Rainy days and the controversial Yasukuni Shrine
Trip Start Jun 09, 2009
17Trip End Jul 05, 2009
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Yesterday, we decided to go back to Harajuku because it was Sunday and all of the strangely-dressed folk were supposed to be out and the Elvis impersonators were supposed to be dancing in Yoyogi Park. Our plan was never to come to fruition, however. We did manage to find Yoyogi Park and go inside and buy an overpriced meal from a bad foodcourt and spend thirty minutes looking in the gift shop and never buying anything (which is becoming strangely typical of us), but it began to rain somewhere between Point A and Point B and no one is stupid enough, not even Elvis impersonators, to be out dancing in the sort of weather we were out in yesterdayshrine. It was one that was surprisingly elaborate, I guess, with several buildings and wide gates on three sides, two of which clearly led to major paths. There was a sacred tree off in a corner of the inner courtyard with a white paper band around it and boards erected on all four sides. People could buy prayer blocks for about ￥500 and write their hopes for the year (or for their lives) and hang them from the boards. Those turned over to show the illustration on the backside were the private ones. We read a few because some were in English, but a lot of languages were represented - from French and Spanish to Chinese and Tagalog. So that was sort of fun. There were a lot of foreign tourists there too; however, one thing that was unfortunate was that a funeral procession was being held as we were leaving and people were just senselessly snapping pictures.
I forgot to mention that the whole time we were in the park we heard weird music and just couldn`t seem to find out where it was coming from. Generally there are performers that are out and about, weathering heat and rain, and so we thought that this might be the case, but every time we changed directions, we kept hearing the noise from where we had just been. We quickly gave up the search, since it involved a lot of pointless walking back and forth and just assumed it was coming from inside one of the buildings. But the mystery still remains, I guess.
We decided that the forest was too miserable to remain in and so we returned to the main Harajuku alleyway in search of some costumed people. Unfortunately, again, they were smart enough to remain indoors, while we were not
Today we returned to the Imperial Palace to try to see a few things. Whenever we go to that district, it`s overwhelmingly hot for some reason or another. At first, we had forgotten our umbrellas and so we were praying it wouldn`t rain. But after about twenty minutes of walking we felt otherwise. We didn`t get to see the palace from the outside and the gates to the East Palace Garden are all closed on Mondays and so we couldn`t return, but we did take a look at the Outer Garden (mostly asphalt) and snapped a few pictures of the buildings around the premises. Nearby was a fountain park and so we rested in the shade and Sean took some fun pictures as the water did all sorts of crazy thingsYasukuni Shrine after and we really hoped to, by chance, find lunch along the way.
We entertained ourselves on the walk by singing nonsense back and forth, but rested a few times despite the distance not being too terrible. We saw the Science Museum we had passed some days before on our previous visit and decided to go inside to cool off. We were greeted by swarms of kids and the information woman, though she had a brochure to give us, seemed to question why we were there. There was a food court downstairs and that was all we cared about, really. Sean was put off by the pictures and displays, reacting with disgust. The food didn`t look too terribly pleasant, but they seemed to have spaghetti. We have had a pretty steady diet of pasta since we got here, so why not continue on that path? Unfortunately upon entering it seemed that spaghetti was not on the menu. We got curry instead with tempura odds and ends on top. Sean grabbed a pudding, I got pocky, and we got a pocari sweat to drink.
The curry was pretty good and the tempura shrimp and chicken were the better part of the dish, but there was a mystery third piece of tempura that I actually had to spit out
Yasukuni Shrine proved surprisingly easy to find. We had originally been a little worried about how we would be received there. We had read things that there were sometimes xenophobic right-wingers present shouting hostile slogans and the like. But surprisingly, the place was quiet. The only thing out of place were lines of businessmen off in front of the shrine. We caught some stares on our way to the museum a bit later, but no one was openly unwelcoming and so we didn`t feel especially threatened. Things seemed to be bustling in preparation for the market Sunday or whatever else and so we went largely unnoticed.
Sean told me, as we entered, that I ought to write about the museum since it`s largely focused on the country`s military recordNanking, it was frustrating. There were probably two sentences dedicated to the whole incident. And there was absolutely no mention at all of the atrocities committed by Unit 731, whose experiments could be likened to those committed by Hitler in the Nazi concentration camps, though on a smaller scale. Excerpts were taken from the Hull Note and there was, again, absolutely no mention made of Pearl Harbor or the story surrounding it.
I felt a strange sort of resentment at these things