Day 9 - 4th August 2001
Senso-ji Temple

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The streets of shops
in front of the temple
I woke up late today and missed breakfast - must have been too much Sake the night before. I went to a small Italian restaurant near my hotel and had some spaghetti for breakfast instead! After that, I decided that today I would go and see the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa. On the way, I stopped off in Shimbashi and saw a shop which had a machine which would print out your digital camera images straight from your Smartmedia cards. I put my card in the machine and managed to work out the Japanese instructions to view and print out a few thumbnail images. The pictures came out really well, they should definately put some of those machines in the UK. I arrived as Asakusa, and then I remembered that I had very little money left, and I would have to settle my bill with the hotel quite early the following morning, as I was leaving before the banks open. I went into a tourist information office and asked about changing travellers cheques, but they said that they didn't provide that service, and none of the banks were open because it was a Saturday (banks only open Monday to Friday in Japan).
Hozo-mon: the main gate
Luckily, they knew of a department store in Ginza which had an exchange counter, so they gave me the address and I went there and changed more of my travellers cheques into yen, enough to cover my hotel bill. I then went all the way back to Asakusa and looked around all the trinket shops which surround the temple. There were all sorts of tacky little shops selling cakes, souvenirs, and all sorts of other things. I bought a few souvenirs to take home with me.

After getting to the end of this small row of shops, I reached the front gate of the temple, known as Hozo-mon. It was huge and imposing, with a magnificent brightly coloured roof. Behind that was the massive Seso-ji temple itself. Full of people praying for the health of their loved ones and throwing coins into the coffers as offerings to the gods, the place was very busy, but there was still a sense of mystery and awe. Between the temple and the gate was a large bronze bowl where people would waft incense over themselves to purify them for praying. Even though the place is an obvious tourist trap, the temple itself seems to have avoided being as tacky as the rest of the place.

The Senso-ji Temple
Just to one side of the temple were hundreds of pigeons flocking around a small hut which sold bird feed for you to feed to them. The pigeons were so tame, they'd jump on your shoulder as soon as you approached the hut, making sure you buy plenty of seed. Once you had it in your hand, you would be covered in pigeons scrambling for a piece of the action. At one time I had four on my arm trying to peck the seed out of my hand, and one on each shoulder - I could barely lift them all! One of them even stayed sitting on my shoulder for ten minutes, even though I had no bird seed left.

After that, I came back to the hotel and later on, went out for a meal.

So, this has been my last day in Tokyo. It's been quite frustrating to get around, as so few of the locals speak anything other than pigeon English. The trains are quite complicated to navigate, and as the city is very large it can take a long time to get from one place to another. There are also relatively few sights for a city of this size - London has more to offer the tourist than Tokyo does.

The pigeons
However, I have had an enjoyable time. The atmosphere of the place and the culture is so different to anything else that I've seen. It's a fascinating place, and you never know what you're going to see around the next corner. It's been especially interesting for me, being a video games fan, to see the place where a lot of games are made, and the culture from which many games originated.

Now I'm going from a place where only a few people speak English, to a place where nobody at all speaks English... America. Still, it will be nice to be understood for a change.

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