Land of the Rising Sun – Part 5 – Edo/Tokyo Museum and Asakusa #1

I’m back!  It’s been too long since the last update.  Apologies.  I’ve just finished building 104′ feet of fence for our spoiled rotten Corgis, so now I can return my attention to hopefully cranking out these updates.  We’ve set a goal to finish these by the time we leave on our Disney trip, so I’ve got some ground to cover!

After 3 straight days of nonstop walking, I decided to ratchet things back a bit and have a more leisurely day on the fourth day, which was also the day my brother was arriving (in the evening).  So, I visited the Edo-Tokyo Museum, took a quick spin through Asakusa (where I was going to bring Masa and Asuka the next day for their quick engagement shoot), then got herded into a boat full of tourists and enjoyed a lazy ride through the middle of Tokyo.  I’ll be covering the museum and Asakusa in this first post of two.

First up was the Edo Tokyo museum.  Tokyo obviously has a lot to offer as far as museums, ranging from a beer museum, a ramen museum (future post!), sword museums, a salt (yes, salt) museum, and of course, the usual art and history museums.  I wasn’t really in the mood to see a museum that I could see in the US, even if they had those awesome Japanese characters written all over everything, so I quickly decided on the Edo Tokyo museum.  This museum is dedicated completely to the history of  Tokyo, beginning when it was nothing more than the tiny swamp village of Edo.

Rather than a bunch of hallways of exhibits, the majority of this museum was open-space and made to feel somewhat like a replica of the old days.  Definitely more interesting than your average museum experience.   The bottom right shows a realistic replica of the typical bridge you’d find crossing the canals of Edo.

The printed exhibits were by FAR the most interesting ones of the entire museum.  This just barely scratches the surface of what they had to offer.  I may be obsessed with how intricate their handwritten language is.  It’s also quite obvious why they get their reputation for being comic book fanatics – they’ve been reading picture books for hundreds of years!

Second and third favorite experiences of the museum – block/screen printing and all of the 3D model scenes.  I seriously want an entire room filled with all of that artwork.  It’s amazing to see evidenced in a lot of the Edo period artwork something that most people don’t realize about Japan – they had a feudal period as long and culturally heightened as England’s.

Ok sheesh, so that’s my 4th favorite thing – paper lanterns.  I’ll be having a row of these in my room as well.

Masa called those objects on the left, verbatim, “portable shrines”.  When you can’t go to the shrine to pray, the shrine will come to you!  The two on the right are models of a typical bustling Edo scene.  Note the piles of rice in the top right picture.  Back in the Edo period, rice WAS currency.  Your income was in units of rice, and most everything was obtained with rice as payment.  So don’t be hatin’ on rice.  Calling a tricked out Honda a rice rocket is more of a compliment than you’ll ever realize.

Just another example of the stark contrast that can happen in Tokyo.  Old pagoda next to a high rise and a bunch of scaffolding.

Found this little nook off of a trainyard.  I’m a sucker for things with a lot of contrasty metal textures.

Next up was a hop skip and jump off to Asakusa, which was merely one or two train stops back towards Tokyo.  Or was it?  As it turns out, the Asakusa station is a couple of miles away from the Asakusa station.  Say what?  No, you don’t pronounce or spell one any different than the other.  The Asakusa (train) station is a couple of miles from the Asakusa (bus/subway) station, which is right where all of the notable Asakusa landmarks are.  Ooooohhhh!!  I only wandered for 10 or 15 minutes before deciding that my GPS was a worthless hunk of silicon and transistors, then as politely as I could, asked the next middle-aged Japanese couple that walked by if they could point me in the direction of Sensoji (the most famous landmark of Asakusa).  In another display of true Japanese hospitality, instead of directions I got personally escorted several blocks to the nearest bus station and told exactly which bus to take, even as I politely protested in my special needs version of Japanese that they didn’t need to go to that extent.  I truly believe if I had asked any random Japanese man off the street to give me his left arm, he would have gladly torn it from his shoulder socket and humbly offered the bloody gift to me with his remaining arm.

When I finally arrived at Asakusa, my stomach started to demand foooood.  I ducked into the nearest rice and noodle stand, picked out about 6 things off the menu that I could understand, spun the chamber, held the gun to my head, pulled the trigger, and… was rewarded with my favorite dish of the entire trip.   Tonkatsu curry (or “katsu kare” for short – fried pork cutlet with curry).  I think I had it 3 or 4 more times on other days.  If I could figure this recipe out, I would quickly undo all progress made in the last 85 days of P90X.  Yes Mom, I even ate the veggies.

Characteristic #90893 that the Japanese are famous for – the public catnap.  On the job, on a park bench, at a bus stop, in the grass, on the train, on the train STANDING UP.  I have to say, I gave the sleeping-while-standing-up-on-a-train thing a whirl one morning, and by golly, I felt rested!  I doubt it did much to help me blend in, though.

asakusa sky tree
Most of the most recognizable skyline of Asakusa.  The Thingamajig building, the almost-completed Tokyo Sky Tree, and the Whatchamacalit building.  I obviously can’t speak much on the former and latter buildings, but the Sky Tree, when completed, will be the new tallest building of Tokyo.  Needless to say, there was a sea of cameras surrounding this popular vantage point.

asakusa asahi
Part of the Asahi Beer international headquarters.  This is a flame on the top of a building which is shaped kind of like a pilsner glass.  However, I won’t tell you what the Japanese refer to this building as due to the unfortunate shape of the… “flame”.

asakusa bridge
From the busy pedestrian bridge that connects the two halves of Asakusa.  It was a rare angle where only one person showed up in the frame, and it looked like a scene right out of a movie.

I can just hear what he’s thinking – “How will I ever dodge that freak and his ridiculously oversized backpack??”

You could not even PAY me to do that.

asakusa asahi
I is modern arteest photographer.

asakusa asahi
Modern arteest photographer #2.

asakusa asahi
The modern arteest photographer himself.

Next up – scenes just before the ubertouristy boat ride, the ubertouristy boat ride, and maybe a few shots after the ubertouristy boat ride!


  1. Susan says

    Always love the way you tell a story and the pictures are fabulous, I can only imagine what the locals call the “flame” on top of that building :)

  2. Remi says

    Funny story about being personally escorted. My Dad’s work is based out of Okinawa and he’s over there all the time, but he always has funny culture stories. One of which, was his complete shock as to how asking for help meant he was going to be grabbed by the arm and escorted to wherever he needed to go.
    Also, cool shot of the guy on the bridge.

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