Today we first went to the Yasukuni Shrine. It was erected in memory of soldiers, sailors, and others who served the nation. Many visitors can be seen on Sundays. This is also because of the Antique market which is held there every Sunday. We had never been to this shrine before and when we arrived we were very impressed bij the metal tori (gate) dominating the area. When we walked towards the shrine, we soon found the dealers of the Antique markets in the shadow of the trees (which was a great place to hide from the sun) as the main road was lined with trees. It gave a very cozy impression. This antique market is apparently known to many other foreigners because we were one of the many! (Well, 'many' as in "there were 10 other foreigners", which is still a lot compared to other days and markets!)
We were impressed by the diversity of the stands. There were all kinds of Japanese treasures like a very big Oni-mask and all kinds of vases and pottery. Some foreigners were examining scrolls as well. The big surprise was at the end of the market. There we met a Japanese man with a lot of kokeshi and he knew all about their patterns, origin and where they were made. Soon we were talking to each other and he found it very interesting to find other people just as interested in kokeshi as he was, and foreigners too! We learned his name was Shin Matsuda and we gave him the nickname "doctor kokeshi", which he liked. Michelle showed some pictures of her collection and soon we exchanged email addresses. We could contact him if we had questions and of course he was very curious about a few kokeshi in Michelle's collection. After a long talk with a lot of information and selecting some nice kokeshi we continued to the shrine. It was very nice shrine and a lot bigger than we expected. In a small building next to it a few women were chanting something while some people watched them from a designated area with chairs, apparently it counted as a performance. We continued our walk and soon found a big building next to the temple. It was very wide and some bronze statues of people and animals decorated the square in front of it. When we turned right we found the war museum. There were a few items which could be seen free of charge as well. There was a big steam locomotive, some canons and a kamikaze airplane. The last one we found somewhat strange because such things are not shown easily in the west because of the political charge. However, next to this plane we found a small restaurant with a nice place to sit so we had lunch which we finished with a shaved ice desert topped with strawberry and milk!
After that we walked back and went to the next shrine, Tomioka Hachimangu, where a small antique market should be. When we arrived we noticed people were already packing their stuff although it was not near the semi-official closing time of three o'clock. If you plan to go to an antique market, make sure you arrive there early! We walked trough it anyway and soon the chanting of hundreds of children caught our attention. Apparently there was a school nearby with some sort of gathering and small parade. There were a few different groups all wearing a different color cap. We had no idea what exactly was going on so we explored the neighborhood a little bit further. We saw a funny little bridge which went over a road instead of water and we found a nice store that sold all kinds of old (looking) stuff including old furniture or items made of old wood (we think most stuff was originally from the US). They even had wooden floors for sale. The weirdest part was that they seemed to sell old paint as well. It was interesting to see but we continued our way. When we followed the shopping street we came across something unexpected. In the beginning it looked like a road to a standard Shinto temple. A little bit further there was even a small cute temple and some stalls selling dried fruit and some food, just like any other shrine.
Arriving at the Fukugawa Fudoudou however, to the left of it was the most ugly building we ever saw. It had some weird (not Japanese) writing on it. Around it, the whole square was coated with some kind of green rubber concrete paint. In the middle a digital display was showing all kinds of messages. On the right side of temple was a big store with souvenirs and not far from there there was a small fox shrine. We went to the center where the temple and a big building behind it were standing and we were lucky to see the beginning of a chant some monks started. They were dressed in special clothes and reminded us a little bit of the monks in the tv-series of Avatar. They were chanting to a big wooden statue which looked like some sort of Buddha with an angry face. After the chant stopped we continued our exploration of the temple. We were amazed with what we saw. The ugly building on the left and the building behind the temple were extensions of the temple. We first saw a very big room on the left side which seemed to be another shrine or place to pray with all the decoration you can expect in a shrine and even some big drums. However, contrary to other shrines it looked more like an auditorium with elevated rows of seats for the spectators. They had just ended in the auditorium-like shrine and that must have been the reason for the prayer of the monks. We went inside to see the rest and we never saw such a huge and modern shrine like this! It even had four floors and an elevator. The floor we entered had all kind of small shrines where people could donate money and pray. Our attention went to a 'tunnel' aligned with hundreds of miniature statues in glass but we couldn't find the entrance. We went to the small souvenir-shop were we asked the entrance of this strange tunnel. We had to go outside to the sliding doors on the outside of the ugly building. Entering there it appeared that the souvenir-shop girl didn't know the building either, since we were just a few meters away of where we had been standing before. We found the entrance and entered the strange tunnel. It was nice to see all those small, lighted glass statues and we noticed the ones in the beginning had a tag underneath them. We thought this was maybe the name of a deceased or a sponsor of the temple. When we got to the exit we went to the 2nd floor and found something we had never seen before. It was a dark room with on the walls a lot of pictures of various holy figures all colorfully lighted up with neon lights! It was an amazing sight. Here there were again a lot of small shrines where people could pray. We continued to the 4th floor where we were surprised by modern art of Buddha with matching interior and a hall leading to a big shrine with hundreds of bronze replicas of the same Buddha we saw on the ground floor, in all sizes. We were amazed by this temple-complex. It was big, modern and it even looked like someone had done research on marketing as well. Those miniature statues in crystal/glass were 10.000 yen (100 euro) a piece and there was room for many more names! Could this be the future for shrines in Japan, by accepting, using and mixing technology with religion? After all this amazement we went outside to look at the fox-shrine as well. There was a big sandal next to the entrance as well and you could buy a miniature sandal and tie it to the big one. We think it is for being lucky in travel. After this we returned home and enjoyed a nice walk with Tora in this very nice and warm weather.