Tokyo day 3: Stairs, temples and gardens
Today proved sunny and warmer than yesterday, so we struck out to see more of Tokyo (yesterday, we focused more on the neighborhood where our host church worships and serves). I don't have sore calves yet, but that's surprising given how many stairs we climbed, between the many train stations and our fifth-floor walk-up hostel.
After a cheerful breakfast at Denny's, we set off for a large Buddhist temple popular with tourists.
It was interesting to see all the commerce surrounding the temple and how multi-sensory the experience could be: incense, things to shake or bang, and the vivid colors of paintings and robes as you neared the central room, where they were concluding some sort of ceremony or service.
I can't imagine having having a church service so near the din of several hundred tourists outside taking selfies and reveling in the spectacle. A sign on the grate separating viewers from the main room said no pictures of that space, but even a (visiting?) monk in orange robes had his smartphone out for a picture.
After praying on the outskirts of the temple complex, a few blocks away, we took the train to a large park near the national museum. Near a small Shinto shrine, we saw a large pond covered with something like lily pads. Further on, we passed a man playing Beatles songs on some kind of pipe instrument. Reaching the zoo and museum, we spotted a large Starbucks — yet another way Western culture penetrates the city.
We didn't linger in the park, as we had lunch plans nearby with our team leader's cousin -- a third-year medical student. That eventually brought us to our second park of the day, a smaller residential space with fenced-off roses and a large globe near the entrance. After nearly an hour talking in the sun, we all bought cold drinks from one of the many vending machines you see everywhere, both inside and out. (Most of us tried one of the cans of iced coffee.)
Thus revived, we took the train to the financial district, which also adjoins the Imperial Palace. I'm not sure why its garden proved my favorite of the day, but the grounds were really peaceful and beautiful, with tall trees, a large lawn of springy grass and dozens of beautiful blue hydrangeas.
This orientation to more of the city gave us a backdrop for the evening meeting with our host church's pastoral staff and interns. We learned more about their vision for the city, met the staff's families and shared a dinner of sushi and pizza.