August 25 - 28                         Kyoto

Portable Handy PhonesToday was our last full day in Tokyo, and Beth still has not had any sushi.  This seems to be making her a bit testy, but she is bearing up well under the strain.  We hit the subway, and again spent some time trying to match up the japanese characters on the map to determine our fare.  Since there are fifteen or so different train lines, the map looked to us to be a pile of multicolored noodles, nearly useless.  We got off at Shinjuku station which opens out to a sea of electronics stores selling rows of cell phones that are smaller than the palm of your hand.  Chris was disappointed that the shops were not yet open.  He was, however, comforted by the fact that we were headed to the Sword Museum.
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo is huge.  We went up to the very top of Tokyo Tower, a 1950's japanese version of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  Tokyo Tower is taller (but weighs less) and is painted bright orange so planes do not hit it.  You cannot walk around underneath it since the entire footprint is filled by the building housing the elevators, and other tourist stuff, including a wax museum housing visages of Frank Zappa, and other world famous rockers (trivia question: who is Tony Immo?)

Meiji ShrineFrom the tower, you can see just how huge Tokyo is.  It stretches nearly as far as you can see, and is punctuated by many big parks.  We visited the Meiji Shrine, a park near downtown, where the emperor Meiji and his empress were buried. The main shrine is a huge buddhist temple, built in a completely traditional fashion, using wood and traditional materials.  This is in direct contrast to most of the other temples in the city, which having burned or fallen in earthquakes, are now built of cement.  Emperor Meiji ruled around the turn of the century, and was responsible for both opening up Japan to the rest of the world, and for emphasizing traditional Japanese culture and arts.
Treasure House
The Meiji park contains, in addition to the shrine, a "Treasure House Museum", filled with artifacts from the emperor. Some pretty cool stuff, including some clothes that looked awfully heavy.  There was a ceremonial kimono from the empress that looked like it must have weighed 50 pounds -- layers and layers of fabric.  It would be tough to deal with that kimono on the subway...

Meiji ToriiAlso in the park is a Torii, or a memorial gate.  This particular gate is made from one 1500 year old Cypress tree.  Pretty big gate.

Aside from being huge, Tokyo is excruciatingly hot and humid.  Here, they don't have the saying, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity."  That is because at 92 degrees, and 100% humidity, all of the time, it really doesn't matter what it is, it just sucks.  We had some scattered showers and are expecting more throughout the weekend.  We will be on the Shinakansen (bullet train) most of the afternoon on our way to Kyoto and we might not get an update done for tomorrow.  Check back the day after to see day one of  Kyoto!

And thanks for all the emails we've been receiving.  We REALLY appreciate hearing from you!  We'd also appreciate any website comments, such as takes too long to load, too many photos, etc.

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