We had been planning to celebrate our Father’s 60th birthday with a nice holiday together for the 9 of us. So the work started on finding a place which would be enjoyable for a 60 year old as well as a 9 year old and all the ages that fall in between. There was so much being said about the cherry blossoms in Japan; people were raving about how beautiful it was and how essential it is to time it right. We didn’t know what the hype was about… but since the holidays for the kids fell at the ‘right’ time, we decided to go for Japan. The theme was going to be Sakura, and while it gave a lot for nature lovers like my parents, it also gave something for the foodies amongst us and for the kids as well.
We started our trip in Tokyo. We took the airport limousine bus form the airport that dropped us straight at out hotel, The New Otani. We started our tour of the city with our private guide, Kahoko-san, booked through www.triplelights.com. Kahoko-san is a former air stewardess, and is fluent in English. She understood our vegetarian needs, and explained the Japanese culture and traditions to us very well through our one and a half days together. She made ‘Suica’ passes for us, which were extremely useful for using all the underground and other railways during our guided tour with her. We went straight to Harajuku to visit the Meiji-jingu shrine. The shrine is in the midst of a beautiful forest, walking through calms one down before reaching to offer ones prayers. On the way is a huge wall of drums full of sake. All the sake manufacturers of Japan offer their produce to the Gods before selling in the market. Some of the international wineries have also followed this tradition and made a wall of their wine offerings. At the entrance of the shrine gates is a water feature like a big tub filled with water, with bamboo cups, tradition is to wash your hands, gently touch your mouth with the water, and then tilt the cup to wash the long handles of the cup before entering the shrine. There are no idols inside the temple, you pray to the spirits of your ancestors. The drill is to fold your hands and bow twice, then clap twice, then close your eyes and pray, then bow once more and make your small offering in the offering box.
On the way back, there are small shops that sell souvenirs like good luck charms for specific purposes, for business, education, success, happiness, etc. My nieces picked up charms for education. We later found out that these are very popular amongst the local people. We also saw three weddings take place one after the other, while at this shrine, a popular wedding venue for Tokyo residents. They have a very calm procession where the bride and the groom follow the priests, behind them walk their family and close friends.
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