Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Toranomon (Tiger's Gate)

We spent the past weekend in Tokyo, poking around and meeting up with Seto Sensei and his lovely spouse, B. Except for Fran Sensei, we haven't seen any other of our friends in two years. People have been terrible about staying in touch. Sometimes, it's suprisingly painful but most of the time, we just get on with it. It was so good to see SS and B, well worth the trip (a zillion times over).

Saturday afternoon, we were in Tokyo, in Minato-ku. Toranomon is a subway stop in the suburb. The word translates literally "Gate of the Tiger". Our main objective was to visit Japan Sword (where we got a personal, extraordinarily comprehensive and educational tour of the shop and the museum (full of world-class antique swords) above it. We walked away with a few brochures, a lot more knowledge about swords and fittings, and a genuine collector's item: a 300 year-old tsuba (hand guard) featuring a dried fish (fish jerky!) motif. I need to write the shop a thank you note, it was an incredible experience. The museum part of the shop is open--that is, items are not not encased in glass and you are encouraged to take your time and look (but not touch) closely.

On the way to JS, I found this interesting arrangement of a recently refurbished Shitno shrine, with an office building built around it. At one point, shinto shrines numbered about 190,000 throughout Japan. In recent years, there's been consolidation, dropping that number to nearly half (100,000). Most shinto shrines are located in woods or forests. Toranomon's was smack in the middle of an office block, yet still managed to retain a sense of sacredness and serentity. But if you illegally park your bike, serene or no, you'll get a BICYCLE PARKING TICKET! You can look at the flickr album here. Please note that the garden shots were taken at the New Otani Hotel, located in Asakasa, NOT near Toranomon. "Gee Music" got pictures, because I call my youngest brother-in-law "Gee."

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