Perfect Saturday

If today isn’t perfection, I’m not sure I’ll spot it when it bites me on the ankle.

Tokyo is a sunny 72 degrees with no humidity (yet), no mosquitoes (yet), and no tsuyu or “plum rain” (a poetic way of saying weeks of muggy rain).  We have had a grand walking adventure and a refreshing dip in the pool before heading out for an evening with friends. Life is good. But from the beginning:

After ensuring that Tara’s two morning cups of tea had settled enough to support adventuring, we took off into Tokyo’s glass and concrete wilderness, guided mostly by the huge tower on the horizon and my sense of direction. (No, we did not end up lost for hours, o ye who doubt my navigational skills.)

Tokyo Tower and the loveliest “keep out” fence in the block

Tokyo Tower, at just over 1,000 feet, is a massive landmark and is still an active broadcast tower.  (Recently aided slash surpassed by the Sky Tree.)  You can pay to go up, but Tokyo’s expensive enough and we prefer the view from the free towers over in Shinjuku.  Anyhow, it’s quite a sight from the bottom, but the rose barrier was more fun.

Just past the Tower was our intended destination, Shiba park and the nearby temple.  Tokyo is quite massive and built-up, but you’re never far from green space. You’re also never far from convenient stores and their munchies, so we grabbed lunch and headed back into the shade.

Tokyo greenery

Refueled, we wandered over to Zojo-ji, a central temple for the Pure Land Buddhist sect and also a former funerary temple for the Tokugawa shoguns.  The first Tokugawa shogun brought the temple to Tokyo in the late 1500s and it’s been here ever since (burned down and rebuilt several times). Check out the very subtly branding job going on below; that three-leaf crest visible on just about every inch of tile is the Tokugawa clan crest.

The main hall is still impressive, but we can only imagine how imposing it would have been in a two-story world.

That small clump of people in the right of the photo are watching a trained monkey and TOTALLY missing that behind the monkey is one of the three great bells of the Edo period! (poor saps) Never fear, *we* went unerringly past the somersaulting simian to the real find.


This beauty is 5.9′ across and weighs 15 tons.  Before you dismiss it as just another hunk of metal I’m inexplicably fascinated with, you should know that this bell has the power to purify the 108 earthly passions that lead mortals astray.  No slouch, eh?

On a considerably more somber note, the Zojo-ji temple is also well known for its garden of Jizo statues, which line the northern edge.  Jizo is a bodhisattva that protects travelers, women, and children.  When we were hiking up to the temple compound in Miyajima island on our last big trip, there were itty bitty Jizo statues on some of the bigger corners.  They’re easily spotted by their short stature, very round, bald heads, and invariably chipper faces (no long ears and head bumps, etc).  In addition to helping you get home safe, Jizo can also help you navigate your way out of purgatory and on through rebirth.

The Jizo garden in Zojo-ji is attached to a small shrine for miscarried or stillborn children and it’s incredibly touching. Each of the statues has a red cap– as far as I know this is to represent the clothes and comfort Jizo will give those he’s helping on their way.  The statues have the usual cup and flower holder, but as you’ll see, each has a colorful pinwheel instead, so when the wind catches them the whole line just chitters away brightly.

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3 Responses to Perfect Saturday

  1. tarainjapan says:

    Jen forgot to mention that we also sat in on a service (memorial, I believe) in the temple, to listen to the music and chanting, which was beautiful — hard to believe so few men were making so much noise. But their voices also blend really nicely. And they play these meditation bells (the ‘bell’ is upside down, with the opening facing up) and these drum things that look like massive nuts.

  2. Karen says:

    So precious and honorable. We should do the same.

  3. Calley says:

    That’s awesome – I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a culture that has that kind of remembrance for miscarried/stillborn babies, it’s a wonderful tradition.

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