It rains and it rains and it never stops. Only pauses. Always come back. Like “it follows” – that scary fucking movie – but with a soggy monster instead of one that mangled you. Still sucks.
6 am couldn’t arrive sooner.
I take the train to the meiji gardens and shrine, stopping by takeshita dori for a few quick photos. It’s one of those streets that tourist websites tell you to see and experience. I arrive too early. Not too happening at 630. Still interesting.
I see a sex shop selling costumes to dress up as characters from your favorite animes. There are pictures of cats everwhere. A vending machine, with Tommy Lee Jones advertises absolute boss: it’s coffee in a can. They even have a double double. I grow suspicious.
Walk to the gardens. Close by. Notice no one jay walks in this city. No one. People also ride bikes while carrying umbrellas. I see other wild ads for beer plastered on the walls. Men with spiked hair laighing energetically, or screaming, as they hold overflowing mufs of foamy beer. Past the bridge, I’m at the gardens.
I see a massive torii signaling the way. Big fucking wooden gate. It’s another gravel path, this one through a forest in the heart of the city. I walk it. It’s peaceful, even with the fear of rain. Hanging overhead. Still haven’t seen the summer. But the Grey white sky seems to make the trees all that much greener in contrast.
A police officer asks me to stop eating. I should have known better. This is a sacred place.Save that rive ball for later.
Other people walk through the gardens. Most of them dressed for the office or other job like activity. No surprise. The path leads deeper into the woods. More gates. I follow them to the main shrine.
The meiji shrine. Resting place of the emperor who westernized the country and made shinto the state religion in the late 1800s. The shrine is in the center of the woods, far from the sounds of the city and the culture he helped usher in. Here it is tranquil and green, and men are dressed in traditional clothing enacting a religious ceremony that I don’t fully understand, but enjoy watching.
Stone courtyard. Sacred trees. Scrolls dangling from strings. A fountain purifies visitors before they enter. Cleanse the hands and mouth. A wall of prayer cards surrounds a sacred tree. Most in japanese, many in english. Some not too serious, others more so.
In the shade of the canopy there are tables with pens and sheets of paper. I write my own, slip it into the envelope with a wad of cash and make the deposit. Many others are doing the same.
I leave. Back in the streets. I walk down meiji dori and find myself in shibuya, the busy ultra modern part of town. Finally. Expecting to be blown away but something about it makes it seem old. Like it’s the 1980s future yuppies saw in their apple computers. Is it in decay, or did time freeze? Maybe it passed this part of the city by entirely.
The busiest street crossing in the world is here. It’s not yet 10, the shops are still closed and a hundred or so people are lined up across all five intersections. Light goes green and they march. Three minutes later it happens again. I cross a few times, dodging the traffic of people and their bodies. They move in all directions. It’s wild.
Have my fill. Hop on train and head back to hostel. Quick rest then onwards to akihabara.