Apple Country

Stories of rural life as an ALT in a northern Japanese fishing town.


Kameido Shrine

Last week I went to a conference in Tokyo for JET participants who are finishing their contracts this year. As well as making me feel pretty good about the skills I have to offer from spending time abroad and generally realising I’m an alright person, I got to meet a representative from the company I really want to work for.  I sent off my application yesterday, so fingers crossed!  (The position is Travel Consultant at InsideJapan Tours.)

The conference was all day Thursday and Friday, so I had a full Saturday to kill in Tokyo before I got the night bus back to Aomori.  I didn’t feel like going to any major sight-seeing spots or wandering around the crowded touristy areas, and going shopping was a definite no,  so I did a quick internet search to see if there was anything special going on nearby.  It turned out that February to early March was plum blossom season, so I decided to hit up Kameido Shrine (亀戸天神社) and then go to the Pixar exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

It took about 45 minutes by subway from Shinjuku, then a bit of a walk as I followed the blossom banners leading me to Kameido Shrine.   It always amazes me how quiet some parts of Tokyo can be, despite only being a subway stop or two away from the giant hubs of the city like Akihabara.  I found the garden entrance to the shrine, where an old lady was selling a variety of dried fruits just around the corner, and before I knew it I was 500 yen down and munching on a bag of figs.

I hadn’t realised that the kame in Kameido means ‘turtle’, which was obviously a fitting choice because, to my joy, the garden had been built over a pond full of terrapins and carp.  I spent a good while on the bridge taking photos and watching the terrapins climb all over each other for the sunniest spot on the rock.

It was almost the end of the plum blossom season so a few of them were looking a bit withered, but it was beautiful nonetheless.  The sun was shining and I WASN’T EVEN WEARING A COAT and spring just makes me so happy I could feel myself practically bursting with endorphins.  I am so ready for winter in Aomori to be over.  From the end of April, the wooden trellises are dripping purple with wisteria, so I might have to come back again for that!

After probably one of the most pleasant afternoons I’ve spent in Tokyo, I headed off to the museum.   I didn’t see another foreigner the whole time I was at the shrine, or when I was walking around afterwards.  They’re missing out!!  There was no convenient subway route to the museum, so I strolled through the neighbourhoods of Koto for the next hour, crossing through parks and playgrounds, over bridges, down alleys behind houses tucked away from the roads, past highschoolers playing baseball until I found somewhere I wanted to go for lunch.  I was really glad I didn’t take the subway – you see so much more of a city just by walking around it.   I was in the mood for something with rice, and stumbled upon the perfect place: a little shop where you could choose your own onigiri (rice ball) filling! I got a set with 鮭といくら親子むすび (salmon and salmon roe ‘parent and child’ – how cute!) and a bowl of hot soba noodles.  Perfection.

The Pixar exhibition was much better than I thought it would be, despite being overwhelmingly crowded as it was the opening day, and it made me really appreciate the effort that goes into 3D animation. They had videos of the process of making each individual muscle of a horse’s leg move so that it ran realistically, and even that was hard to get my head around, so next time I watch a Pixar film I’ll probably spend more time marvelling at the animation techniques than what’s actually happening in the story.

I accidentally bought a ticket to the other temporary exhibition, which was a bit too contemporary for me… no I’m not going to climb a fence in the middle of the room or bang on a wall because someone made a sign telling me to and called it art.  I drew the line at a room full of square wooden planks that had been hung all over the walls.

I consoled myself by buying The House at Pooh Corner in Japanese from the museum shop, then walked to the subway.  My day was topped off by an encounter with the best dog I’ve seen in Japan, a massive Akita being pulled along the road by his bike-riding owner.  We felt a connection that only a dog and a dog-lover can have: it looked into my eyes and I said hello, then it immediately tried to run towards me.  After checking it was ok with the owner, who warned me it might be a bit boisterous, I went closer and it jumped up to give me a big cuddle.  It was so fluffy, like a giant bunny rabbit.

I love that even though I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary that day, it will probably become one of my favourite days spent in Japan.