Tag Archives: Sensoji

Night walk in Asakusa & traditional dessert place

Asakusa is no doubt one of the most touristic places in Tokyo. After dark, it gets less busy and you can enjoy a pleasant walk around Sensoji-temple.Kaminari-mon (雷門). 
Nakamise shopping street. 

Five-storied pagoda.

Nio statue. img_3267-2

Hozo-mon (宝蔵門).

The main building.

Tokyo Sky Tree on the right side.


Umezono (梅園)”, located just off of the Nakamise street, is a highy recommendable place to enjoy traditional Japanese desserts, which has a history of over 160 years.

Their specialty “Awa-zenzai (あわぜんざい, steamed sticky millet with sweet bean paste, 777 JPY-)” is a suitable treat after a long walk on cold days. It’s served with pickled perilla seeds.

How to order is a bit different from general coffee shops. After you walk in the shop, you buy a ticket at the counter then have a seat at a table. A waitress will come to pick up this ticket and serve green tea.

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Two Symbolic Plants for Japanese Summer

Now Sakura (cherry blossom) is well-known as a representative of Japanese spring. Then which plant best represents Japanese summer? When I envision a nostalgic summer scene, two plants immediately come to mind: asagao (morning glory) and hoozuki (Chinese lantern plant). They bring up the image of summer vacation, festivals and the Bon season. While sakura trees are on the street, making a part of the landscape, these plants are usually enjoyed at home – in flower pots to decorate the space under the eaves of houses.

Asagao

854-iriya[1]

Morning glory is a typical plant used as an educational material in the subject called living environmental studies for children in lower grades in elementary schools. Usually, they take care of their own pots from seeding, watering to gathering the seeds with writing observation diaries. Asagao is adopted in schools not only because it’s easy to grow but also it will bring lots of awareness to children such as the importance of taking care of plants and scientific wonders. It’s no exaggeration to say that this kawaii flower cultivates our basic gardening skills.

Growing  asagao, however, is not only a childish hobby. Recently it gets attention as one of the popular spiecies for green curtain, but this flower has been popular since a long time ago. At first, it was imported to Japan more than 1,000 years ago as a medicinal plant with a laxative effect. In the edo period, asagao, especially mutant ones became very popular among common people. Even today, plant lovers enjoy mutant morning glories, calling them henka-asagao (henka means ‘change’).

I got some henka-asagao seeds this year, so will post the outcome on this blog once it successfully blooms 🙂

Hoozuki

880-hou[1]

Hoozuki had been used as a medicinal plant in the old times as well. It became also popular in the edo period and both asagao and hoozuki were sold by plant peddlers. While it was used for various purposes like a tranquilizer among common people, it is said that yuujo (courtesan or professional prostitute) used hoozuki when they wanted to have an abortion. Aso, this plant has been used to decorate Buddhist altars at home as it looks like lanterns guiding the spirits.

Summer Festivals Featuring Asagao and Hoozuki

Today, in many parts of Japan, asagao markets and hoozuki markets take place, announcing the arrival of summer. One of the most famous ones are Iriya Asagao Festival in Kishibojin Temple (also called Kishimojin Temple),Tokyo and Hoozuki Ichi in Sensoji Temple, Tokyo. Those who visited Japan in the old times, like Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold, Robert Fortune and Vittorio Arminjon, were fascinated by the Japanese gardening culture in which even poor people enjoyed growing plants making the best of the limited space and resources. These festivals can be a great chance to get a glimpse of the traditional Japanese gardening culture which is still alive.

Hoozuki Ichi
Date: July 9 and 10, 2014
Venue: Sensoji Temple
Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Access: 5 min walk from Asakusa St. (Tokyo Metro)

Asagao Festival
Date: July 6-8, 2014
Venue: Iriya Kishibojin Temple
Address: 1-12-16 Shitaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Access: 1 min walk from Iriya St. (Tokyo Metro), 3 min walk from Uguisudani St. (JR)

(photo courtesy of  http://sozai-free.com/)

Hide Your Belly Button When You Hear Thunder

Today it rained so hard with thunder here in eastern Japan. I saw a small boy running so fast on his way home. For the small kids, thunder must be one of the most terrifying things.

On a day like today, I remember my childhood: The adults around us said, “Hide your belly button, or the god of thunder will take it away.”

Who is the god of thunder? Although there are several myths describing this god, but in general, he’s called ‘Kaminari-sama’, or more formally ‘Raijin’, living above the clouds with the drums on his shoulders to create the sound of thunder. If you visit Japan, you can meet him at the most famous touristy site, Kaminarimon of Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.

Raizin.jpg
Raizin“. Licensed under Public domain via ウィキメディア・コモンズ.

Then why kids have to hide the belly button? This actually means “Wear your clothes properly to cover your belly.” It’s normally hot and humid in this season, but the temperature goes down quickly when thunderstorming. So the parents tell kids not to expose their bodies to cold temperature; otherwise, they would easily catch a cold.

It seems to hold true… Now I’m feeling cool breeze from outside.