I started Day 2 in Tokyo at the flea market in Chofu with Chizuru and Kasumi. Flea markets in Japan are quite different from the European flea markets or even those in Singapore. To begin with, we had to pay 500 Yen each just to get into the flea market where we would potentially spend more money. In Europe, flea markets seem to be the place where people lay down their unwanted items from home on mats and attempt to sell them. In Japan (at least in the flea market I went to), it does not feel like a market because the items are displayed very neatly! Furthermore, the booths are manned by real shop keepers who are trying to make a name for their respective shops. The flea market was located in a garden which made the market look quite pretty. The booths were surrounded by flowers and trees and it felt as though the market was in harmony with nature. A band was performing there and there were several food bars for people to grab lunch. It was a really nice outing and the flea market definitely had a very different groove from the Shibuya’s hustle and bustle. I am glad that I managed to see another side of Tokyo. 🙂
I visited Asakusa in the afternoon. To get to Asakusa, I had to get off at the Tokyo Metro stop Asakusa and walked a considerable distance to take the local Toei Asakusa Line to the Asakusa station. If this sentence confuses you, then getting to Asakusa would definitely confuse you further. There are simply too many metro lines in Tokyo and I find myself standing at the metro station struggling to even locate my position on the metro map way too frequently.
Anyhow, when I got to Asakusa, I first visited the famous Nakamise shopping street.Nakamise is a great place to buy souvenirs for people back home. I took some time to pick some postcards and handkerchiefs. I remember walking on this street 10 years ago when I was 13. Like how Heraclitus put it, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” I am not sure how Asakusa has changed because I remember I visited Asakusa in the evening previously. But I am sure I have changed in many ways. For instance, when I was younger, I got really excited and nervous when I tried to buy something in broken Japanese. But this time round, I no longer felt that same degree of excitement as I did before when I made my purchase in broken Japanese. Back then, I idolized the Japanese culture to a certain extent, especially the politeness of the people. But today, I could see the faults in the culture and I understand there is a big difference between being polite and being kind.
Asakusa Kannon Temple was built in 645, making it the oldest temple in Tokyo. It is also definitely the most touristic temple as well. The temple is especially famous for the big lantern at the Thunder Gate. Different people tried to get blessings at Asakusa Kannon Temple through different ways. Some tried to get the smoke from the large cauldron of incense onto their faces as it is believed to confer good health; some tried to jump and touch the 4.5m straw rope sandals on the Hōzōmon as it is believed to confer good luck; some tried to find out about their fortunes in the conventional way through the fortune sticks. I tried none because I am a firm believer of pre-destination. But it was fun to watch the tourists doing these things!
I wanted to end the day at the Skytree so I took a small walk from the temple to the tower. But in the end, I decided to give it a miss because the line to buy the tickets was too long for my liking (45 minutes) and the tickets were quite expensive too (2000 Yen). In the end, I just sat outside and admired its structure. I think Tokyo Skytree at 634 m high is an architecture marvel. Its structure was inspired by Horyuji Pagoda in Nara. In a country that experienced many earthquakes annually, many people are amazed at how earthquake-resistant pagodas are. In the history of Japan, 5-storey pagodas have never fallen down due to any earthquake. People realized that pagodas are made earthquake-resistant because each pagoda has a heavy central pillar (shinbashira). Similar to pagodas, Tokyo Skytree has a thick and heavy central pillar which is not connected to the peripheral steel framing. The idea is that when earthquake happens, the peripheral steel framing will sway from side to side. But because of the shinbashira which essentially acts as a counter-weight by swaying at a different frequency from the steel framing, the force of the earthquake felt will be reduced by 40 %. I don’t understand all the geographical terminologies but this visit to the Skytree makes me quite interested to find out how buildings can be made to withstand earthquakes. This article probably explains the architecture marvel of Skytree better than me: http://www.nippon.com/en/views/b01101/ .