A lonnngggg time ago (maybe not a long time ago but about my 3rd week in Japan), Andrew, his trainer Shige, and myself took a day trip to Tokyo. It was my first time going to the city since I had arrived, and I had really only just seen the airport. For those of you who haven’t been to Tokyo … it … is … HUGE. So instead of trying to cram the whole city, or even just half, in one day (impossible) we stuck to one neighborhood. Asakusa. More specifically, the area near Sensō-ji.
Asakusa is one of the more historic areas of Tokyo. It embodies the Shitamachi spirit of the Edo era and can be credited for almost everything we associate with Japanese culture. Once, it was a hub for entertainment with businesses selling toys, souvenirs, sweets, acrobats, jugglers, musicians, sake shops, and teahouses. Asakusa draws a lot of tourists, which might have been the reason Shige decided to take us there first.
Within one of my first weeks in Japan, we had gone to the shrines in Nikko. Although those were beautiful, we had no idea what any of it meant. Thankfully this time, with Shige, I was able to get all of my questions answered. To start, when you enter a shrine, one must purify themselves. I had noticed every shrine I had gone to before had a water fountain type structure. From what I could observe, people would go to this and drink the water. Little did I know they weren’t really drinking the water from having thirst, they were purifying themselves to enter the shrine. Back before these fountains were installed at the entrance of the shrine (by a “very smart man” according to Shige) the Japanese would go to an actual river to do this little ritual.
To purify yourself, you take the ladle and fill it with water. Next you cleanse both hands by pouring water in your left hand and then your right. And finally, you pour water into your cupped left hand, take a sip, and spit the water out next to the fountain. After that, you’re all set. Next to some shrines are also incense. These incense are thought to have healing powers when fanning the smoke from them towards your body.
After performing these two rituals, we were ready to enter the shrine. Much like most shrines there was an area for fortunes (more on that next) and an area to say a prayer. We had visited on a holiday and it was very crowed. We decided to skip the prayer area and move our way around the perimeter of the shrine. And that’s where I spotted the fortunes. I had gotten a fortune on my first trip to the shrines. And of course I wanted another. This time I had someone with me who would be able to help me decipher whatever fortune I got.
The process of getting your fortune was a little different from what I had done. Next to the catalog of fortunes was a cylinder shaker. To find your fortune, you shake the cylinder and wait for a stick to come out of a tiny hole on the top. There is a number engraved on each stick. After you grab yours, you take the fortune out of the corresponding numbered drawer.
My fortune read:
The black clouds on the moon were cleared up, it get really bright again. Just like the moon and stars shine clear, everybody have calm mind with nothing to regret or worry about.
Even if there might be a little obstacle or stoppage, it is not a big trouble for your future. You can get prosperity again and descendant will grow numerous.
Andrew’s fortune read:
It is almost impossible to cross a river too wide, waves are hard all over the river, you can’t get to the other shore without a boat. But if you get a chance to cross the river when waves get calm down. You can get a powerful means to pick up a giant fish.
After reading these, I asked our tour guide if I needed to tie mine to the wire. He said that my fortune was “regular” and I did not need to put it on the wire. The wire was for bad fortunes and tying yours on there allowed the gods to come and take the fortune from you. Finally! I knew what that was! … I just hope my very first fortune warranted a tying on the wire.
After seeing Sensō-ji, we decided to walk around all the tourist shops and walk to the river to get a view of the Skytree. Of course, there are more pictures and more stories from Tokyo coming…