We are living right in the middle of the Korean district of Tokyo called Okubo or Shin-Okubo and with that comes hordes of very young Asians from all over who are into K-pop and everything Korean. Our narrow sidewalks on the Main Street are very difficult to navigate as the kids queue for all of the popular street food such as fried cheese or ice cream. They then huddle in groups to eat their treasures. This street is also a dividing line between Shinjuku to the south and a very quiet residential area to the north. Shinjuku has earned a reputation as Tokyo’s liveliest district.
Our closest train station is Shin-Okubo which is only a two minute walk away without the crowds. Shin-Okubo has only one entrance and exit which contributes to the extreme congestion seen above. The only train servicing this station is JR Yamanote line which is very convenient for us as it is a circular line serving most of Tokyo. The trains run every four minutes during the daytime off-peak. This station is only one stop north of Shinjuku Station which is the busiest station in the world with a daily average of 3.42 million people.
Fortunately we have only had fully packed train cars a few times as it is quite uncomfortable. We have had incoming passengers turn their back to us and just shove their way in. At one time they had professional pushers to shove passengers onto busy Tokyo trains (you can google this, it is hilarious to watch). They also have women’s only rush hour cars to help prevent groping.
Tokyo Sky Tree Tower that we did not get into as it was sold out. It is modeled after the Eiffel Tower and is the world’s tallest, self supported steel tower and is 3 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower.
Japan is very strict about no smoking on the street while walking around. They do have random designated smoking areas.
American artist Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture in Shinjuku is a popular meeting spot near the station.
Crowded nighttime street in Shinjuku mimics Times Square in NYC.
We saw this evening go-cart tour in Shinjuku, some riders had cartoon character costumes on.
People watching is fun here.
Japan has one of the worlds highest vending machine densities (one per every 30 people). A majority of them sell hot and cold drinks and some even sell alcohol and cigarettes.
Seven Eleven Japan stores are really big here. Open 24 hours a day 365 days of the year they provide a wide variety of prepared food, drinks, cosmetics, alcoholic beverages and a good place for ATM machines. They will even transport your luggage for you. They are on every corner.
Andrew loves flea markets so we found a big one in Tokyo City.
As you can see with all these cranes Tokyo has a thriving building boom.
Beautiful flowers and trees adorn the sidewalks of Tokyo.
On our last day in Tokyo we went to Sengakuji Temple where the 47 Ronins are buried. Ronin refers to samurai whose master has died. The true story of the 47 ronin also known as the Ako vendetta, is an historical event that occurred in Japan on December 14, 1702 in which a band of ronin avenged the death of their master Asano Naganori who was compelled to perform ritual suicide for assaulting a powerful court official named Kira Yoshinaka who was constantly humiliating him. After waiting and planning for a year the ronin avenged their masters death by killing Kira knowing full well that they would be put to death. Due to considerable public support in their favor the authorities compromised by allowing the ronin to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) as an honorable death for the crime of murder. In the west we refer to this as harakiri which is self disembowelment with ones own short sword. It would usually involve immediate decapitation after the act as a sign of mercy.
This is a bronze statue of Oishi Kuranosuke who led the ronins to attack Kira in his residence.
After the ronin accomplished their revenge by killing Kira, they marched to Sengakuji to report to their lord’s grave. When they arrived they first washed Kira’s decapitated head in this wishing well and then laid it in front of their lord’s grave and announced their success.
Ronin graves. People pay their respect by praying at each grave site then placing a lit piece of incense on the stone.
Oishi Kuranosuke’s eldest son Chikara took part in the attack on Kira. He was only 16 years old. This plum tree was said to have been transplanted from the house where he committed seppuku.
Gravesite of Oishi and son Chikara.
It is felt that this avenge was one of the worlds greatest known acts of honor, bravery, and selflessness.
Story has it that when Asano Naganori committed seppuku in the garden, his blood rushed out and stained this tree and stone.
The water trickling down at the bottom of the basin sounds like a Japanese harp. This device was created by the gardener.
We did the ritual of lighting incense.
The cherry blossoms are starting to shed, it is like a gentle rain of soft pink petals.
After visiting this Shrine we watched the 2013 film 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves which we highly recommend. That wraps up our stay in Tokyo, next up Kyoto.