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Am I supposed to eat this?

Geishas in training, green tea and cable TV


Today we set out with more of an idea of what we wanted to do thanks to our lucky find of the tourist info office. So we set out with heads high and resolve strong to start the day with Hamarikya Gardens that we had heard about. After making a quick stop by the tourist office to find out some times for a tea making demo later on during the day we decided to proceed on hoof and so made our way across a small distance of the city.

An hour later and sweating buckets in the midday sun we arrived at the gardens only to find that there was an entry cost of around 300¥. Being on a tight budget (or simply being cheapskates, you decide) we didn’t go in and instead turned tail and went back the way we came, although this time we did make the wise decision of taking the train. Due to our limited financial situation we have decided that if there is a substantial cost associated with anything the only time that we will actually do it is if it is something that we really want to do. On this occasion the gardens did not fit this description.

And so, we found ourselves once again just outside Tokyo station in a little shop for a tea making demonstration. The tea was prepared in the traditional Japanese way and it is a very slow reverential process that is fascinating to watch. It then came to the tasting of the tea and somehow Rach found herself being volunteered by the many enthusiastic Japanese around us. She sat down (not realising what was going on) and was presented with some sweet bread by one of the Meiko (a Geisha in training) and took a bite. Unsure of what to next and with many eager pairs of eyes staring at her she looked around in puzzled bemusement until one of the people around us imitated that she was supposed to eat it all before drinking. She was then presented with the tea. This raised a matter of no little importance. Rach does not like green tea. However in this situation she couldn’t really refuse and so was obliged to down the bitter cup in two gulps and she performed admirably bowing like a natural born Meiko.


After she had settled with the taste in her mouth we then relinquished our seats only to find ourselves being ushered back into some more in front of a small matted area. The two young Meiko with their painted faces and beautiful robes then performed several dances for us. The dances were absolutely incredible and flowed so beautifully. How they kept in time was a mystery to the both of us as the music playing seemed to have no rhythm whatsoever. At the same time it appeared that a tour guide had mistaken us for some people on her tour and so we got a running commentary on them as they danced elegantly in front of us. We were told about their make-up, their hair, their houses, what the structure of the learning was, everything that could be packed into small snatches of whispered conversation.

Regretfully though, the dancing came to an end, and we had to leave the shop feeling somewhat guilty at not buying anything. Still this was soon forgotten once we had reached the Meiji Shrine and gardens. The Meiji Shrine is one of the biggest and most famous in Tokyo and we had a brilliant time strolling through its tranquil gardens before arriving at the shrine itself. There we subtly tagged onto another tour once again, and learnt a lot about the shrine itself and what took place there. The gardens themselves were so peaceful that we decided to settle in for a late lunch. Normally lunch doesn’t get a mention in our blogs but on this occasion we (or Alex) feel that it merits the honour as Rach managed to get pooed on by a bird.


Now that you’ve stopped wetting yourselves laughing at her misfortune (come on people that’s just cruel) we can move on, much as we did at this stage. We had from our small amounts of previous research discovered that the observation decks at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building are a great vantage point from which to see much of the city and best of all, unlike others, free. We got there and found to our delight (or Alex’s at least) that there were two towers to explore. We had a great time going up and down although to be honest the sights weren’t as impressive as we’d hoped although we did manage to get a glimpse of the elusive Mount Fuji in the distance. We also somehow ended up being targeted by another TV crew (this time for cable tv) to give another interview. This one was much shorter although not sweeter as she kept asking us for our thoughts about the area we were in, which we hadn’t actually paid much attention to on our power walk to the towers. After that we felt that the day couldn’t get much better and so we dragged our tired limbs back to the hostel for a well deserved night’s sleep.


Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • For a good vantage point of a giant city try the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Great on a clear day and best of all free.
  • If you are on a tight budget sacrifices will be necessary. The best way to negotiate these pitfalls will be to have a plan and stick to it.
  • Perhaps do some research into the Japanese culture in case you get volunteered to perform in a tea ceremony.

Posted by rexontheroad 15:18 Archived in Japan

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