Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday the 29th Himiko, the Sumidagawa, Odaba, a bridge and even more.

We got up about our usual time and when the office opened I checked the schedule for the Himiko water bus. This boat was designed by Matsumoto Leiji the famous manga artist who is well known for his Captain Herlock and Galaxy Express series. The boat is a very beautiful, streamlined looking more like a spaceship than a water craft. The walls and ceiling are a single curve covered in windows.

As we rode down the Sumidagawa towards Tokyo Bay Steven took photos of most of the bridges and much of the view from the river. Tokyo's rivers are at different heights and are connected by many canals. For this reason locks are used to travel between the rivers as well as to help regulate water flow during storms by diverting some water to another river. One also sees floodgates in this low part of the city.

After going down the river and past the daiba we landed at Odaiba. The daiba are a series of island fortifications built in the 1850s to protect the shogun's castle from possible European and American attack. Given the history of imperialist attacks on other East Asian nations such a defense was wise even if ever used in battle. As this part of Tokyo Bay was filled over the second half of the 20th century some of the daiba were surrounded by fill ceasing to be islands. The remaining ones are still there with one now a park connected by a narrow pathway.

After landing at Odaiba, this part of Tokyo is named after the daiba, we sat for a bit enjoying the view, Steven took pictures of the exterior of Himiko, then we walked in search of brunch and coffee. We located a Korean restaurant where after some confusion we ordered our meals. Confusion as the staff did not speak English and we did not read Japanese. This resulted in Steven and Cindy ordering child plates instead of adult meals. After some amusement over this fact, Cindy got the Shinkansen plate, Steven the Hello Kitty one, we dug into a great lunch.

Then we wandered the halls of the Odaiba shopping complex in search of a smoke free coffee shop. We exited and walked outside until we spotted tables and seats where Cindy and I ordered two cups. Fortified with our preferred starter fluid we wandered towards the beach. Our goal, the pedestrian walkway of the Rainbow Bridge. The beach area was nice, not as busy as I imagine it is on the weekends. We did observe a group of bare chested young men with wooden swords and blindfolds attempt to break a watermelon on the beach. Now this is normally done by one person at a time, not a group. There was a fellow filming this with a tripod mounted camera. as we left the melon was intact, tho' some of the young men now had bruises.

At the end of the beach was the ramp leading to the bridge. None of the signage was in Roman letters so an attendant pointed the way for us. If you find yourself there look for a small office next to a wide ramp and head upwards towards the bridge. At first the pedestrian walkway is separate from the traffic, in time it is alongside the traffic lane.

The view were nice and the walk is 1,700 meters, not all that long. Cindy and Steven took pictures. Exiting the West side of the bridge we worked our way inland crossing over several canals. This part of the city is a very active port with truck traffic and people bustling back and forth.

We crossed the train tracks at a station and headed in a vaguely Northern direction with me checking the atlas to find exactly where we were. Soon we were on our way to Zojoji Temple and Tokyo Tower down a major avenue that passed the temple.

After hoofing it for awhile Cindy asked we stop and rest. Luckily we were approaching a park so we walked into it. After a short time Cindy was back on her feet, Steven had not sat down but kept taking photos. I steered them in the direction of the temple and soon we arrived at the gates. Zojoji is one of the more impressive temples of Tokyo with a long history and connection to the Tokugawa shoguns. The Tokugawa graves are located in a walled area behind the temple. One thing a visitor will notice is that there is a very large number of Jizo statues on the grounds. Offerings are made to these statues by women who have lost an infant or who suffered a miscarriage or had an abortion. A few hundred years ago one of the priests of the temple played a role in changing Japanese views towards young children and influenced the government in establishing orphanages and outlawing the abandonment of infants. The grounds of the temple are impressive, there is even a small shrine with crows carved on some of the stonework. I was informed the national soccer team prays at this shrine before te World Cup.

As the sun was setting we walked to a nearby subway station for an easy ride home.

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