When we first arrived in Japan we stayed in Asakusa, the district that contains the great Sensoji Temple. While wandering around the grounds we came across a small shrine called Chingo-do, which is dedicated to the Tanuki, also known as the raccoon dog or badger. Here’s a rascally looking three some:
As well as being the deity for protection against fire and theft, Sir Raccoon Dog is also a symbol of flourishing business. Bars and noodle shops, in particular, usually have a statue of a tanuki out front. We figure its a sort of ‘good time here’ symbol.
Wilf decided that he needed a tanuki for a souvenir. The area around the temple in Asakusa is thick with souvenir shops so we returned there today. I managed to find the Japanese name for the critter – trying to explain to someone who doesn’t speak English that I wanted a small statue of a badger just seemed like a recipe for failure.
Good luck cats, Hello Kitty in all incarnations, owls – no problem. Tanuki – not so easy. Asakusa is also the part of town where the restaurant supply stores are – the guidebooks send tourists there to see where all the fake food on display in front of Japanese restaurants comes from. Figuring that restaurants have to get their tanuki from somewhere we set off. Finding one with just the right facial expression was a challenge – goofy, but not too comic like. With teeth…… There were some big ones that were great and would have made a great water feature in the garden. But how to get it home? Eventually we found a little one that is actually a sake container – Sir Raccoon Dog’s hat comes off for use as a sake cup. I’ll have to show you a picture later, as he’s currently packed up for transport.
After achieving success in the badger department we decided to walk down to the river. And lo and behold – a big water taxi to take us to places unknown. We hopped on and away we went. It is easy to forget that Tokyo is on the ocean, has a big port and also has a whole river network running through it. We passed under 14 bridges, and saw many more on side channels. That explains why so many subway stations end with ‘bashi, which means bridge.
While waiting for the water taxi I bought another charm from a vending machine. This caused much excitement amongst the groups of ladies standing behind me, especially when I couldn’t get the plastic bubble it came in open. They couldn’t stand it, took it away and passed it around until they got it. I was balancing camera, purse, knapsack, packages, and when I was fumbling getting the charm onto my camera I thought the mama-san’s were going to take that over too! They were a hoot!
Once back to shore we made our way to Shibuya. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Lost in Translation’ you’ve seen this intersection. It is a scramble – the cars go in one direction, then the other. Then the cars wait and people cross however they need to . It is a sea of humanity surrounded by oceans of neon – all set to the latest J-pop blasting from the speakers!