Temple, markets, and SUMO!

With a good looking day outside today, I gave the second day of my ticket on the tourist bus (see yesterday’s post for details) to Scott so he and Denise could go and do some looking around Tokyo, even if it is just from the confines of the bus to minimise the amount of walking on Scott’s leg. Today is their last full day in Japan with their flight to Australia tomorrow evening. I am staying another week on my own. I decided to spend the morning exploring on my own, and meet back with Denise later today to go and see the sumo tournament we had booked tickets for yesterday. First stop was breakfast, and McDonalds seemed the easiest option on the way to the train station. After asking for a bacon and egg roll, and having her ask if I wanted a sandwich to which I replied “yes”, I learnt this is something different. For starters the wrap around it said “Bacon and Egg McGriddles”, and upon unwrapping it I found bacon, egg, and cheese between 2 pancakes which just didn’t seem right as I got through it. Oh well, I know for next time. Onto the train I headed for Asakusa with a few ideas in mind:

1. Visit the temple complex (really old temple complex in the heart of Tokyo)
2. Browse the market stalls
3. Have a look at the Asasi beer headquarters building
4. Go up the Tokyo Skytree (tall communications/broadcasting tower)

After jumping off at Asakusa station I headed for the temple, but before I made it I found myself in the middle of the market stalls. The crowds were dense with people, all buying up on the random Japan souvenirs each stall offered. Yes I admit I was also one of them, however I ended up exercising a bit of control when I realised most of these Japanese items were infact made in China. When I buy something I would prefer it to come from the place it is actually representing. I was also quite amazed at some of the prices of things (expensive), and these people were not interested in bartering with a firm reply of “no discounts”. With a few items in hand I continued on down to the temple and found the same crowds, this time however mixed with the locals who were there to pray. Since coming back to Tokyo from Zao we have been reintroduced to the loud, arrogant, and disrespectful travellers who think they are the most important and here at the temple there was no shortage of them. After having a quick look it was time to move on, so decided to walk over to the river and take a look at the Asasi beer headquarters building. The building was designed to represent a filled beer glass with the frothy head on top. After a few happy snaps it was off to the Tokyo Skytree, but with no rush I decided to walk it which took about half an hour through the local back streets. It was quite interesting wandering between the houses and the traffic. The Tokyo Skytree only opened in 2012 and is used for communications and broadcasts across Tokyo. The Tokyo Skytree replaced the aging Tokyo Tower (next door to our hotel) which resembles the Eiffel Tower and was unable to continue providing effective services given the increasing height of the Tokyo skyline. All the services were moved to the Tokyo Skytree, and the Tokyo Tower now only operates as an emergency communication backup as well as continuing its role as a tourist destination. On arriving at the Tokyo Skytree and finding a sign indicating it was a 70 minute wait just to buy a ticket I decided today was not the day for this, and if I want to do it I will come up early one morning. I figured I might as well now head over to the sumo arena and make the most of my day ticket. I thought I had figured out the train system, however somehow I made a bit of a stuff up as after jumping on the train at the Skytree and heading one station in the right direction it turned out to be the end of the line. It seems I wasn’t actually on the subway. Rather than ride back to the Skytree and try again, I set off to find the subway station. This turned our more difficult than I thought, and without a map I wandered the streets for quite a while. After finding a tourist map on the street I realised I had been going the wrong direction, so headed back and eventually found where I needed to be for the right train. Arriving at the sumo arena (dohyō) I now had another mission on my hands. We had purchased reserved tickets, however trying to work out exactly where my seat was a challenge given I don’t read Japanese. After giving up on trying to play match the symbols I picked a random door and the usher showed me to my seat; luckily it was not too far away. Watching sumo was pretty interesting and exciting with a lot of rounds only lasting a few seconds. Rounds turned over fairly quickly though which meant there was not too long of a wait. Before a new division of competition begins there is a ring entering ceremony, or dohyō-iri, which I also managed to see. In this ceremony the wrestlers wearing their silk ceremonial aprons are introduced to the crowd one by one. After an hour Denise joined me (also led from one side of the arena to the other as she didn’t know where her seat was). It made for an interesting few hours with the level of competition increasing towards the end of the days competition. Our seats were the best you could buy in the arena seating which was on the second floor as we figured we might as well do it properly, however there are also box seats on the first floor which have 4 cushions in each for 4 people who sit with their legs crossed (can see in the photos). I am glad we didn’t go this far, there is no way I could have sat there that long. The most expensive seats (or should I say cushions again) are ring side, however as we seen these seats can be potentially dangerous with them right up against the ring, and often a sumo goes over the edge. Finishing up about 6pm we gave the rest of the crowd a 15 minute head start to the trains, and with the way they cram them in by the time we got there crowds were manageable. After heading back to the hotel, we headed off with Scott to find some dinner, tonight some meat, rice and soup in a fast food style restaurant. We considered doing teppanyaki, however it was a bit of a hike to make Scott walk. Food was not bad considering the fairly cheap price. Spent the rest of the night sorting out the crap in my bags (have 2 of them) as Denise and Scott kindly offered to take one back with all the stuff I don’t need (e.g. ski gear) to save me lugging it to my next hotel in a couple of days.