In November/December 2001, I travelled to Japan for a second time to attend the Computer Particle Physics Workshop (CPP2001) at the Tokyo Metropolitan University together with a colleague. Of course, I also travelled around a bit (a total of 3 weeks). Below are some of the pictures I've taken in and around Tokyo with a Sony Cybershot P30.

You can get a full-size version of each picture by clicking on it. I hope you enjoy them!

The "golden turd" on top of the Asahi brewery near the Sumida river is supposed to represent a golden flame, and the building next to it a glass of beer topped with white foam. Obviously, the right object has other interpretations. :-)

Japan's most visited Buddhist temple, the Asakusa Kannon temple (Senso-ji) which is told to contain a statue of the Buddhist goddess Kannon that was miraculously fished out of the Sumida river by two brothers over a thousand years ago.

"My life, my soul,
for the hive, for the hive."

The gate of the Nezu shrine looks especially nice surrounded by yellow gingko trees. We met a lot of art students making sketches of the shrine's buildings on that day.

A tunnel of red torii gates leads to the shrine. They are built for japanese sizes. I hit my head. :-)

And this is where the tunnel leads to. I don't know what the significance of the red "bibs" is, but many religious (both Shinto and Buddhist) sculptures are dressed with them (some also with red caps on their heads).

More animal sculptures. I believe those are foxes, but this wasn't clearly recognizable any more.

There was also a group of scouts at the Nezu shrine.

This house has surely seen better times, but as long as the vending machines are still working, everything is fine. :-)

This fountain is on the Wadakura Square in front of the Imperial Palace. If you are wondering why there are no pictures of the palace itself: it's closed for the public except on the Emperor's Birthday and New Year and you can only get a tiny glimpse of the palace building from the outside. Actually, the palace was also open for one day after the birth of Princess Aiko but we only found that out afterwards.

The Hongan-ji temple in Tsukiji (not far from the fish market) is notable for its Indian style. Most other Buddhist temples in Japan are wooden buildings with rolling roofs, pagodas etc.

Inside the temple there was a wedding ceremony going on (the bride and groom are sitting next to the altar, facing each other). Actually, on that Sunday we encountered several other couples getting married, one at the Nezu shrine we were before. I've been told that, after doing the ceremony at a temple or shrine, freshly married couples change into Western style wedding robes (long white dress etc.) for the drinking, dancing, and karaoke. :-)

This looks like a scene from Bubblegum Crisis. It's the Tokyo Expressway near the Hama Rikyu garden.

The Kabuki-za Theater in the Ginza quarter really stands out, surrounded by all those modern buildings with trendy fashion shops.

In some places in Tokyo such as Shibuya, there are multi-story video game parlours with all kinds of crazy machines. This one lets you play a firefighter, saving beautiful girls from burning skyscrapers. :-)

Uhm, what am I supposed to do here...? (I believe the Japanese writing says "entry forbidden for pedestrians")

Temples and shrines sell wooden tablets you can write your prayers and wishes on, to hang them on a mount on the temple grounds.

These giant, 202m-tall towers in Shinjuku house the offices of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Not only do they look nice, but they have admission-free observation floors near the top (below the microwave dishes).

This is the view from said observation floor, looking in the direction of the city center of Tokyo. It's an ocean of houses, extending to the very horizon.

The Shinjuku NS Building, right next to the metropolitan government, is only half as high but hollow inside with a glass roof, and contains the world's largest pendulum clock. On the top floor is a bridge-like walkway from which you can look 100m down onto the plaza below. Also note the Christmas tree. While only an insignificant minority of Japan's population are Christians, Tokyo is full of decorated trees, stars, "silent night", candles and yotz in December.

Anybody looking for trouble...?

Keep your environment tidy, don't trash garbage.

A can of milk tea with Engrish on it:
Sunlight and mist turn a young leaf into tea. Tea can turn you into something new. Tea. A natural gift of love.
I never thought about tea in this way. Also good to know that this tea is made from actual leaves. :-)

This is the Tokyo Metropolitan University in Minami-Osawa, where the CPP2001 conference was held.

The most memorable part of the conference was the banquet that took place in the traditional Japanese restaurant "Ukai-Chiku-Tei" in Takao. This is the entrance that leads to a maze of small buildings connected by walkways, brooks and ponds with colorful carps in them. Apparently, the buildings could be individually rented for dinner. The banquet took place in the largest of them which was the dormitory of a former temple that was dismantled and reconstructed on the restaurant site.

The banquet consisted of about 10 courses of Japanese delicacies. Here you can see S.Kawabata from KEK and Thorsten Ohl from the Technical University of Darmstadt enjoying salmon roe on steamed rice. In the back are Jos Vermaseren (of FORM fame, left) and Stanislaw Jadach from the INP Cracow.

"Still life with origami bird and autumn leaf"

In front of the Tokyo Metropolitan University was a shopping/restaurant area called "La Fête Tama" which apparently represented Japan's idea of a European city. Note the street sign "Place Fromage". :-)

The town of Minami-Osawa was not exactly the biggest tourist attraction of Japan, but it had some nice parks (unlike the center of Tokyo which could use more green areas).

