Japanese summers may bring on the heat and humidity, but they also signal Japan’s love of the festive. Tokyo’s festivals cover the whole spectrum – from congenial goodwill ceremonies to fireworks extravaganzas, summertime in Tokyo is never a dull moment.
In keeping with the ancient custom, Yasukuni Shrine holds the yearly Mitama Festival around July 13-16 as part of the Obon festivities. Mitama refers to the spirit or soul of the dead. During this season, Japanese hang lanterns and place offerings at the altars as prayers for their ancestors’ spirits to be freed of their sufferings. Since 1947, the Mitama Festival has lightened up the Yasukuni Shrine grounds with more than 30,000 glittering lanterns or chochin.
But rather than terrifying people as he did on screen, it is hoped Godzilla will help attract them. The actual 12 meter high replicated head, based on its appearance in Godzilla vs Mothra, stares down red eyed and roaring at the busy streets from a terrace on the 8th floor of Shinjuku Toho Building.
Taking on the trial to using zero animal products in a bowl of ramen is an honorable mission, and Soranoiro NIPPON at the Tokyo Underground Street is one of such restaurants.
Below, I’ve outlined a simple itinerary you can follow to make the most out your day in Yufuin, and a couple of options for you to do without lost time and hassle associated with changing hotels and dragging you suitcases (literally) halfway across the country.
Entering the elevated gardens, one is instantly confronted by the robust clouds of green surrounding the elegant reddish stone building, now housing the Otani Art Museum, which reflects English aristocratic homes. It was originally the residence of Meiji-era politician Mutsu Munemitsu (1844-1897), whose son was adopted into the Furukawa family.
Anyone who has been living in Japan for any length of time knows of the friendly, decades-old, rivalry between Tokyo and Osaka – Tokyo built Tokyo Dome for baseball games and as a concert venue. A few years later Osaka Dome opened to great fanfare. Tokyo negotiated with the Disney Corporation and opened Tokyo Disneyland. Not wanting to be outdone, Osaka brought Universal Studios to Japan.
An often-neglected historical edifice but bearing equal significance and prestige not only for its vast, sprawling garden but also more importantly for the Art Deco interiors of Prince Asaka’s former residence, is the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum in Meguro.
A Shop of Different World Views – Irregular Rhythm Asylum and the Heartbeat of Japanese Counterculture
The moment you venture into the infoshop, be prepared to gaze upon reams of posters, books, “zines,” t-shirts, and other goods that favor countercultural ideas. From anarchist thinkers such as Mikhail Bakunin to early Japanese nonconformists like Noe Ito and Kotoku Shusui, you’ll find something to sink your political teeth into without much trouble.
These are delicacies that are way beyond what I can afford, and even if I can, I would rather go for my favourite bowl of ramen instead for much cheaper. So when a friend told me about the Michelin 1 star ramen restaurants in Japan, specifically in Tokyo, I thought that I have no excuses not to try it the next time I was in the area. Nakiryu ramen, famous for the tantanmen was my next destination.
If you are in Tokyo and want to experience the Buddhist tradition of temple lodging, or “Shukubo”, you are in luck. Taiyoji, The Temple of the Sun, has everything you could want in a temple stay, just a two- hour train ride away.