Tokyo Holiday : Wednesday

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Good Morning

After the rush of Tuesday we decided to sleep in late and have a fairly relaxed day. Thus it was that when the earthquake hit, Louise was aleep and I'd only just woken up. I roused her by yelling "Hey, an earthquake!" and we watched the bedroom sway (we were on the 22nd floor of the hotel) as we counted the seconds between the P-waves and S-waves and tried to guess how far away the epicenter had been. It turns out that it was an aftershock from the previous week's record quake, based 150 miles North of Tokyo. It was Louise's first ever quake experience and measured 6.1 on the Richter scale. How kind of Japan to lay it on for us tourists. :-)

Thunder Dolphin
Our first port of call was a pair of linked stations, Korakuen-Kasuga, in order to find out the opening times of the Kodakan Dojo. While there we noticed an incredible rollercoaster ride, set in the nearby Tokyo Dome area, but decided to come back for it later. What we didn't find was the dojo. You see, the problem is that Japanese minor roads do not have street names. The major 'dori' have names, but once you reach the right block, you better have a map with you showing the right location, else you are lost. If you are lucky there is a map on a piece of board tied to a railing near the intersection but in this case we'd actually got the wrong intersection. After wandering for a bit we used the approved technique of looking lost and asking for help in our very broken Japanese.

Some people really are fantastic. The little old lady we asked stopped her shopping and lead us by the hand about three blocks, smiling the whole time. We'd taken advice before coming out to Japan so were prepared; we ceremoniously presented her with a postcard of Cambridge, which involved much bowing and grinning on both sides.

Ueno Park

Finally, armed with the opening times, set out for Ueno. Ueno park hosts a number of museums, but is actually a very nice place it its own right, having long sweeping lanes lined with intricately supported trees full of enormous black birds and the trilling of monkeys from a nearby zoo.

Ueno Park Fountain
The park's best feature was the fountain, though, especially after dark. We had lunch near by at a rather cosy student area noodle bar.

Tokyo National Museum

Having spent more time that we ought on wandering and being relaxed, we were rather rushed at the museum which closed at 5pm. Bits I remember are:

Perfect Sword
A katana blade forged by Osuminajo Masahiro in 1606

Zen Caligraphy
An artistic scroll written with gold ink on blue velum.

A 'portable globe' imported by a Victorian

Humerous Scroll
An amazing 12th centuary cartoon, full of toads, hares and foxes.

Forboding Statue
Many armed statues of gods, very Indian in feel.

Tokyo University

After the museum we split up, Louise to go straight to the judo, and me to walk to the judo via Tokyo University. I've always liked seeing new campuses - I find it says a lot about the character of the area.

Campus Map
I wandered for a long while, eventually ending up having a chat with a chemistry PhD student there.
Tokyo University is very difficult to get into. Most private schools are open 7 days a week, and while the state schools are only open 5 days a week, many students go to crammers in the evenings and at weekends. It is not at all unusual to see crowds of students wandering around the tube system at 9pm still in full school uniform.

Crammer Students
Perhaps as a result of this, the university (the best in Japan) is very work oriented. I'd compare it as being closest to Harvard in atmosphere. Brrr. I prefer Cambridge - it also gets top results, but has far more tolerance for weirdness and creativity.

Kodokan Judo Hall

Statue of Professor Jigoro Kano
The Japanese take their martial arts very seriously. Outside the hall is a lifesize bronze statue of the founder, Professor Jigoro Kano, which they treat with respect. We were given a sheet detailing how to behave at the dojo, which included how to stand, how to sit, not to chatter or play, how to show respect and courtesy and above all that you must "Give your entire efforts.". Students are expected to attend at least 160 days a year, and there were more than 120 black belts in attendance that evening.

There was a good atmosphere there; all the students seemed to be enjoying themselves. We soon started to be able to pick out which were the pairs to watch; who was giving 100% to their bouts and likely to send their opponent flying at any moment. We also noticed one iron haired gentleman practicing on his own, who from time to time would go over to some of the higher dans and give them instructions. He looked very very competant, and we guess just from watching the way he was moving and repeating his moves with precision that he was the best in the room. It was only later that we noticed the colour of his belt. It wasn't black. It was mainly gold. As far as we can tell from doing web searches, that's a Judan, a tenth dan, the highest level there is.


When the Judo finished for the evening, we went back out to have a go on the rollercoaster. On the way we stopped for a few minutes to watch a really pretty multi coloured fountain with arcs of water moving to the music of My Fair Lady. We found the entrance to the ride. It had closed five minutes earlier. :-(

I can't remember much more about that evening except we walked a lot and both ended up with blisters.

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