The Atago shrine was one of the few sites of interest we found. If you look closely you can see that the right guardian dog has his paw on a sphere, while the left one has her paw on some small creature. I never noticed that on my last trip, but I found this same arrangement at many other shrines around Tokyo (see, for example, the picture from the Hansobo shrine in Kamakura further below).

It looks like someone didn't want his bicycle any more...

After the conference we returned to downtown Tokyo. This is a decorated grave at one of the many temples of Yanaka.

The shitamachi ("lower city") area of Tokyo is the ideal place to escape from the noise and business of the city. Lots of cheap but tasty food there, too. :-)

This sculpture by the Japanese artist Asakura Fumio is found in front of the museum dedicated to him. It's somewhat reminiscent of works of Auguste Rodin...

The climate in Tokyo was decidedly milder than in Germany.

Collecting rainwater, such as seen here at the Keio-ji temple in Yanaka, was originally necessary to have water in the case of fires. But I guess they only use it for watering the plants nowadays.

After the cancellation of The Muppet Show, Rowlf got a new job as a shrine guardian at Suwa-jinja. :-)

A lion mask and tea ceremony equipment displayed in the dining hall of the Sawanoya Ryokan, a Japanese-style guest house in Ueno (popular among backpackers). Occasionally, they also hold Lion Dance performances in the house.

The Koishikawa Koraku-en is, in my opinion, Tokyo's most beautiful garden. It incorporates techniques from both Chinese and Japanese landscape design such as this small waterfall.

Autumn is probably the best season to visit Japanese gardens. The different kinds of trees make for a beautiful, multi-colored surrounding.

No Japanese garden would be complete without a red, round bridge...

...and, of course, koi carps. These seemed to be very pampered by the visitors. As soon as you stepped close to the water, they gathered around in clusters.

...and then goes it to subway station through tunnels.:-)

In the Shin-Ochanomizu subway station there were mosaics representing the twelve months of the year.

I also went to Mitake-san again and visited some of the places I had been three years before such as the Nanayo waterfall, which has a multi-tier structure. This is the bottom part...

...and this is the upper level (composed of two images).

There are many nice hiking trails in the Mitake area. Unfortunately, I had bad weather for the most time.

The Komadori mountain lodge on top of Mitake-san serves delicious items for dinner such as this sashimi.

Did I already tell you that I love Japanese baths? And those with jet-streams are even better. You can look forward to it the whole day! :-)

A roof with the image of an egret, also on Mitake-san.

Mitake is a small town in one of the gorges of the Tama river (which is one of the major water sources for Tokyo).

The Tama river is also very popular with canoeists.

This is the tiny Kanzan-ji temple in Sawai, one train stop from Mitake.

Like all the temples I have seen, it has an interesting collection of objects inside. Incense is also provided, on the table at the bottom.

The temple bell is housed in a separate small building. Note the different paintings on the panels in the ceiling.

I was amazed that my camera produced this relatively good picture of the wood carvings on the Aoi-jinja shrine on Mount Sogaku-san. It was very dark and foggy on that day and I could hardly make anything out of the shrine interior with my own eyes.

Go the desk, enjoy the Engrish. :-)

Small shrines like this one are found all over Japan along the paths.

The fog retreats into the valleys. On the next day, I was able to see the Pacific Ocean from this spot, trust me. ;-)

If you can't at least recognize Japanese characters, you are completely lost.

The Fuji-san, seen from Mount Otake, near Mitake ("take" means "peak").

This is Mitake-san's holy waterfall, the Ayahirotaki. Occasionally, Shinto cleansing rituals are performed here.

And the hills shone resplendent in the evening sun... which sets behind Mount Otake, where the Fuji picture was taken from.

From Hinodeyama, you can see all over the Kanto plain on which Tokyo is built. The view is gigantic. The lights extend across your whole field-of-view, and the sky is glowing brightly. You can barely make out the Shinjuku skyscrapers at the horizon, above the red "strip" in the center-right. And the city centre of Tokyo lies even further behind them...

OK, back to the more traditional things. :-) Here's the rear part of the Mitake shrine, at the very peak of Mitake-san.

And that's the front. I've been told that at New Year, the shrine is crowded with people who pray for good luck for the coming year.

The shrine's treasure house (of which this is the roof) has some interesting things on display, such as antique samurai armor and a small portable shrine used for processions.

Wherever Japanese gather, there are souvenir shops. Those on Mitake-san mostly sell cooking ingredients (mushrooms and a special type of wasabi). But I liked the Ome crackers. :-)

The Shiromaru lake in the Hatonosu gorge (also on the Tama river) is a small artificial lake with a strange olive color.

Behind the Shiromaru dam, the appearance of the landscape changes and becomes more rugged. The river flows in a bed of almost white, slightly blueish, stone.

"The siren is wailing! Let's go home quickly."

Japanese beer is very good, but I recommend you stay away from this brand, which seemed to be the cheapest one. "Lower price" - yes, "full flavor" - not.

