Long update to make up for two days.
Wednesday we went to the Edo-Tokyo museum, which you would think is touristy but I would really recommend if you visit Tokyo. There are some great explanations of Tokyo’s history, the rice trade and early economy, and a very powerful WWII section. Even though I took a WWII history class and knew about the destruction of Tokyo, the displays and images drove the point home. The immediate reminder that you’re standing in a place that was burned to the ground a few decades ago is very sobering.
We then met up with my brother’s friend Take, who I really like to talk to though his English is very limited, and went for dinner in a sumo restaurant in the “sumo district” of Asakuza. Japanese cuisine has a lot of great drinking food; my brother ordered a pickled eggplant that people didn’t really like but is great to eat with beer. From there we walked to an amazing temple, with huge guardian statues at the gates. Words and pictures don’t do the place much justice, not to mention that it was night and I was trying not to use flash. I’ll try to get better pictures up later.
Yesterday my brother and his friend Nick wanted to visit Ishikawa Brewery on the outskirts of Tokyo. It’s a vastly different experience once you get outside of Tokyo proper, where there are no foreigners and appearances aren’t kept as well. We got lost, wandered around for two hours, finally found it, and discovered that it was the off season and they weren’t really doing much production. We had some drinks, and on the way out were stopped by an old man walking around with a plastic ruler in his pocket. He told my brother, who could only translate a few things, that he was the oldest living Ishikawa — that is, he pretty much ran the place. We got a little bit of the private tour, he explained that a tributary of the Tamagawa river runs through the grounds, pointed out the trees that were planted when his grandsons were born, and gave us a peek into the house on the property. It was an amazing stroke of good fortune hitting us at the end of a long journey, and a very puzzling, thought-provoking experience for my first time in Japan.
I want to explain more impressions of Tokyo, but I don’t have a lot of time to update photos and write entries, so hopefully in my next entry I can cover the crows, the mask thing, costumes, and vending machines.