Naritasan Shinshoji Temple
With about a 7 hour wait at the Tokyo airport on my way back from Guam, I was able to visit a famous and beautiful complex of Buddhist temples nearby. That involved navigating a (pretty simple) local rail system and finding the temples — with help from a gracious Japanese woman who spoke a little English and showed the way, which was great because my pathetic vocab of Japanese was truly not going to do me any good. Um, konnichiwa. Arigato.
The photos can’t portray the sounds and smells, but think monk-ish chanting and wood smoke and incense. It was crisp and clear and cold and beautiful. I felt in a totally different world.
Except for one very odd experience walking down the Omotesando road to the temple, flanked by traditional shops (as the tourist brochure says, “These shops offer a wide variety of souvenirs, including … pickled vegetables”): there was piped in music of “Somewhere, Over the Rainbow.” I kid you not. For several blocks. It was very surreal and Disney-esque. Everyone appeared to be Japanese, the entire environment was Japanese, and yet . . . “Somewhere, Over the Rainbow?” I kept expecting someone (other than me) to laugh out loud.
At the temple entrance — actually, it’s a whole collection of amazing temples — the piped in music was Michio Miyagi’s, “Haru No Umi” (“The Sea in Spring”) which was totally appropriate, actually perfect, because it’s a favorite piece I (attempt to) play on my flute.
Even the airport was interesting. Best unagi (eel) I’ve ever had! Gorgeous origami store — will post those photos separately. I got a kick out of the English-version warning that the moving walkways were about to end: “The end of the road is ahead! The end of the road is ahead!” It was the end of my journey but hopefully just a taste of things to come.