Rome in Tokyo

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This is a strange find – is it is copy of the famous Capitoline Wolf statue from Rome, but it is in Tokyo, in Hibiya Park! Apparently it was a gift from Italy to Tokyo in the 1930s.
The real Capitoline Wolf statue is quite interesting because it is supposed to be an ancient Roman or even Etruscan statue of the wolf feeding the founders of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus. But actually the wolf is 11th or 12th century and the twins were only added in the 15th century.

Secret Squirrels!

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A famous Japanese animal is the musasabi (Japanese dwarf flying squirrel), but a bit like the Japanese tanuki (raccoon dog) you’d be very lucky indeed to actually see on on your travels in Japan. There are said to be lots of them living in the forests of Mount Takao, not so far from Tokyo. We didn’t see any (they’re nocturnal, so it’s not so surprising) but we did find this nice sculpture of one instead.

A Tanuki Family

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You see ceramic tanuki (raccoon dog) statues everywhere in Japan, especially outside inns and guesthouses and in people’s gardens. But it’s quite rare to see a whole family like this one!
Dad has got a big sun hat and his saké bottle. Mum has a saké bottle too and a hair ribbon. I guess the little tanuki are a girl and a boy (the boy is wearing a hat like his dad).
These ones were in a restaurant window in Jujo in Tokyo.

A Helpful Cow

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In the grounds of Yushima Tenmangu shrine, which is located near Ueno in Tokyo, there is a special metal statue of a cow. People come here if they have some sort of pain in parts of their body because it is said that if you rub the Tenmangu cow in the same place as where you hurt or are sore, and then rub where the place on your actual body, then it is supposed to heal the pain! (Although if your stomach is hurting you can’t heal it easily because the cow is sitting down so it would be a bit hard to rub that part of the cow.) I was surprised to see lots of people touching the cow’s horns too. I wonder what kind of pain they wanted to cure?

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Mega Dog!

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This dog statue is 11 metres high! It’s completely made of wood and has a resting area with benches inside and a viewpoint terrace at the back next to the tail. It’s part of a dog theme park called Wan Wan Land (wan wan in Japanese means ‘woof woof’), which is in Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture. There are about 500 dogs there of nearly 100 different breeds (and also some cats too). If you love dogs it might be worth a visit.

A Stray’s House

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In Japan nearly everyone wants a pet, but many people aren’t allowed one because they live somewhere (usually an apartment block) where pets are restricted. There are also quite a lot of strays cats in Japan and because people can’t or aren’t allowed to have a pet they will look after these stray cats. They bring them food and water and even build them little houses (although I’ve never before seen a cat house with a vase of flowers and an umbrella to keep rain off like this one!). Unfortunately this occupant was away when we visited!

Lots of Cats

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Gotokuji (in Setagaya-ku in Tokyo) is a temple where you can worship cats! It was made into a cat temple because of the following story. Once Gotokuji was a poor temple. The monks didn’t have any money, but they were always kind to a cat who lived with them at the temple. One day a Lord from a far away province was travelling to visit the Emperor in Edo (old Tokyo). As he passed this temple with his samurai he saw a cat outside the main gate, and it seemed the cat was beckoning for him to come into the temple, and so the Lord did so. A little later there was a ruthless storm and if the cat had not beckoned for the Lord and his men to come into the temple then they might have been killed by the storm! So after the Lord had rested and waited for the storm to pass he gave the temple a gift of lots of land for helping him, and so the temple became wealthy. When the cat that had beckoned the Lord into the temple (and therefore made the temple wealthy) died, the monks buried the cat and dedicated one area of the temple to cats. So that’s the story behind why this temple is a cat temple. The Gotokuji story is also the reason why many shops or cafes often have a beckoning white cat – a maneki-neko – on the counter or by the cash register!

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Black Kite

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This is a Japanese hawk – in English it is called a Black Kite and in Japanese it is called ‘Tobi’ (which I find funny because my little brother is called ‘Toby’ 🙂 ).
Tobi are quite common birds at the Japanese coast. They’re really impressive to look at with a huge wingspan and they make a funny sort of ‘giggling’ cry or call. But you have to be careful because they are always on the lookout for tasty morsels and they have super sharp eyesight. Once I was eating a rice ball (onigiri) and a tobi swooped down and snatched it right out of my hands. I didn’t hear it coming at all, I only felt the wind as it flew past me!

Speedy Horses!

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This is a horse racing stadium located in Fuchu, western Tokyo. This horse racing stadium is the biggest in Japan, and is said to have the biggest digital screen in the world. Horse races are held here about 20 times a year and each race day is made up of 12 races. Of course visitors can bet on the races (not children though, betters have to be 20 years old at least because it is gambling). In the huge viewing area of the stadium there are lots of seats from which to watch the horse racing, lots of places to eat and drink and masses of special machines which you can use to place your bets. You can bet 100 Yen (which is about 80p) up to 10,000 Yen (which is about £80)! Each race day the betting machines take in about forty million to a hundred million US dollars per horse race. Bear in mind there are 12 horse races in one day so that’s A LOT of money! My family did some betting but only with 100 Yen coins. On the very last race the horse we bet on came 2nd and we got about 2,000 yen back. So actually we made quite a big profit!

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