Nogi Shrine, Aki-Oka Artisan, and Yuzawaya Fabric Store

This is post #9 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip: Friday, November 10, 2017.

Dave doesn’t have to go in until later in the day, so we eat leftover bakery goods in our room and head out to another shrine: Nogi Shrine, chosen from one of those “Best Top Ten” web pages, the photographs having looked interesting.

We took the subway there, exiting into a large building with the central courtyard open to the sky. So typically Japan, a very large stone placed in this open area. I’m ready to roll on through the building, but Dave has found a bakery he wants to try: Le Pain Quotidien (Roppongi area). We agree to walk to the shrine, then return to the bakery on our return trip. The street, the benches around the trees and even the beauty salon, Seek Hair Dressing, catch my eye.

This shrine’s white gate — different from the usual orangey-red color — designates the entry, along with the sentry stone lions and a pair of lanterns. I was to see that symbol on the lanterns over and over again, as it was this shrine’s logo: a sort of quilter’s nine-patch.

I was quite interested in the giant “bad fortunes” ball, as well as the little origami girl (I brought one home with me). So many traditional things escape me as an American, but I try. I think the little origami girl is a prayer signifier, that you buy and leave at the temple, similar to the ema–the wooden placards that are also to be left there. Whatever do they think of people like me, who bring them home?

We saw an antique and a newer slatted box (for tribute?) and when entering, left my folded book to be signed by the priests there, and given a stamp. When I got it back, I was pretty underwhelmed: just a few rubber stamps and no calligraphy.

To the side is this short gated staircase up to a small place for prayer and reflection. Since the shrine is empty, we pause for a photograph. I can tell we are trying to re-create our earlier Kyoto-Nara experience, but this is definitely not Kyoto.

sculpture in Nogi Memorial Park

This sculpture (unidentified) was in a tiny corner park, just outside the Nogi Shrine and a way into the restored wooden house of General Nogi.

While looking around, a priest clad in white robes, comes out and doesn a series of claps and bowing toward different parts of a small shrine next to the house. I found out this is a part of the prayers, kashiwade.

Interesting building, and his story is also interesting, but we were pretty quick in going through the area. We head back towards the subway, and only as we approach do I realize we’ve gone to the wrong station.

But we take photos (notice the gas station with the gas hoses coming from above), buy the best juice I’ve ever had (blackberry and black current) and get Dave his treat: a berry tartlett of some kind, which the bakery cut in two. We sit outside to eat our snack, breaking all the rules.

We are headed here: Aki-Oka Artisan collective, just around the corner from the Akihabara Station. This collective is a series of shops selling hand-made craft items. Only a couple of wrong turns out of the subway and we arrived a building underneath one of the elevated train lines. It was a somewhat industrial building, with asphalt under our feet on the main central aisle; shops opened off this central walkway.

This is the shop where they make the children’s backpacks. Price is in the hundreds of yen. No photos of this shop, but I snuck one of this, as well as of the umbrella shop:

Too pricey for me, but beautiful.

We walked also through a wood-oriented craft shop, with all kinds of gadgets, again, too pricey for humble tourists, yet down near the ned was a shop of tenugui, the Japanese wiping cloths. They allowed photos:

We headed back towards home, ducking into a tendon shop for lunch. I blithely indicated I’d have the special, not knowing what it was, after trying in vain to decipher what the menu said. (Google translate failed me on this one, I think partly because the writing was “billboard” style.) She brought out the soup, and there were strange curly bits of something…and they didn’t look like anything I’d ever eaten in my life before. I put one in my mouth: chewy, like rubber bands. Must be pig intestine, a very spicy pig intestine at that.

We ordered another bowl and while I waited, I checked out their rules. My soup came: much better. And yes, we paid for all three. From there I walked Dave to his meetings right by the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Since it was around 2 p.m. most of the market was closed, but I walked through the alleyways anyway, seeing that the lunch crowd had also come and gone. Some of the places to eat were large and people clustered around the signs seeing what there was to eat (the figure of the man, I think, is of a famous movie star or director). Other places were just a counter and bar stools. At this writing in 2021, the working part of the fish market has been relocated, although apparently all the shops and markets have not.

After a break, I head out again, looking for a nearby fabric store: Yuzawaya in the Ginza area, about a 10-minute walk from our hotel. I arrive at the store, or where I think the store should be: it’s on the same street as Uniqlo and Apple, but I look and can’t see it.

lighted window by the lobby of the building

I enter the double doors into a hotel-type lobby place. I approach the young woman dressed in a green outfit (including green velvet bowler hat) and point to the address and name on my phone (image above). She says “sixth floor,” and gestures to the elevator. Up I go.

I can see I should have come here, instead of going to Tomato fabrics, as everything looks modern and normal-looking. I could take hours in here and wish I had two suitcases (like in the old days of travel). Everything is well-priced and I pick up a basket and start picking up things to place into it…this and that. I then put back this to replace it with that, and on it goes.

They have fat quarters (of a meter) already packaged, as well as other many intriguing things not found in the USA. It’s evident I have moved beyond warehouse-style shopping of the Tomato fabrics street. I take my well-stuffed basket to the register and check out. She offers me the “club” card, I think, because of the total of my purchases. But she may well be instructed to offer it consistently (I didn’t get it).

Back down on the street, it is hopping. I head back to Itoya — such a great store — and pick up kerchiefs and notepads for gifts for my sisters (and for me). Then home to await Dave.

Dinner is from the Mitsukoshi Food Hall: ham and cheese rolls, salads, treats. We walk out through the subway so I can show Dave the beautiful blue Christmas tree. Being out in the Ginza tonight was really fun. There were just enough Christmas scenes and lights to spark seasonal cheer without being slugged to death with cheap Chinese imports, so common in America. The street that Itoya is on — Chuo-dori — has lots of lights, lots of people. It made me feel festive, ready for Christmas.

Back home, we divide up the food and enjoy the array of neon lights on the buildings across from us on our window. This day is done.

1 thought on “Nogi Shrine, Aki-Oka Artisan, and Yuzawaya Fabric Store”

  1. Oh my goodness I love reading these posts. Nogi Shrine is a 10 minute walk from my apartment. Food floor of Mituskoshi, so fun. I’ve never been to that artisan collective and must check that out after COVID! Agree – Chuo-dori so festive at Christmas. And more Itoya – yay!

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