Return to Tokyo

We returned to dreary weather in Tokyo. We had planned to visit Meiji Shrine with Seiko, but the rain was pouring down and she had caught a bad cold.

Now that Halloween was over, the Christmas decorations were coming out. These festive owls greeted us whenever we came out of the train station in Ikebukuro.

I decided the time had come to finally visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum. After all, it had been on my list of possible things to do since 2005. To enter the building you ride a long outdoor escalator to the 6th floor. You enter a huge open space and cross a replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge to get to the exhibits. There are models and life-sized reproductions of buildings along with displays that focus on various aspects of life. We were fortunate to also be there for a spirited demonstration of taiko drumming.

Our time in Japan was running out, but no visit to Tokyo would feel complete if we weren't able to see Naruko. Her husband was also able to join us this time so we looked forward to getting to know him better. We arranged to meet for lunch at a Chinese Restaurant near our hotel, and we had a great time talking about our trip and their recent vacation in Europe, and political absurdities, and, of course, the theatre.

On our last morning in Tokyo, the sun came out again. We lugged our suitcases to lockers in Ueno where we would catch the train back to Narita in the late afternoon and set off for yet another jaunt through Asakusa. What is it about that place? I told you I can't get enough of it. Maybe I'll always love it just because I spent so many happy hours there during our long stay in Tokyo in 2005.

After wandering about and purchasing final momentos of our trip, we spent some time in Ueno Park. Although there are many monuments and museumns and even a zoo in the park, it always feels a bit gritty and just slightly dangerous there. There are encampments of homeless people under the trees, and there is a general feeling of quiet desperation in the air.

This day Ueno Park felt different. Musicians were taking turns playing to the couples and families and people with small dogs who were strolling along the paths in the late afternoon autumn sunlight. The music was very un-Japanese. While we were there we watched a young woman play an accordion and an exuberant Hispanic family group playing guitars, drums, and flutes while older women twirled to the music. It felt more like being in New York or a European city than a Japanese one until we were approached by a priest who wanted us to give him 1000 yen (about $10) in exchange for an amulet and a promise that he would pray for whatever we wished. He was quite insistent,but we had few yen remaining. Finally, Walt gave him 200 and tried to return the amulet, but he said that we should keep it and that he would pray for us anyway.

For what would I wish? The same as and happiness for myself and my family and friends; world peace; enough money to live comfortably.

And to return always to Japan for another visit.