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Goshuin at Tokyo Daijingu Shrine, Nihon Bashi Bridge, Shiodome Dinings

Goshuin at Tokyo Daijingu Shrine, Nihon Bashi Bridge, Shiodome Dinings

May 22nd, 2013. Diary format.

Today was a culturally sophisticated day.

We met our friend Saori and the mission was to get a unique souvenir from Japan. We were looking for a Japanese seal book called goshuin. Saori send us some goshuin pictures and we went to Daijingu, the Shrine of Love, provided very beautiful seal books (which differ from temple to temple).

We explored Kagurazaka district, we saw Nihon Bashi Bridge, then had a fancy Japanese dinner, literally on the high rise.

We met Saori at Iidabashi Station.

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While waiting, we got lured in by this vending machine to get some refreshment. The weather has been great lately. It is a constant 25 C and that day was particularly sunny.

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Our pick. I liked the pink colour of the enigmatic fluid and Tomek was ready to compromise… peach & herb tea it was.

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We spotted this commercial for some sexy Japanese train. I can totally understand why there are so many train fetishists here.

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What a comfort. The bathroom is massive. I have rode the Shinkansen last year and it is such a quiet and smooth ride. Super fast, too.

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That late afternoon many uniformed schoolgirls were on their way home.

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The girls looked like out of a 19th century book.

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Saori told us that the uniforms these girls were wearing showed that they are attending an expensive private school. It was a private school just for girls.

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On the way to temple we snacked on some hanging fish.

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We arrived at Tokyo Daijingu Shrine, which is dedicated to love and relationships. It’s pretty popular with female Tokyoites.

At the entrance of a shrine you will find a (dragon) fountain and (bamboo) dippers  for the washing ritual before entering.

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Watch the locals for the way and order of cleansing.

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Happy travelers enter the temple of love and relationships. Cupid did good work so far. Why not engage some Shinto spirits as well.

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Tokyo Daijingu is a place where singles pray for love and couples for successful relationships. Tomek spotted a heart. Kawaii.

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I always love to check out the Ema – which is a wooden wishing tablet. You can buy an Ema at the temple and then write your wish on the back. You then hang it up at the temple with all the other Ema.

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Some wishes are very long, some people even draw pictures.

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Saori’s Ema.

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I really liked that fat cat Ema. At least, I think it is a cat – cats, maneki neko figures are commonly used as good luck tokens.

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The selection of goshuin books. The price is 800 yen for the seal book and 300 yen for the seal. Saori and I picked the butterfly cover.

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Our new seal book! At the counter behind me you can also buy a fortune (おみくじ).

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The book already got the seal inside – with today’s date in Japanese – which looks like a beautiful drawing.

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Those wooden boxes have fortune sticks. The coloured writing indicates the topic of interest (like love, travel fortunes etc).

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For extra good measure, you can book a personal prayer session.

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Or you can approach the altar and do the following: throw in a coin. Bow twice. Clap your hands twice. Make your wish. Bow once again. Done.

Watch the movie to see how to make a wish/prayer. And before that, enjoy some interactive temple fun with us.

 

There was more fortune telling. We picked kind of a fortune lottery ticket for 200 yen.

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We were very lucky and got ‘good fortune‘. Phew. You can also get ‘average fortune’ and in the worst case ‘bad fortune‘.

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It said that we should slow down and give building/moving house a good think. Maybe it means we should settle in Japan?

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You then fold your fortune up and leave it at the temple.

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You should place the fortune on an upper spot, so it is closer to the gods, if you like your fortune.

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Saori bought another fortune which was wrapped in this sweet origami girl envelope. The shrine was a bit of a money spinner but in contrast to my home-countries Germany and Poland, Japanese temples finance themselves and are sensibly state independent.

These letter sets make you write your wish and your address. I wonder if the gods write back.

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Alternatively you could write a wish on this wooden stick which would be read out by a monk the next day.

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The temple was on the futuristic side and had an interactive screen.

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Stepping up to the monitor, we were surprised to get traditional Japanese wedding headdress. The shrine is also popular for holding wedding ceremonies.

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Change of headdress.

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Another attraction was to catch leaves and turn them into colourful tokens.

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Watch the movie to see us in action and more of the temple, if you like.

 

After the temple we passed one of many awesome conbini (convenience) stores, like Circle K. Time for refreshments.

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Milk tea and Healthya – a green drink for the health conscious, as Saori put it. I have just seen the ad on TV and it is a men’s drink to burn stomach fat. The drink variety at conbini stores is endlessly creative.

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We walked around the Kagurazaka area (close to Iidabashi station) . The main street of Kagurazaka was once at the outer edge of Edo Castle and is now the main shopping street lined with restaurants and cafés. There is a lot of French cuisine and the district is said to be popular with French expatriates. In the early 20th century, the area was renowned for its numerous geisha houses, of which several remain today.

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This was apparently not a perfect parking space for bikes. The bike had received a reminder to remove it or it would be confiscated.

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We walked to Zenkokuji Temple to see if we could get another temple stamp but it was already closed. Originally built in 1595 it burnt down during WW2 and was completely reconstructed.

Instead we looked at the Ema which seemed to have had all the same wish: to get a ticket to the Japanese boyband Arashi.

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I wonder if the gods had that many tickets left to spare.

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Instead of another seal we we saw the strategic Nihon Bashi Bridge. A huge wooden replica can be seen at the Edo-Tokyo Museum.

