Day two in Japan was very fun, but at the same time, very taxing. Those of us who live in cities where public transit is not optimized (like Memphis) love to complain about the situation and wish for that new monorail, but I think people don’t realize how much walking is involved without your own car. We ended up walking about 30 km total from place to place, and my dogs are definitely barking.
We started at the Imperial Palace and Gardens, which is the residence of the Emperor of Japan. Like England, Japan has both this figurehead and a Prime Minister, so it was fun to see where the “royal family” lives. It looked very old and traditional, but its beauty is one of a kind. There weren’t many tourists (probably due to the recent earthquakes), so the environment was calm, serene, and enjoyable.
Next was the Diet Building. No, it’s not filled with treadmills and wheat grass – it’s actually similar to America’s Capitol Buildings. Surrounding this structure were dozens of unarmed policemen, because guns are completely illegal here. Conservatives across the United States cringe at the idea of a gun-free society it seems, but crime is very low here, so I’d say it works. One of the most dangerous places here, I learned, is considered dangerous because there was actually a non-gun murder there…TWENTY YEARS AGO! I’d consider that food for thought.
After more walking we ended up at the Ginza shopping district, which reminded me of Soho in New York. This area felt more like typical Japan, in that the streets were very crowded. We spent a lot of time in the seven-story Sony store, which featured some 3d video technology that had me in awe. We also ate in this area at a burger joint called Freshness Burger. My “value meal” was probably a third of the size as what we’d consider fast food.
Next on the agenda was Yasukuni Jinja, which translates to “the shrine of a peaceful country”. This shrine honors those who died on Japan’s behalf during World War II, which is considered controversial by many of the Japanese. We’re all familiar with what happened at Pearl Harbor, but this shrine also honors those who went into China and Korea to kill and rape its women and children. The Japanese conservatives who support this shrine typically don’t like outsiders of any type, but thankfully we didn’t have any issues. I took part in a ritual that you’re supposed to do before entering any shrine, which consisted of washing your hands and mouth in a well: symbolically cleansing your body and spirit.
Lastly, we walked to an area of Tokyo called Shinjuku, where we hate tempura for dinner. When we rounded a corner, we saw some really tall Geisha girls. I understand that I’m halfway around the world, but I’m sorry - I know a drag queen when I see one. Sure enough, they were drag queens. A German restaurant owner (who tried to hit on me, by the way) told me in Japanese that these people are called “new half”, and that we were in the gay area of Tokyo. I’ll quote a very wise woman by saying “You. Better. Work.”
Exhausted, we strolled back to the train, up the hill, and to our rooms. あしがいたい！ (My feet hurt)