When I was in Munich, I’ve seen a Japanese “Good luck cat” in the window of the sushi takeaway opposite of my university building. A white cat that waves its arm, powered by a tiny solar panel. And I knew, I had to have such a cat. I ran to all the Asian shops in town, but the only such cat I found was sold for an impossible price of more than 100 EUR (mind you, these little cats are of plastic, they need to be light so the power coming from the small panel is enough to move the arm).
Yesterday, we went into Tokyo, and to make it short, such a cat is now sitting on my office desk. I paid less than 10 EUR for it. And it waves its arm AND wobbles its head.
10 minutes from our temporary flat, the Kashiwanoha Campus Station is located. It is on the Tsukuba Express, a private railway which connects the town of Tsukuba with Akihabara station in Tokyo. The train is fast, modern and doesn’t shake a bit. In 24 minutes, the semi-rapid service took us to Asakusa, a Tokyo neighborhood of small Japanese houses with shops and game halls. There, one of Tokyo’s most important and spectacular Buddhist temples can be found, the Senso-ji or Asakusa Kannon. It goes back to 628 AD, when two fishermen fished a small golden statue of the goddess Kannon from the river Sumida.
The temple grounds are fairly big and house a number of buildings and gates, the most remarkable being probably the 5-story pagoda. There are several spots where one can throw coins through a grid and make a wish. You can also tie paper strips with your wishes on threads or write them on wooden tablets which are then tied in a designated place. In the main hall of the central temple, charms for good luck etc. are sold. If you have ailments, you can either pay a coin and touch a Buddha statue to ask for good health, or simply go to the big incense burner and rub the smoke on the parts of your body that give you trouble. Even some of the big old trees seem to be invested with healing powers, as I’ve seen people touching the tree and then their back.
The temple is full of locals. A lot of people seem to just come to read a book in the shade behind the main hall or a newspaper in the typically Japanese garden (complete with artificial cascade and fish pond).
Right outside the temple, a covered passage with small shops on both sides goes off, the Nakamise-dori. And this place is a true paradise. Traditional sweets, rice crackers and other snacks are sold, uncountably many good luck charms, lucky cats (guess where mine comes from) and anything else that is small, adorable and typically Japanese. You can get traditional shoes, fans, umbrellas, clothing, everything. Next to some rice crackers and interesting sweet balls of indefinable nature, we got two absolutely amazing mini frogs from a small shop that sells only tiny things, including miniature copies of shops and sales stands, complete with minuscule wares.
Furthermore, invaluable addition to our household, we got a pig-shaped bell that is sounded by the wind. Going up and down looking at these shops, we really thought we were in heaven. If people only knew what a gorgeous place Japan is, everybody would come. I guess it’s lucky for us most people don’t know, otherwise it’d be even more crowded here…..