the Mandarake was doing some kind of renovation and the usual entrances were closed, so I could not find the way into the… interesting section.

On top of the usual Akihabara scenario, I also found some remains of old Tokyo, among them this old stone bridge, Mansei Bashi [万世橋]

The evening’s destination involved a transfer in Ginza again, so I backtracked towards it. Instead of going into the shopping district, though, I headed off to Hibiya Koen [日比谷公園], which reportedly was were the first shogun houses were, around the Imperial Palace.

After some rest and chocolate cookies, I set off towards quite literally the other corner of the castle, to Kudanshita [九段下]. We have heard about the Chidorigafuchi Toro-nagashi, a matsuri (festival) that involves a number of boats releasing lit lanterns on the water in the Palace Moat at Chidorigafuchi Koen [千鳥ヶ淵公園]. Sounds a pretty thing to see, right? Right. Thing is that Kinkakuji fortune kicked in, so when we arrived there had been a cancellation on one of the boats and… we became part of the festival.

Chidorigafuchi Park is close to Yasukuni Jinja [靖國神社], where yet another festival, the Mitama Matsuri, was being held. We had matsuri food (yakitori), admired the lanterns and heard a bunch of young men doing taiko (traditional drumming). It was beyond amazing an evening.