I’ve had a busy couple of days overdosing on the many festivities held around the city to celebrate the New Year. I believe it is the Year of the Dog now, which will probably mean even more handbag pups dressed in improbable outfits. Today is my last day in Tokyo before catching the bullet train down to Kyoto tomorrow, so fingers crossed I’ll spot one of the infamous dogs-in-prams before I leave.
A few days ago I visited Senso ji, a buddhist temple in another, more traditional looking part of the city called Asakusa. The new year visits were in full swing and the place was swarming with people. I joined the throng ascending the steps to the main temple and threw my 100 yen coin in for good luck. All around the grounds there were smaller buddha statues and hidden shrines with people praying and then rubbing incense smoke into their clothes. There were also literally hundreds of food stalls selling anything you could put on a stick - entire fish, chocolate-covered bananas, meats of indeterminate origin. I tried a couple of random things - a mystery meat [TB - ignored your one piece of advice already!] and some smoky dumpling thingys - lord knows what they were but they tasted good. It was a fantastic experience, completely different to anything else I’ve seen or done in Japan. Despite the language barrier and the dogs wearing trousers, much of Tokyo is really quite western in feel - high rise offices, yellow New York style cabs, a Starbucks on every corner etc. So the air filled with incense and meat smoke, the throngs of worshippers and the beautiful temple buildings really made me feel for the first time that I was in the far east.
Just when I looked like I might be becoming all cultural, I rectified matters with a trip to Tokyo Disneyland. What can I say - it was completely awesome! I’ve never been to ‘a Disney’ before and used the flimsy excuse of the special ‘Japanese New Year parade’ as a reason to go. Basically, all this meant was that Mickey and Minnie had kimonos on. Poor Donald had a cropped one, on account of his big duck butt, but the whole day was still ridiculously fun.