Meiji Jingu, Shinjuku Park, Rikugien Park, and More
Yesterday was a day for adventuring. I had originally wanted to go the other day when the cherry blossoms were still in full bloom, but since it’s been raining, I haven’t been able to go till now. Me and one of the other girls from my dorm started off the day by heading to Meiji Jingu. From there we went to Shinjuku Park and Rikugien Park. After that we went our separate ways and I met up with some of the Japanese students who had previously studied abroad at my university. We grabbed dinner and then we were off to go bowling!
I’ll admit that the thing I wanted to do most in Japan was probably go to karaoke, but the second most thing I wanted to do was visit Japanese parks and shrines/temples, so I was super excited for the day. We started off at Meiji Jingu, which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emporer Meiji and his wife. While I like both shrines and temples (the difference between them is that shrines are for Shinto and temples are for Buddhism), I think I like shrines better simply because I absolutely love torii (often used as entrance gates). Suffice to say, I took lots of pictures of the torii. The shrine itself was also really beautiful and had the traditional Japanese architecture that I love so much. I decided to try omikuji, which is a kind of fortune telling poetry. I decided to take a fortune from the English boxes, because while I wanted to have this experience of Japanese culture, I still wanted to be able to read it. Maybe next time I’ll get one in Japanese. For omikuji, there are basically boxes that you have to shake until a stick with a number on it comes out. You then show the shrine maiden your number and you receive the corresponding fortune. At the shrine they also had something called Ema, which are votive tablets where you write down your prayers and gratitude.
After Meiji Jingu, we went to Shinjuku Park, also called Shinjuku Gyoen. It cost ￥200 (about $2) to enter, but considering how awesome the place was, ￥200 is pretty cheap. As I said before, a lot of the cherry blossoms are starting to lose their petals, but they still looked super pretty. Some of the paths in the park were just lined with cherry blossoms so the walkway looked absolutely beautiful. Further into the park was a lake with a sitting area. I think that was probably my favorite spot in the entire garden. The viewing area had the traditional Japanese architecture and was surrounded by a lake covered in cherry blossom petals. How awesome is that?
Lastly we went to Rikugien Park. While this park didn’t really have many cherry blossoms, it still had the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere of your typical Japanese garden. When inside the park, you would never know that you were actually only a few feet away from the city. It also had a pretty high point in the park that allowed you to look over the rest of the place, and you could see the tall buildings of the city in the background. It made for an absolutely fantastic view.
Meiji Jingu, Shinjuku Park, and Rikugien Park were all absolutely amazing. I doubt words could really describe it, so instead make sure you check out the pictures below so you can see how truly awesome it all is.
After that my friend returned to the dorm and I went off to meet up with two of my Japanese friends that had previously studied at my home university. We ate dinner at a cozy little ramen shop not too far from Rikkyo University, and then headed to the east side of Ikebukuro. We just walked around the city for a while, enjoying the livelyhood and city lights, before eventually making our way to Round 1, which is a big entertainment complex. The first several floors had nothing but crane games. I’m beginning to realize that crane games are super popular in Japan. The middle floors had bowling lanes and then the top floors had rooms for karaoke.
We went up to the bowling counter on the 4th floor and got set up with a lane. We also rented our shoes on the 4th floor, but shoe rental works a little differently here than in the United States. In the United States, the shoes were usually behind the counter, and the attendant usually handed you your shoes when you got set up with a lane. However, here in Japan they actually had vending machines for different sized shoes. You just went up to the machine that had your shoe size, pressed the button and then a pair of shoes popped out at the bottom! Then when you needed to return your shoes (because the shoes didn’t fit or you were done bowling) they had a little bin you could throw the shoes in.
Bowling ended up being a lot of fun. I bowled in high school and had about a 180 average, but I haven’t bowled much since then, plus I didn’t have any of my equipment with me, but I think that made bowling all the more enjoyable. The first game I won with a 184, but then Toshiki won the second game with a 204. It was his personal best.
After bowling, I finally got to take a Purikura picture! I would always see my friends post their purikura pictures when they went to Japan, so I was excited that I finally got to take my own. Purikura is basically a photo booth that allows you to add cool effects to the pictures. It makes your skin look clearer and your eyes look bigger, and then you can write on the pictures or add little stickers. I think the booths are more aimed at middle and high school age girls, but I didn’t care. I had a lot of fun taking the pictures, and now that I know what to expect, I kind of want to go take another one, haha.
Overall, my day was an absolute blast, probably one of the best since I’ve gotten to Japan. I got to see a lot of cool places specific to Japan and its culture while getting to hang out with some of my friends. What could be better than that?