If you missed Part 2, read it here!
Day 5: A Taste of Tradition
Time flies so fast when you’re enjoying yourself. It’s my last day in Japan and it was a free roam day. But since I had to be at the airport at 3 PM, my options of destinations were limited. So, I decided to take a look at Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo, which was only a 15-minute walk from my hotel.
I went to the temple at around 9 AM. I expected it would be devoid of people, because it was a work day. I was wrong. The temple was chock full of people, from tourists to locals. Tour rickshaws were ready at the front gates, politely offering their services. Unlike Indonesian rickshaws, these people didn’t annoyingly solicit me. They could get the message that I didn’t want a ride. I considered trying one, but their fares were ridiculously high. I only had a few thousand yen on me, and I needed it for souvenir shopping.
Anyway, at the forefront of Sensoji is the Kaminarimon, or the Thunder God’s Gate. Simply majestic.
Just past the Kaminarimon is the Nakamise Shopping Avenue, a street loaded with stalls like the ones you see in anime. You know, during a festival or a major event at a temple. The shops sold all sorts of traditional knick-knacks, from keychains to replica katanas. I was looking for some Japan-esque T-shirts when an American bought a katana. I asked him “How are you going to get that through customs?” He shrugged and laughed. ‘Murica, I guess.
But I wasn’t only there for the souvenirs. I was there for the food and culture. I hunted for cheap food, like this nori-covered senbei cracker. It was fresh from the frying pan and only cost 100 yen.
I also treated myself to some ice cream. Since it was spring, I thought I would try the sakura flavor. It’s cheap (300 yen) and also has bits of sakura leaves in it!
After I had my fill of both food and souvenirs, I decided to visit the main temple first. Which meant a lot of elbowing through people. But the struggle was worth it, because I could finally see a Japanese temple in the flesh.
Since I wasn’t a religious nutjob, I decided to try praying at the temple. First, I washed by hands and drank the water from the spring. It’s a lot like wudhu as a Muslim, to cleanse yourself before prayer. Then, I bought some incense sticks (a ridiculous 200 yen for a few sticks) and set them on fire. Once they were lit, I cupped my hands in front of the shrine. You don’t have to be inside the shrine; you could do it from the stairs. Once I finished, I put my incense into the smoking vase (see pic). That’s all there is to it, actually. I entered the main shrine (no photography allowed) and saw a money box, just like in anime. So, I put in a few coins and clapped my hands three times while saying a prayer.
That was that. I walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere. If only it was quieter… I gotta say, the Chinese tourists were the ones being really loud and obnoxious.
It was almost lunch time, so I looked around for a place to eat. It was my last day, so it wouldn’t hurt for me to splurge on some good food. I was getting tired of convenience store food, anyway. So, I went into a ramen shop. Surprisingly, they didn’t allow the use of cell phones inside. I couldn’t understand the menu, but luckily, they had English menus, so I was saved. I ordered a value meal set: tonkotsu ramen (hell yeah pork!) and a side of yakitori don. Only 640 yen, quite the bargain. While waiting for my food, I observed how the people ate in the restaurant. They were really devouring their ramen and making raucous noises. They only made me a lot more hungry. After 15 minutes or so, my ramen came. It was a really large portion, much larger than I was accustomed to in Indonesia. I tasted some of the broth and found it rather tasteless, unlike Ikkudo Ichi’s ramen I was used to in Indonesia. Not to worry, nothing a few drops of soy sauce couldn’t fix. Once I added a hefty amount of soy sauce, it became delicious. I ate all the noodles and drank the broth till the very last drop. Then, I finished off the yakitori don side.
It was getting close to 3 PM, so I decided to walk back to the hotel. Along the way though, a small cafe captured my attention. In the showcase was… strawberry shortcake and a lot of assorted cakes! Yeah! Though I was a bit short on cash, I said “Fuck it” and proceeded to purchase a slice of strawberry shortcake (because it appears so often in anime) to take to the hotel and eat at the lobby. It cost me 640 yen.
The cream was mildly sweet and blended perfectly with the sour strawberries and the neutral sponge cake. Once it enters your mouth, you get this mellow sweetness that makes you squeal and shiver. No wonder anime girls go gaga over this cake.
At 3 PM, my pickup arrived and I was off to Narita.
Goodbye Japan, I’m seriously considering coming back! I hope next time I get to visit Kyoto and explore more of Tokyo. Until then, I’ll have to save up more money for a 2-week stay in Japan.