Travel in Shinjuku: Sculpted Bonsai and a Sumo Bash

On day 3, I went back towards Shinjuku to visit Meiji – a major Shinto shrine in Tokyo.

Meiji Shrine

DSC_0329DSC_0336The entrance to the shrine is a striking archway and beautiful wooded forest. DSC_0319 DSC_0322In fact, over 100,000 trees were donated from across Japan to create this dense sacred woodland.
DSC_0323I was so fortunate to arrive in the middle of a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony as well. DSC_0332DSC_0340Here’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.
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How to use public transit in Japan:

1. Find your destination on the map to determine your fare6a010536fa9ded970b01b8d0f7563a970c-800wi2. Enter that amount on the kiosk screen and insert coinsDSC_02223. Grab your ticket and a receiptDSC_03144. Insert the ticket when you enter and exit the stationDSC_0316Trust 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.DSC_0315I even found a nice saying about Japanese culture.IMG_8441“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

DSC_0373A slice of heaven amidst the hustle and bustle of the city center.DSC_0391DSC_0386Intense recycling 😛DSC_0383It was really quite picturesque, with a traditional Japanese garden, sculpted bonsai trees, and a rainbow of fall foliage. Just gorgeous! 😀DSC_0388DSC_0404DSC_0405After 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.
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Ryougoku Sumo Hall and Sumo Themed Restaurant

DSC_0411I 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. IMG_8440I 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.DSC_0419Next to the stadium is also a sumo restaurant, offering free performances by retired sumo wrestlers. 😀DSC_0415DSC_0416My 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.DSC_0413Of course, we had to try it all. 😛
Raw whale sashimi
DSC_0429Raw horse sashimi with onions and horseradish
DSC_0430Pickled eggplant with horseradish mustard
DSC_0433Fried dough filled with shrimp DSC_0477Raw horse with egg yolk and a sweet hoisin glaze
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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! 😀DSC_0466The performance began with a short, masked dance to get the crowd warmed up.
sjkl Then they brought out the wrestlers. DSC_0450They warmed up on stage and performed certain rituals, like throwing salt to purify the ring. DSC_0452I saw some things that I cannot unsee. 😕
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Afterwards, anyone could get up on stage to take on a worthy opponent. 😉

Adorable little boy taking on his grandpa. DSC_0475My friend taking on Godzilla! Hah. 😛
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http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g863263/lang/s/en/

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!

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