I am not sure if the Shogun would have liked the huge highway running over it nowadays. Tomek is pointing to the huge sign which says 日本橋, literally Japan Bridge (Nihon means Japan and bashi means bridge).

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The memorial stone. Nihon Bashi is Japan’s most famous bridge erected in 1603 under the Tokunagawa Shogunate which eventually transformed Tokyo into the leading trade centre and capital (Kyoto had been the capital of Japan before).

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The once wooden bridge was reinforced and got a baroque look in 1911.

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The crossroads formed a major mercantile hub during the Edo period. Its early development is credited to the Mitsui family who based their business here and developed Japan’s first department store, Mitsukoshi which is the impressive building right behind Tomek.

Tomek is also standing next to the zero milestone. The point from which Japanese people measure distances. Highway signs that report the distance to Tokyo actually state the number of kilometres to Nihon Bashi Bridge.

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Nihon Bashi metro Station displayed a detailed drawing of the bridge and various mercantile occupations surrounding it during the Edo period.

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Pre-war pictures. Mitsukoshi department store before the war.

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The metro station looked more fancy than most, with flowers (behind glass) and stone columns.

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We arrived at Shimbashi Station in the newly redeveloped Shiodome district. The name means ‘halt the tides‘ and the development sits on dried up marshland. It features spectacular skyscrapers with offices, the headquarters of Nippon Television and many shops, restaurants, theatres, hotels and other attractions. Shimbashi Station gave a stunning welcome. It was almost full moon. And time to dine.

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We arrived at Shiodome Dinings with exclusive restaurants on the 42nd floor.

Location: Shiodome City Center, Higashi Shinbashi 1-5-2,Minato-ku,Tokyo

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The outside hall with the grand piano had the feel of a philharmonic hall.

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Extravagant restaurant reception.

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The entrance was psychedelic and the way to our table was adorned with mirrors, dim and colourful lights, glass walls and narrow hallways.

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Chic atmosphere.

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The room ‘to wash your hands’ (as the Japanese call toilets) was stylish, too.

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Which button would you press to flush? It’s the top right ones – you can choose big or small flushing.

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The view.

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Back at the table.

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Welcome drink on the house.

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Delicious sweet sparkling wine it was.

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The view was stunning. I could get used to dining that high.

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You could choose to sit at the bar. We had a reservation for a table even higher up.

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Starters. Seaweed. Ginger, eschalot and green onion with sauce. Yuba.

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The seaweed tasted like nothing I ever had before.

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Next dish. Sashimi with mint, wasabi on turnip. The flowers tasted amazing.

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Shabu-shabu is a traditional Japanese dish usually featuring thinly sliced beef boiled in water. The term is an onomatopoeia, derived from the sound emitted when the ingredients are cooked in the pot. We do not eat meat therefore we had fish instead.

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You can dip the fish for as long as you say shabu-shabu, then turn the side say shabu-shabu again and it is done.

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Eating in Japan is an experience. Saori has introduced us to the fantastic food of Japanese cuisine last year, inviting us to an exclusive place where you need a reservation to dine and dishes look like artworks.

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Add the vegetables, then dip into sauce.

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Next dish. If I could only remember what that was. It had a very wobbly jelly texture.

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The beer came with a tiny glass (in European eyes). What I love about Japan is that the philosophy of eating is to enjoy food, to savour taste, to appreciate and take pleasure in food quality – not quantity. It is not to get filled up but to indulge your food and drinks.

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Water is always complimentary.

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Then came the fish. I cannot describe how good it was. The ginger, lemon and radish were a perfect match.

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After the fish, we were served rice with mussels,  soup with flat tofu stripes and two refreshing vegetables.

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Desert. Cold macha cream with grapefruit, grape and watermelon.

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Yum.

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Food can be so delightful. This comes from notoriously poor and picky eaters we were. Sometimes we still are. But it’s just because we like good food!

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Saori had a present – she sadly couldn’t attend Tomek’s birthday party.

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Chopsticks with our names engraved!

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Trying out our new cutlery.

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To the next dinner! If you are wondering about the bill – it was around 18, 000 yen for the three of us.

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Thank you Saori – that was fun.

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Back to Shimbasi Station. The JR Line had a new stamp campaign going. You could get a different stamp at each of the JR stations. Free event stamping is very Japanese.

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After dinner walk – with hundreds of salarymen who’s motto seems to be ‘work hard – play hard‘.

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Many end up at Pachinko – the incredibly noisy Japanese gaming parlours.

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Temples of gaming.

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Bars and restaurants were closing down and everybody was going in the same direction. To the station. There is no public transport in Tokyo after the last trains at around midnight.

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Shimbashi Station has an old locomotive on display. Japan has come a long way in train developments. Japanese are incredibly skilled in improving Western inventions and developing their own, so that they have progressed to be the world’s leader in technology.

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Japan’s living standard is very high, people have are very well educated and it is incredibly safe. Shimbashi Station has a big book market, only covered with plastic sheets for the night.

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Street musicians. Most of these bands are very good, they usually have their CDs on sale and promote their gigs. Notice the commercial for salarymen suits in the background – they get more expensive with the age of the salaryman.

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A final hot drink. ‘The Pungency‘ tea from the vending machine and off we were to our home at Kyodo Station.

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See you soon, if you like. Hope you do like my new diary format!

 

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