We also took the time to wander over to the Meiji Shrine – a Shinto area of worship – and see what that was all about. In comparison to the Asakusa area, Meiji was serene, majestic, and very peaceful. There were a lot of people, but there wasn’t a sense of hustle bustle like in the Senso-ji temple.
The entrance was marked with a giant wooden gateway called a Torii. Although there were a lot of people around it was very quiet as we walked through this gate, down a giant path, towards the shrine.
Along the path we passed a beautiful display of sake casks – filled and dedicated to the Emperor Meiji’s spirit in an annual celebration.
After walking for quite a while – 15 minutes? 20 minutes? – we finally arrived at the shrine itself. Much less colorful than Senso-ji, but beautiful in its own way.
While we were there, we were fortunate enough to see the equivalent of a baby christening and several wedding parties! The wedding parties were the most exciting to me. They walked in a procession in silence. The groom wore black and the bride wore white with a beautiful white hood and they were shaded by a brilliant red parasol umbrella. It looked to me like the officiants probably walked in front of them with their family and friends following behind them in two lines, wearing beautiful traditional outfits – kimonos and the like. Security guards walked on the sides to clear the path and ensure no one bothered them, and usually a photographer was dashing about trying to capture just the right photo from just the right angle.
After our stop at the Meiji Shrine, we wandered through the neighboring Yoyogi Park. There we found performing artists practicing their crafts and numerous kids and adults practicing all sorts of activities – dance, painting, drumming, and even jump rope.
Here’s some people who apparently get together each week to dance to American rock from the 60s. They were pretty terrible dancers, but they were enthusiastic and happy!
And here were the double dutchers – they had great skills!
It was in this park that we also saw our only two cherry blossom trees blooming. They were beautiful against the wintery landscape!
After a cold morning, we were ready for a hot lunch and Zachariah recommended that we find a ramen shop. This turned out to be one of my favorite experiences of the trip!
It begins outside with a vending machine. You put in money and make your selection for what you want. You pick a base ramen and then add extra noodles, meat, etc and drinks.
After the machine spits out a ticket, you go inside and wait in a little hallway to be seated. I wish I had gotten a picture of the seating area, because it looked like a casino slot machine area to me. Every person sits at their little tiny booth/slot machine spot to be served their meal.
Here is my little spot. My ramen was slid through the window in the back there by a waiter who I couldn’t see. Then they closed the curtain and I felt a sense of privacy, even though there were probably 25 people in this tiny room with me – each at their own little spot. If you look closely, you can see a faucet in the back left corner for drinking water, and you can kind of see that the side walls fold back to create a larger space if you are dining with someone.
Mom and I did eat together, so we folded back the partition between us and enjoyed our ramen together!
The soup itself was somewhat like ramen in the states – but so much better in every way! It was soup and it was salty and noodley and had little bits of pork in it. But it was spicy and fresh and really hit the spot.
Does anyone know of spots like this in other countries? I loved the concept. So efficient, so cheap – such an easy way to get a good, hot meal in a short amount of time – and set up in such a different way. I’d love to go back again!