On day 3, I went back towards Shinjuku to visit Meiji – a major Shinto shrine in Tokyo.
The entrance to the shrine is a striking archway and beautiful wooded forest. In fact, over 100,000 trees were donated from across Japan to create this dense sacred woodland.
I was so fortunate to arrive in the middle of a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony as well. Here’s a short clip, so you can see the Japanese garments worn by the bride, groom, and wedding party.
To get around today, I used the rapid JR train.
How to use public transit in Japan:
1. Find your destination on the map to determine your fare. Enter that amount on the kiosk screen and insert coins3. Grab your ticket and a receipt4. Insert the ticket when you enter and exit the stationTrust me! If you lose your ticket, you will have to pay the fare again.
The JR train is clean and comfy, with cushioned heated seats.I even found a nice saying about Japanese culture.“Gojo No Seishin” or try to live life from the perspective of others. Don’t do things that would offend or upset the other person. Very interesting! 😀
I also found out that December 23rd is the Emperor’s birthday. It was a national holiday and parade-like vans were driving throughout the city, blasting the national anthem and shouting words of patriotism that I’m guessing were aimed at boosting everyone’s spirit.
To be honest, I found it quite frightening, but an experience nonetheless. 😕
The loud shouting made me feel like a puppy being scolded by its owner. Careful with your tone, sir, or I’m really going to piddle on the floor. Yikes! After Meiji, I visited Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens
A slice of heaven amidst the hustle and bustle of the city center.Intense recycling 😛It was really quite picturesque, with a traditional Japanese garden, sculpted bonsai trees, and a rainbow of fall foliage. Just gorgeous! 😀After walking the grounds on this gray and misty day, I needed a quick latte to warm up before heading to the Ryogoku district-home to the Sumo stadium.
Ryougoku Sumo Hall and Sumo Themed Restaurant
I also had my first unexpected bathroom experience here. 😕
In Japan, using the bathroom feels like rocket science. So many gadgets to learn how to use. I thought I had seen it all until I found these soothing noise makers. Nothing like the sounds of a river stream to help put you at ease. Hah. So ridiculous and unexpected- so Japan! 😛
Anyway, the main reason for visiting Ryogoku was to learn more about sumo wrestling culture.
The sumo wrestlers in Japan are not currently in competition, but I was able to visit the sumo stadium where they perform.Next to the stadium is also a sumo restaurant, offering free performances by retired sumo wrestlers. 😀My friend Emily had left for home, but I invited a few of her friends to join me.
The menu was quite unique as well, with items like raw horse meat, raw whale, and shark cartilage.Of course, we had to try it all. 😛
Raw whale sashimi
Raw horse sashimi with onions and horseradish
Pickled eggplant with horseradish mustard
Fried dough filled with shrimp Raw horse with egg yolk and a sweet hoisin glaze
What did I think of all the food? Absolutely delicious and so tender! Recommended for any adventurous eater out there! Just be careful with that horseradish kick. It’ll get ya! 😉
Now we were ready for some sumo! 😀The performance began with a short, masked dance to get the crowd warmed up.
Then they brought out the wrestlers. They warmed up on stage and performed certain rituals, like throwing salt to purify the ring. I saw some things that I cannot unsee. 😕
Afterwards, anyone could get up on stage to take on a worthy opponent. 😉
Adorable little boy taking on his grandpa. My friend taking on Godzilla! Hah. 😛
Overall, another brilliant day in Tokyo. 😀
Today and tomorrow I will continue to delve into the more traditional aspects of Japanese culture, and will most definitely experience a unique Christmas celebration abroad. 😀 Tell you all about it real soon! Merry Christmas everyone!