Tokyo; Shibuya & Shinjuku areas – the old and the new

Japan is certainly a country of extremes. In Tokyo you can find ancient wooden temples and shrines standing metres away from skyscrapers and high fashion shopping districts. The Hanazonojina shrine in Shinjuku is known as a protector of the Shinjuku district since it was established during the Edo Period. Primarily dedicated to the Yamatotakerunomiko who is an imperial prince in Japan’s mythology. Shinjuku was developed as one of the places located on the route of Koshukaido over 300 years ago. The Shrine is only a 5 minutes walk from the Tokyo Metro Shinjuku San-Chome Station.

A Japanese man showed us how to show our respect and have our wishes granted at the shrine. You stand in front of the long ropes, pull one of them to make it ring against the bell and then clap your hands 3 times and make your wish or prayer. Japanese people also bow several times.

Fortune papers known as Omikuji; people leave this to wish for their businesses to prosper.

Temple votive tablets or ‘ema‘, another way to leave your wishes.

Below are photos of the Shin JoenJi shrine, one among hundreds scattered throughout the city. This is one of the larger ones and has a beautiful graveyard adjoining it; the entrance to which is past a beautiful cherry tree, another significant symbol here in Japan. We are very lucky to be here during the cherry tree season which is actually the busiest season of the year as thousands of Japanese travel around their country to famous cherry tree sights such as Kyoto.

Apparently it is the law in Japan to be cremated upon death. Each family has a plot where the ashes are placed in an urn and interned. A stick as shown in the photo below is engraved with your name and statistics and placed with the other family member’s sticks. It seems similar to the Buddhist philosophy seen at large temples where you can write a message for the deity of your choice which are then burnt; the deity hopefully making your wish reality. There seems to be very little space in Tokyo (for instance streets of houses in the city back on to each other and there is little evidence of private gardens); so funeral plots like these cost a lot of money. The bigger the plot, the wealthier the family.

This looks like it could be a plot for one family.

A small street in Kabukicho filled with bars each one the size of a broom cupboard. These were all closed when we were there during the day but apparently don’t openly invite tourists and are frequented by locals. The streets cover a small area of about 4 alleys backing on to contemporary modern buildings and this area is under threat of development.

Centre Gai in Shibuya. When the lights change a huge flood of people cross the main intersection.

I think this was the red light area – certainly looks like it! Dave looks like he’s been caught out with that expression on his face.

Looks like a hairdressers convention, but these 5 guys in the Shibuya area were out posing. Hair is a national pastime with Japanese men; it is truly incredible. Posing is also a big deal around Tokyo; it’s practically an art form with young people trying to out pose and out dress each other.
From one youth fashion extreme to another. This girl was with her parents in a shop being fitted for a kimono. She was happy to pose for a photo.

Centre Gai intersection, the streets are filled with huge TV screens and loudspeakers everywhere; from music, to guys advertising Pachinko gaming parlours to random birdsong and cuckoo sounds fluting out from hidden speakers. It is quite a bizarre experience.
More Shibuya boys enjoying an afternoon pose off.

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