Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tokyo - Asakusa and Shinagawa

They say if you want a glimpse of what Edo (old Tokyo) was like head to Asakusa. I don't know about that.... Tokyo is a completely modern city so if you want to see Edo I think you may be a bit disappointed. Still, I am told this district is the closest thing to Edo and it's quite fun nonetheless.

Like I said in two posts ago, I took a water bus ride from the Hamrikyu Garden to Asakusa. Here are some views from the water bus:

Rainbow Bridge

house boats of Shinagawa

After getting off the water bus you are right in the heart of Asakusa.

Map of the Area from the dock.

Here you can see some rickshaws along your way to Kaminarimon (thunder gate).

Kaminarimon Gate

Walk through the gate and you'll be greated by Nakamise, a street filled with street vendors selling mostly sweets, though you'll find some wooden swords and kimonos too.

Mostly Food on Nakamise

Freshly made red bean cake in the shape of the pagoda up the street.


Wooden Katanas

Deep fried Red Bean Cakes

At the end of the street is Asakusajinja Shrine.
Asakusajinja Shrine

5 story pagoda

Past and Present meet - man in kimono on cell phone

Healing Smoke

The smoke from this incense is supposed to contain healing properties. These people are waving the smoke onto their bodies or injured areas. I tried it, but so far it hasn't seemed to heal anything. =)

Here's a video of people using the Healing Smoke:

People use this fountain to drink from and wash their hands. There are tons of these fountains all over at temples in Japan.

Next to the shrine was a small garden and more food being sold:

Some more food being sold:

man and woman in kimono

food that made me sick and was expensive too

After Asakusa I was off to Shinagawa to see Sengakuji Temple. This was built by Tokugawa Ieyasy in 1612. It is most famous for being the burial ground of the 47 Ronin.

Sengaku Ji
Sengaku Ji from the inside

The 47 Ronin is a famous true Japanese story of loyalty, honor, and revenge celebrated in Kabuki (sort of like opera) and Bunraku (a kind of puppet show). In 1701 a young lord, Asano Takumi was appointed to entertain imperial envoys. He was directed to seek directions from his official advisor, Kira Yoshinaka. Kira disliked Asano and treated him poorly and disgraced his honor as a samurai. Asano lost face while performing court rituals; essential he was set up to fail by Kira. Unable to tolerate this dishonor Asano drew his sword against Kira and attacked. Kira survived the attack and drawing your sword in the castle was forbidden.

During this period there was a law termed “equal punishment for quarrels” meaning both Asano and Kira were expected to be punished. However Kira received no punishment while Asano was sentenced to death by seppuku (ritual suicide) in a garden of another lord on the same day without proper investigation. Seppuku outside in a garden was for felons and not for someone of Asano's standing so this was considered a great dishonor. After Asano committed seppuku his estate was confiscated and his family line was dethroned from lordship.

The 47 samurai serving Asano now had no lord to serve and thus became ronin (masterless samurai). Two years after the event Oishi Kuranosuke assembled the samurai to avenge their master's death. On December 14, 1702 they attached and killed Kira at his residence. They then marched to Sengakuji to present Kira's head to Asano's grave and reported their accomplishment to him.

They then turned themselves into the shogunate right away and were sentenced to seppuku the next year on February 4th and buried here at Sengakuji.

Statue of Oishi Kuranosuke, leader of the 47 Ronin

Entrance to the grave site

Thus ended my day on 10/3/08.

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