Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Four weddings and a...

On Sunday I took an entire clan from Manila to the Meiji Shrine, which is just at the end of Tokyo's tree-lined Omotesando Avenue. Like so many things in my Tokyo life this month, it was my nth time to do this -- to visit to this shrine, one of the most important in Japan, and a necessary stop for most visitors to Tokyo.

I myself don't mind coming here a lot as it's a chance for fresh air and lots of nature in a pretty built-up city of concrete, neon lights and convenience stores. It's also a short stroll from my house so there was a time when an early morning walk through the shrine grounds -- it opens pretty early in the summer -- was part of my fitness routine, and I loved it.

I would come here for a walk whenever I had to get away and think about something as a stroll through the Meiji Shrine's forests, untouched for centuries, always cleared my head. This is now in Shibuya, very much a part of central Tokyo; but in the olden days, this general area was a suburban no-man's land, and the lands around Meiji Shrine were probably how Tokyo looked like before the bulldozers arrived. It's beautiful and just about my favorite place in this very large metropolis.

Nowadays I'm only in Tokyo in short spurts so I'm often just too busy or exhausted to think about waking up early for a stroll through Meiji Shrine; and with 39 visitors in town this month alone -- make that 40 visitors, actually, as an old friend just blew into Tokyo from San Francisco very suddenly and I ended up making a French dinner with duck confit as a main dish for him tonight -- any visits to the shrine are purely part of my guide duties.


On Sunday, I thoroughly enjoyed a relaxed visit to this shrine I've been going to for over 20 years. I passed the row of sake and burgundy wine barrels lined up opposite each other by the entrance, provided by sake makers and burgundy wine makers as offerings to the shrine.

I inspected the wine barrels closely, and I was happy to see some barrels from Domaine Faiveley, owned by the Faiveley family and run by the son Erwan, who had kindly taken me on a private tour and then lunch at his favorite restaurant the last time I was in Burgundy.

It made me remember a very nice visit to Burgundy, and reminded me that another trip is so long overdue. Perhaps that's what put me in the mood to cook French tonight. I started with an appetizer of garlicky octopus, followed by a salad served with chicken livers, and then a duck confit with assorted sidings. I usually don't eat much when I cook, but tonight even I liked my own food. And the guys just loved it.

We had a great time as well reminiscing about the good old days when Japan was in the middle of an amazing bubble economy and life was really good. What a time that was.

People were spending a million yen for dinner, hailing taxi cabs with 10,000 yen notes (otherwise the taxis were not going to stop) and sprinkling gold on their soup and rice just for the heck of it. In a way I'm glad things are more normal now as that was almost an unreal existence. But, boy, I was sure glad I witnessed Japan's Golden Age as well.


Anyway, back to Sunday. When we reached the shrine, there was a mass production of weddings going on. In the courtyard alone, there were four sets of wedding parties undertaking processions, providing much excitement for the tourists. I thought I'd share some of the photos from a beautiful day at Meiji Shrine.

Some of the interesting personalities around Harajuku,
just in front of Meiji Shrine

There was an exhibit at the shrine commemorating
the achievements of the Meiji era

Another bride...

And another...



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