Yanaka Again, Imperial Palace, and Ryogoku

Last night I woke up to a tiny earthquake.  It was quite scary at first because I didn’t know how long it would last or how strong it would become.  It ended up only lasting about 30 seconds which was a good thing.  After breakfast, I met my guide for the day.  She was a tiny woman who seemed to be excited about absolutely everything.  I told her I was from near Detroit and she talked a lot about the different car companies.  I then told her I went to school in Cleveland, and she rambled on for an hour about how she went to see the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra here in Tokyo and how good they were.  Her plan for the day was to go to Yanaka Cemetary to see where the fifteenth and final shogun is buried, then go tour the Imperial Palace, and finally go to Ryogoku to see the Edo-Tokyo Museum.  It sounded like a nice little day and we went on our way.

I went to Yanaka two days earlier and wandered around to see all the temples, however, I did not stop in the cemetary.  Directly off the subway, we walked through some of the temples as the fastest way to the cemetary and ended up wandering into the Daimyo Clock Museum.  This is a small collection of Edo-era clocks.  Most are giant contraptions made with weights which had to be set every day or so or the clock would lose time.  These clocks were called daimyo clocks because only daimyo and high ranking officials under the shogun were allowed to own them.  They became somewhat of an badge of status.  The museum was only a short walk from the Yanaka cemetary.  The Yanaka Cemetary is famous as the burial site of Tokugawa Yoshinobu who was the last shogun.  He resigned his title as shogun in 1867 and succeeded power to Emperor Meiji after losing the battle for Edo Castle.  I learned at the cemetary that he is the only shogun who is buried in a typical Shinto style.  All the other shoguns are buried in Buddhist Temples.  Interestingly enough while my guide and I were walking up to Yoshinobu’s grave, we met a tiny old Japanese couple.  The husband worked for GM for most of his life and had lived in Ann Arbor where his son and daughter both received their Ph.D’s from the University of Michigan.  We had a long talk about Michigan and they were even so kind as to take a picture with me in front of Yoshinobu’s grave.

The couple then wished me a good trip in Japan and said goodbye.  My guide and I strolled through the cemetary on our way back to the subway where she taught me many new kanji.  Throughout the entire day, she seemed to be very excited to teach me as much about the Japanese language as she possibly could.  I would say that today, I learned to read at least ten new characters.

We took the subway to Tokyo Station which is one of the busiest stations in all of Tokyo.  It is currently undergoing a large rennovation, and the station is absolutely massive.

Tokyo Station is in the heart of Tokyo which is home to the financial district.  The streets out of the subway are lined with towering skyscrapers.  I was a bit taken aback upon first glance as I don’t think I had ever seen so many 50+ story buildings all in one place before.  All of the buildings are ultra-modern and extremely luxurious with high-end restaurants on every floor.

The Imperial Palace is directly in the middle of Tokyo and is surrounded by two moats.  Tourists are only allowed to cross the outer one and are confined to a small area in the southeast part of the compound.  In this area are the East Imperial Gardens and the former site of Edo Castle.  The Imperial Gardens are typical Edo-style gardens, similar to the Rikugien gardens I visited yesterday.  As they were orignially built for the Shogun and now entertain the Japanese royal family, they are extremely beautiful and very peaceful.

Here in the shade of one of the ginko trees, my guide and I had a long talk about the differences between Japan and America.  After that, we made our way to the former site of Edo castle.  Along the way, we reached the Mastsuno-o-roka corridor.  In the Edo-period, the inner palace was lined with buildings which separated the castle wall from the inner palace.  This corridor is the site where Atsuno Naganori attacked Kira Yoshinaka and started the events of the tale of the 47 ronin.

Finally, we reached the site of the old Edo Castle.  On May 5, 1873, a fire engulfed the castle and burned it to the ground.  Upon the request of the emperor, the castle was rebuilt in another spot where it remains today as the Imperial Palace.

After leaving the Palace grounds, our last stop for the day was Ryogoku which is the site of Kira Yoshinaka’s residence.  His residence is a massive compound, however, only a tiny room with a shrine to him is open to the public.

We then wandered over to the Edo-Tokyo Museum which is the premier showcase for feudal history in Japan.  However, by the time we got there, it was too late and the museum was just about to close.  I was disappointed but it was just as well, as I was completely exhausted.

I made it back to Ryokan Shigetsu for the last time and went up to my room to nap.  Tomorrow morning I leave Tokyo until the very end of my tour to go a little further north near Nagano to stay at a hot spring.  I will talk to you soon.

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