I love the shitamachi, as the low-lying eastern part of Tokyo is called. It's old, a bit run-down in places, definitely not fashionable* … but it has a very warm heart and a wealth of history.
* Then again, it might be so retro that it's actually hip, especially now that we've got Tokyo Sky Tree.
The shitamachi is extra special over New Year. I'm lucky, because I'm within walking distance (my definition of that is one hour one way) of many well-known temples and shrines:
- Sensō-ji, the most famous Buddhist temple in Tokyo
- Shitaya, the most important shrine in the Ueno area
- Torigoe Jinja, home of what is purported to be the heaviest mikoshi (4 tons!) in Tokyo
- Yushima Tenman-gū, which is dedicated to the god of scholars and is very popular with students looking for good luck in the upcoming entrance exams
- Yanaka with its dozens (hundreds?) of temples
I've taken so many photos that I can't avalanche you (is that a verb? it is now!) with all of them at once. Let's start with Sensō-ji. All these photos were taken on 31 December. Still to come, night scenes. I won't go near that place until at least 3 January, when there should be only one million people instead of three million.
|A "year of the dragon" sign in Nakamise-dori, the shopping street in front of the temple|
|Hōzōmon 宝蔵門 or "Treasure House Gate", the second of the big gates|
|One of the three massive lanterns in Hōzōmon|
|Hōzōmon from the back|
|New Year's decorations in front of the main temple. Pine trees symbolize longevity.|
|The tall pagoda from the main temple's stairs|
|Can you see the smoke from the incense burner? It is believed that if you stand in it, it will protect you against illness.|
|Praying for a good year. Many visitors arrive early or wait a few days in order to avoid the big New Year's Day crowd.|
|Preparing directions for the crowds expected on New Year's Eve|
|I love these straw knots!|
|As I said ...|
|I love temple roofs, too!|
Now, a special favour for Lina of Urutora no hi, who wanted photos of Tokyo Sky Tree and Sensō-ji's pagoda. Lina, it's not a particularly great attempt, but I plead mitigating circumstances: you can only get this shot very early in the morning, before the food stalls are set up. (I was standing in what would become a yakisoba stall, with the owner observing me half amused, half irritated, fully resigned.) I was shooting straight into the sun, and I've never figured out how to do that. The last two photos were taken from the same spot, a year apart.