The weather here has been just like I like it … chilly and sunny, and it’s made for some great days out-n-about in Tokyo.
The other morning, I got up early and headed to a Buddhist temple in Asakusa before it got really crowded. Sensō-ji is a Tokyo must-see. To get to the temple, you enter through the Kaminarimon or “Thunder Gate” then pass through the long corridor of shops called Nakamise. There are souvenirs for sale, as well as lots of traditional Japanese treats and eats. The surrounding neighborhood is lovely, too, and not nearly as crowded.
From Asakusa, I took the train to Minowa for a place known for its fantastic, Edo-style tempura. Edo was the Tokyo’s former name, so Edo-style means like your great great (great?) grandma would’ve made it: heavy on the batter and fried in deep, dark, delicious sesame oil. The place is called Iseya. It’s far off the tourists’ beaten path, and it’s a bit hard to find the first time. The restaurant only has about 10 seats at a few communal tables, and the line gets long and forms early. I wanted to beat the rush. Which I did, apparently, because it was closed for repairs. Nooooo!!!
However, that did give me the chance to walk down this traditional shopping street that’s just a few doors down from Iseya.
After that, I had to get things rolling, so I decided to grab a quick bite at a counter-seating-only place close to my hotel. I don’t remember the place’s name, but I can tell you exactly how much I paid: 430 yen for a delicious grilled pork bowl. That’s roughly $3.66. Nice!
Once I was finished, I headed via train to Ryogoku for the highlight of the day: Sumo Wrestling! As luck would have it, my visit to Tokyo coincided with the Grand Sumo Tournament.
The Tokyo leg of the tournament lasts for two weeks, and most of the tickets were already sold out by the time I arrived in Japan. However, there were still some seats available in the less popular sections. For around $51, I got a ticket that wasn’t very close to the ring but still made it easy to get caught up in the excitement. And there was a lot of excitement! Note: only those seated in the balcony (like me) have chairs. Ticket-holders closer to the ring sit on the floor.
I’d never known about Sumo’s deep Shinto roots or understood the meaning of the wrestlers’ traditions: throwing salt in the ring (purifies the space) or stamping their feet (drives out evil spirits). Their hairstyle is meant to mimic a ginkgo leaf, and their (lack of) clothing shows their opponents that they are unarmed. So interesting!
As for the tournament, each day begins at 8:00 a.m. and ends at approximately 6:00 p.m. — so there’s a LOT of wrestling to watch. Most fans, however, don’t start arriving until mid-afternoon when the higher ranking wrestlers are scheduled. I got there closer to 1:00 p.m., and I was never bored. I would totally go again if I had the chance. I guess that makes me a Sumo fan!