Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2013

Stalking Sky Tree again (but from another direction)

I can't remember when or why Lina was bugging me for Sky Tree photos (actually she's always doing it), but it was a beautiful day for another walkpedition and I wanted to get new photos before fellow blogger Drubeat me to it. I knew he'd get great night shots and close-ups, so I opted for the other extreme: a blue sky with the tower on the distant horizon.

It also fit in well with my current major exploration: walking* along the Sumida River from its origin in Kita-ku to Tokyo Bay, taking photos of bridges and other interesting sites. I've done most of it; today I walked to Tsukishima and Kachidoki. It took longer than I expected, because I kept getting sidetracked into tiny alleys.  This Tokyo neighbourhood is one of my favourites.

* I must add in all fairness, and for the sake of journalistic integrity, that I did the upper part in Kita-ku and Adachi on the back of The Hero's motorbike. He was a true knight in shining armour who offered his services as my chauffe…

Hiking with 500 rakan and an Aussie in Chichibu

It's the source of the Arakawa, the wild river that empties into Tokyo Bay 173 km to the south. It's home to 34 Kannon temples that are popular among pilgrims. It's rural, quiet and relatively isolated without being inaccessible.
It baffles me that it's not mentioned in English guides to Tokyo. These books inevitably describe day trips to Hakone, Kamakura, Yokohama, Takao and Nikko, but they never include Chichibu. Why not?
If you want to be swamped by tourists, sure, follow your guide book. If you'd rather be far from the madding crowd, grab your backpack and come with me.

I plan to do the full Chichibu Kannon Pilgrimage, eventually, but I decided to start with a temple that's famous for its five hundred rakan: Shōrin-ji (少林寺). Despite my interest in rakan, I was blissfully unaware of this temple until Cocomino told me about it almost a year ago. I added it to my ever-growing list of "things to see/do in Japan", and finally got a chance to visit it …

Happy 1st anniversary, Sky Tree!

Tome-ishi, the stones that forbid entry

Every time I see one of these stones, I'm reminded of that famous scene in The Lord of the Rings in which Gandalf faces the Balrog on the the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. "You shall not pass!" Gandalf thunders, and the Balrog tumbles into the abyss.

Japan's solution is less dramatic: a stone is wrapped in rope and placed neatly in the middle of a path or in front of a gate. They're called "stop stones" (止め石tome-ishi) or "barrier guarding stones" (sekimori-ishi 関守石), and they indicate that entry is forbidden. You'll usually find them at temples, near tea houses or in traditional Japanese gardens.
Only in Japan could a single stone fulfil that function! (Mind you, you might be stopped by a stone in South Africa as well, but it would be hurled at your head.)

Please pardon me for indulging myself for a few seconds. While I was researching it, I came across this Dutch website, and I enjoyed the Dutch so much that I want to repeat it here:
Een steen krui…

Stalking Sky Tree

There's this tower. It's rather big. You can't not see it if you live in the shitamachi. If I turn my head 90 degrees as I type this, it's right there, looming on the eastern horizon.
You'd think that I see enough of it, but you'd be wrong. I like stalking it from different angles and shooting it. Oy. I'm from Africa. I'm a hunter.

During Golden Week I launched a south-eastern approach, attacking it from its flank, as it were. I started walking at Higashi-Ōjima Station in Kōtō-ku and followed the Kyūnakagawa (旧中川), which forms the border between Sumida-ku and Edogawa-ku. When it got a bit boring, in other words industrial, I veered off and returned to Hirai Station. It's a very easy, very pleasant walk along some of the shitamachi's lesser known waterways, and you can watch rowers practising along the rivers and canals. (Sarah, I don't know if they were paddling or rowing or canoeing. They were in an object that floated on water and they we…