In Tokyo with love (Day 2)

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Loved Day 1? Ready for more Tokyo fun? Come along…

Gōtokuji Temple

I stepped away from the city centre to find this one. Legend says that during the Edo period, a cat under the care of a local priest led a feudal lord and his servants to the temple by waving its paw, thus saving them from a thunderstorm. Grateful, the nobleman donated rice crops and land to the then-poor temple. Thus was the maneki-neko (beckoning cat) figurine born… They, of course, became the symbol of the area.

Wandering through the site, you will find shelves filled with hundreds of sculptures of this felines, in all sizes. It’s as heart-melting as it is hypnotising… Many visitors write their wishes and hopes at the back of their cat before adding it to the crowd.

Gōtokuji Temple | 2-chōme-24-7 Gōtokuji, Setagaya City, Tōkyō-to 154-0021

 

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Here, to pray, you need to ring the giant bell (very similar to the version the maneki-neko wears around its neck) to get the spirits’ attention and follow the prayer process.

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A little further, at the entrance of the cemetery, statues of divinities were adorned with red bibs and hats. These are protectors of children. The tradition started when grieving parents started leaving their lost little ones’ garments as part of their prayers, although it can have a brighter side and be a thank you for saving children from a life-threatening illness. In time, it was standardised to this “uniform”, red being the color used to ward off evil spirits.

 

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You will also notice, in temples waves of papers knotted around branches of a pine tree or metallic fences. For a five-yen coin, you can buy an O-mikuji: random fortunes. If it’s good, you keep it with you. If not, you attach it, in the hope that the bad luck will wait there rather than come with you…

 

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Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory

From the Gōtokuji Temple, a quick 25 minutes walk will take you to this bakery, famous for its Totoro puffs. They come filled with a dense kind of whipped cream, available in a variety of flavours (chocolate, strawberry, caramel & banana, custard…). Delicious. Although the look in its eyes might make you feel rather guilty biting into it! There is a little café on site should you wish to sit down for a while.

Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory | 5-chōme-3-1 Daita, Setagaya City, Tōkyō-to 155-0033

 

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Shimokitazawa

Add another 10 minutes walk to find this vibrant neighbourhood, filled with so many vintage clothes shops it seems impossible to count. You will find everything from 1920s fashion to more contemporary designs. Be warned: it’s easy to lose track of time entirely there!

 

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Horse meat

Raising an eyebrow? It is a delicacy here and you can try it raw, carpaccio like, with some sweet soy sauce or cooked. Very tender, very flavoursome: think of it as halfway between beef and venison.

The Juicy Dumpling | 2-chōme-10-10 Kitazawa, Setagaya City, Tōkyō-to 155-0031

 

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Gashapon

These vending machines dispensing capsule toys seem to be everywhere. There are entire walls (with over a hundred selections) and even shops dedicated to them. What can you get? Anything from hats for cats to mini china cups and anime figurines. It seems particularlt popular with adults: I am yet to see a child put a coin in one of them.

 

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Akihabara

Famous for its many electronics shops, it has in the more recent years also opened up to anime and manga (all in Japanese though). It’s the craziest neighbourhood with lots of flashing lights everywhere… If you choose only one thing, make it Taito Station. The first couple of floors are dedicated to crane games (with prizes coming in all kind of sizes), the following 3 ones to arcade and video games. Think dancing machines, drums and guitar playing, more traditional ones, others where the aime seems to be tapping as fast as the program tells you too. The volume is super high and in an hour, you will have forgotten your name. Other places lines machines as in a casino and you can even smoke there.

The evening atmosphere is slightly different. The pavement fills up with young girls in cosplay kind of outfit, inviting you to anime themed or maids cafés. In the latter,  waitresses dressed in maid costumes act as servants and treat customers as masters (and mistresses) in a private home…

All in all – an entirely different universe…

Taito Station | 101-0021 Tōkyō-to, Chiyoda City, Sotokanda, 4-chōme−2−2

 

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Toilets

Unexpected subject… But well worth mentioning as they come come with a variety of options… and heated seats.

 

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See you soon for Day 3!

 

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