Walking through Ame-Yoko midday in the winter is not too terribly difficult, but during the summer months and especially on weekends it is teeming with people to somehow find your way around. It's almost a challenge to see how many stores you can spot (over 500 I believe) and definitely a challenge getting to the shop you want to stop at. Shoppers can find virtually anything in Ame-yoko from fresh meats and vegetables to clothing to imported snacks and coffee beans.
A side note about religions in Japan: temples are places of worship and the homes of Buddhist gods, shrines are the places of worship and areas of enshrinement of Shinto gods. These two religions have lived in harmony in Japan for many years as they complement each other well in objectives (Buddhism about the way of death and Shintoism about the way of life). Because of this harmony almost every large shrine complex includes a small temple and vice versa.
Asakusa's Sensoji, typically referred to as "Sensoji Temple" (the "ji" stands for temple everyone...), is the oldest temple in Tokyo. After making their way through the 雷門(kaminarimon, Thunder Gate), tourists and locals alike mix together in the crazy shopping street: Nakamise Dori. Here we browsed shops, ate senbei (a rice cake snack?), and enjoyed fried Monja.
And then of course, once we made it out of the shops, we entered the grounds of the oldest temple in Tokyo and it was just as amazing as I remembered it. I promptly made my way to an おみくじ (Omikuji, fortune) station and dutifully paid my 100 yen, shook a container, pulled my number out of it, and found my fortune. Luck was on my side this time though! I got good fortune. According to our guide, 80% of Sensoji's omikuji are bad luck.
I then proceeded to wash my hands, waft smoke at my lungs (in hope to heal my asthma issues, oh the irony), and then made my way up into the temple to pay my dutiful 10 yen coin in exchange for a prayer. I feel like a local. (Random thought to research: some places I have gone to have bells to ring and others don't, yet the method of praying is always the same: toss in your coin, bow and pray, clap twice, bow again. I wonder if shrines have bells and temples don't.)
I also got to walk around outside the bottom of the tower (forgot to take my artsy, "I'm at the bottom of a tower and looking up" photo, but oh well) and that night I made myself yaki-soba and had some mochi with kinako on it, so please enjoy some more food pictures, you're welcome.
The word for kite in Japanese is 凧(Tako). Another meaning (with different Kanji of course) of the word "tako" in Japanese is octopus. So naturally, I had to draw an octopus on my kite! Also, if you want to see the AMAZING artwork of some other students, please check out the Intercultural School's Facebook Album.
Until next time, Morgan.
*PS if a word is green, that means I have linked some content to my blog (usually the corresponding Facebook album) so click on them!