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.
This very unusual building is called the Tokagakudo (peach blossom music hall) and it is the music headquarters for the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Probably most of the music played here is for the Shinto rituals and festivals that the Imperial family have to take part in. You can see it if you visit the Imperial Palace’s East Gardens. It was built in the 1960s for the former Empress and is 8-sided and covered in mosaics which are supposed to show flowers and stars, but look more like Tokyo Sky Tree to me!
I’ve already covered horse racing and now we have boat racing! There are about 20 boat racing stadiums in Japan and this particular one is located in Heiwajima in Tokyo. About 95% of the onlookers are men of course, but surprisingly about 10% of the boat racers are women! Unlike horse racing where the horses simply run around the stadium from start to finish line and the fastest wins, here in boat racing there are different sections that the boat racers have to get through in a certain amount of time. So the racing isn’t just about speed but it’s also about timing and precision, especially when the boats go around the corners of the race track. Sometimes they cut the turns so tightly that you think they are surely going to crash… But somehow they don’t! Just like in horse racing you can bet on the racers (but this time my family and I didn’t). It is quite a nice experience and fun to watch!
This is probably the strangest Buddha I’ve even seen! It is on Ghost Hill (Yurei Zaka) near Shinagawa. There is quite a strange story behind this Buddha. Apparently he was being transported from his old temple to a new one but on the way he was dropped and some of his face was smashed up. When he arrived at the new temple one of the priests there took pity on him and covered up the hole in his face with some white makeup that fashionable ladies and geisha used. Now quite a few people come and use a little powder brush which is sitting in front of the Buddha to make him look attractive and apparently if you make him attractive he will grant your wishes!
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?
This is probably the lowest car tunnel I’ve ever seen! It is north of Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station and it goes under all the train tracks (lots!) that lead out of the station. The lowest part of the tunnel (most of it!) is just 1.5 metres high. It’s also quite narrow so it is a one-way road plus a small path for pedestrians. The roof is so low that some taxi companies had to change the symbol on top of their taxis because it was too high and wouldn’t fit through the lowest part of the tunnel. Nothing higher that a normal car would have any chance of getting through. There are scrape marks on the beam where the tunnel goes low to show that some vehicles get stuck.
Something interesting is that I think it is too low for Japanese police cars to go through (they have a funny built up red light on the top of the roof) – so it would make a great getaway tunnel!!
Some people say the tunnel is haunted, though there were lots of people walking and cycling through it when I was there and I didn’t see anything strange at all. But there are said to have been accidents because of the tunnel being so low, for example people say that a motor cyclist actually died because he went into the tunnel too fast and because the lowest part of the tunnel is further in he didn’t see it till it was too late and he hit the edge where the lower part of the tunnel goes down. They even say that the force of hitting the beam made his head actually came off (pretty yucky!). It may just be a silly story of course…!
We woke up yesterday to find out it was snowing! Not really heavily but it was enough to cover the roofs of houses and the parks with a thin layer of white. I took these photos in Inokashira Park.
Snow in Tokyo is fairly unusual, and snow in Tokyo in November is super rare. In fact the newspapers reported that this was the first time it had snowed in Tokyo in November since 1962, and the only time that snow has actually built up on the ground in November since weather records began in 1875!
I was passing through Tokyo’s Kappabashi kitchenware supply district when suddenly I saw this building with amazing balconies in the shape of colourful tea cups and saucers! Now Japan does have a lot of strange things but this is so weird I had to stop and take a photo. It’s a building belonging to a cookware company so I suppose it makes sense (a bit!). Anyway, it’s a pretty funny idea and certainly eye-catching, but I’m not sure I would want to live there.
In November some shrines and gardens have beautiful displays of chrysanthemum flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours. Some are just single flowers, and other are huge domes of hundreds of flowers (all from the same plant I think!). A shrine called Yushima Tenmangu (near Ueno in Tokyo) even has a scene with life size historical figures where everything except their faces and hands is covered in chrysanthemum flowers. Apparently these ‘chrysanthemum dolls’ have been made for hundreds of years. They do look pretty amazing!
When samurai killed someone they often cut off the head of their victim so they could prove that they had killed them. Of course the heads would be a bit of a mess so they needed to be washed before being shown or put on display! This little pond is particularly famous because it is the place where the head of Lord Kira was washed after the 47 Ronin (master less samurai) assassinated him to avenge the death of their master. This happened in 1702 and it’s one of the most famous stories from Japanese history!
You can visit the pond at Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo, which also has the graves of the 47 Ronin and their master. Apparently if you look into this head washing pond so that you can see your face in the reflection then you are going to die! (though I had a good look at my reflection there yesterday and I’m not dead (yet) because if I was I wouldn’t be able to write this post 🙂 ).