Finally, we are leaving the Mitake area and go to Kamakura, which is most famous for its bronze Buddha statue which you can see in my 1999 pictures, but has a wealth of other nice temples and shrines worth visiting. This is the wooden front gate of the Engaku-ji temple in the north of the city.

And here is a view of the interior of that temple's hall of worship.

These are three of a group of 100 Kannon statues on the temple grounds, partly damaged from earthquakes.

From all the items visible at the Engaku-ji temple, I liked this gate the best. It had a lot of beautiful and delicate wood carvings on it.

A closeup of one of the marvellous carvings on that gate.

Japan's different religions coexist (mostly) peacefully. For example, many Buddhist temples have Shinto shrines on their grounds for protection. This drum with the image of a Phoenix belongs to the shrine of the Engaku-ji temple.

Many temples and shrines in Japan sell fortunes written on paper slips called omikuji which you get in a manner similar to drawing lots. If you got good luck, you keep it with you. If you got bad luck, you tie it to a tree so the wind can blow it away.

Red - yellow - green. Although it was now nearly mid-December, the weather in Kamakura was very warm and sunny.

This looks slightly mysterious with the lens flares...

The Jochi-ji temple had its bell on the second floor of this gate.

The metal bowls on the table are also a kind of bell. You strike them with the padded stick in the middle.

These are racoon dog statues called tanuki. Yes, the thing hanging down to the ground between their legs is exacly what you think it is. According to Japanese folklore, tanuki are magical, shapeshifting creatures who can voluntarily enlarge their scrotum to hurl it as a weapon against enemies (*ouch*) (no, I'm not making this up). They are, however, not a symbol of fertility but rather associated with material wealth. The things they carry in their hands are sake bottles.

He looks like he's having a good time. :-)

This wall of vending machines actually extends even further to the left but this was the widest image possible with my camera.

Kamakura's most important Zen temple, the Kencho-ji (or rather, its front gate).

The trees in front of the temple's Buddha Hall were brought from China some centuries ago.

The Buddha statue inside the hall looks really old. The ceiling above is partly blazoned with gold.

If I remember correctly, this is inside the Dragon King Hall of Kencho-ji. Fans of Zelda will notice the Triforce symbols on the curtain, also visible in some of the other pictures. This is actually the family crest of the Hojo clan, representing three dragon scales.

This temple also has its own shrine (called Hansobo) which is a small walk from the back of the main temple grounds. Here you see the left (female) one of the typical two guardian dogs at the shrine entrance. As mentioned earlier, this one has put her paw on some other strange creature (the right one had his paw on a sphere). The characters below read "offering".

The Hansobo shrine is built some way up into the hills and to get to it you have to climb a couple of stairs which are lined by statues of karasu tengu, winged creatures with crow-like heads, all of them in some kind of defensive gesture.

Here's a closeup of one of those tengu statues.

The shrine itself was one of the more colorful ones.

A freshly married couple getting a rickshaw ride and posing for the family photographers.

One of the few Christian churches in Japan, the roman catholic church of Kamakura.

One of the attractions (in my opinion, the only one worth the trip) of Hakone is the Owakudani, a valley that is riddled with steaming volcanic hot springs. What this picture cannot get across, of course, is the almost overwhelming smell of foul eggs and sulphur that filled the whole area.

Statues like these, called jizo, are protectors of travellers and children.

Welcome to the butthole of the universe. :-)

Here you see one of the ubiquitous crows of Japan, taking flight. Every time you walk through a park in Tokyo you can hear their "wah, wah" from every direction.

We're back in downtown Tokyo, in the Rikugi-en garden to be precise, which contains one giant stone lantern.

Rikugi-en is said to have the most beautiful carps of all Tokyo but most of them were huddled up in a far corner of the pond. These women managed to attract some of them, though.

An overview of Rikugi-en from the Fujishiro-toge hill. According to the pamphlet I was given at the entrance, the garden is built to reproduce scenes from famous Chinese and Japanese poems. Not knowing the poems however, all I could do was to enjoy the landscape. :-)

This clock tower is on top of one of Tokyo's oldest department stores.

I actually slept better in Japan than I do at home. Maybe I should throw out my bed and lie on the floor, too. On top of the blanket is a folded yukata robe which is provided by Japanese-style guest houses to be worn inside the house and as a pyjama (if you ever travel to Japan, I strongly recommend you stay away from Western-style hotels and go to the more traditional places; this will be an experience you never forget).

The Edo-Tokyo museum which exhibits the history of the city of Tokyo is not only architecturally stunning but also a place you could easily spend a whole day inside. It has very detailed models of parts of Tokyo during the various centuries as well as lots of interesting full-size exhibits. And unlike, for example, the Tokyo National Musem, this one doesn't have the "twisty maze of show-cases, all the same" feel to it.

Akihabara, Tokyo's "Electronics Neighbourhood", is one of the most colorful places of the city. I didn't find the items there particularly cheap compared to Germany, though.

And finally, my favorite drink of the trip, a mocha coffee with milk and a dash of hazelnut flavor. I should have brought a pallet of these back home. :-)

Back to the pictures of my first trip

Images and text copyright © 2001 by
Christian Bauer

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