So anyone who has ever lived here in Okinawa or spent any amount of time in Japan has become acquainted with the backhand expression of ‘Okinawa Time’. This is the idea that Okinawa runs at its own pace, that if you have an appointment at 2 pm, in Okinawa it is more likely 3 pm or whenever the person decides to show up. I have heard various versions over the years, such as Navajo time and even gave my sister her own time zone…I always called it ‘Tina Time’.
And if Okinawa runs at a relaxed, easy going pace where everything and everyone is relaxed and accepted, you have the Bizarro world version that is known as Tokyo.
People may not be moving as fast as the video, but coming from sleepy little Ginowan, it feels like it. Every once in a while I need to get out of my comfort zone and go visit a big crazy city…I have done quite a few of them since I’ve been here, if you’ve been reading along.
But the thing about cities over here is that there is no menace, no aggression that I have always felt in cities in the States. This is not to demean or put down America, but a single woman is not safe wandering around a big city at night alone with an expensive camera in her hand. Over here, it is never an issue and that’s an incredible thing.
I decided on flying into Haneda since it’s right there and you can get a train that will bring you downtown without too much trouble. Last year on my trip to Tokyo, I got a train card and now I just refill it, and use all over Japan…except Okinawa, since Okinawa is really not Japan and we only have a monorail here. That being said, I was ready for my four day Tokyo adventure.
This is a preserved Sumo Ring from the Edo Period. Sumo is actually a Shinto ritual so the ring is considered a sacred space. The base of the ring is made of pounded clay , with the ring made of clay-stuffed straw bales, known as ‘Dohyo’. Ryogoku area is the training place for Sumo wrestlers and the Kokugikan (Sumo Arena) is located right here. Which is next to the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
Now, Edo, you all probably know is the old name for Tokyo. And this museum, where they have English guides available, is a testament to that time period. It was fascinating to see the intricate models of life in Edo in the 1600- late 1800s. I learned the real story of the 47 Ronin, not the Hollywood version, and how they were ‘asked’ to take their lives. It’s so Japanese, to ask someone to take their life and equally Japanese to do it. All I could think was, that scene in ‘Gone with the Wind’ when Scarlett says she’s going to Atlanta to ask Rhett for money and Mammy says, “askin’ ain’t gettin'”. I think the guide was wondering why I was smiling as she was relating the story.
There was also a kabuki miniature set up where you could see what the theatre looked like, it was actually held in the round, like Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Also, it was an all day event where people would sometimes go and bathe and come back in a new outfit so they could be admired.
It was a great museum and I took all kinds of photos that are not in here, interactive displays and just a great feel for another time period. Check out the website and if you are in Tokyo and have a few hours, this would be a good place to spend it. http://www.edo-tokyo.museum.or.jp.
When I talk to friends and ask what are things that I should see in Tokyo, one thing comes up quite a bit…the Tsukiji Fish Market. There are all these great YouTube videos I had been watching and I had wanted to go to the wonderful, fun and famous tuna auctions. Alas, I chose a hotel that was not close and the trains do not run past a certain hour. Oh I forgot to mention, you have to get there at about 1 or 2 am to line up. Also, they only let about 120 people go in. So maybe next time I visit, I will find a place closer so I can walk there.
I did end up going to the market. It is open to everyone, just the auctions are private and was shoulder to shoulder with the teeming masses of like-minded, fish-loving foodies like myself. So what did I get to eat there? In this Mecca of fresh fish? An omelette of course!
Now this was not just any omelette mind you, this guy in the picture on the upper right hand side is the brother of some famous broadcaster…I know, I know, I ‘m just passing along what was told to me. And so I had a little omelette, served fluffy and in a rectangle with a toothpick for 100 yen. Here’s what I keep forgetting about the eggs here, and I keep forgetting until it’s in my mouth….they put sugar or some sweetener in there. Now what would possess anyone to do such a thing?? And they all eat it, like this is a normal thing to do to an egg!
I had done enough sightseeing for one day and decided to just chill with some good sashimi and ocha (tea) and go back to my room. The next day it was off to the Imperial Palace where the Emperor is still waiting on an answer as to if he can retire. Of course, I am not allowed in there….well nobody is actually, but it was nice to wander around the outer gardens and see the gate houses and the gates. Incredible that in a city the size of Tokyo, there is peace and quiet in these gardens. Such an appreciation and harmony with nature in the middle of a large city is difficult to pull off, but they manage it.
I have to say, it was very hot up there, and unlike Okinawa, there are no sweet little breezes wafting from anywhere…..so these poor Japanese people who do not seem to sweat at all, had to tolerate this very sweaty and probably stinky American on their over-packed trains. One guy moved away from me as soon as humanly possible…I just started laughing.
Later that night, I was looking on the map for a good place to eat and noticed on the map a site that said Omori Shell Mounds. I was intrigued as I am fascinated with the natural world and I thought of shell mounds and middens that I had seen in and around Acadia National Park in Maine. Upon further investigation, I saw that Dr. Morse, a zoologist, was from Portland, Maine and that he noticed the mounds on a train trip from Yokohama to Tokyo. It was nice to see a little bit of Maine over here. The website on the site is: http://www.city.shinagawa.tokyo.jp/jigyo/06/historyhp/en/kaizuka/kaizuka.html
From here it was on to Ueno Park which houses many museums, all of which are closed on a Monday, for anyone in the area and the Ueno Zoo. I am not a fan of zoos and had no intention of going, but it too was closed. Apparently the pandas had babies and it is a giant draw for tourists.
As I wandered through there were a few Shinto temples and perfectly groomed walkways. I have begun to do something when I’m visiting a new place and that is, I randomly select a person and start following them throughout a park or a street. No, I’m not stalking, but if the person looks like they are local, I find all these little streets and twists and turns I might not normally have found. The picture below of the man with the trekking poles was my subject for Ueno Park. He noticed me and kept slowing down and smiling at me…see, I’m not a stalker, I would have hidden behind a tree if I was!
My last stop of the day was Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens a few train stops away from Ueno Park. This garden was originally built by the founder of the Mito branch of the Tokugawa Clan.
This is what I think of when I think of a Japanese garden, there were turtles, koi, ducks and a gorgeous crane. Plum tree grove, irises and water lilies. Quiet, lush and amazing.
Tokyo was a wonderful time, and it is on a different speed than my lovely Okinawa.
But upon returning to the Ryukyu’s I looked at the Uchinanchu man sitting next to me as we were approaching, we were sharing that same happy smile when those turquoise waters came into view and Naha laid out before us. I liked Tokyo, but there is no place like home….Okinawa, my love.