As a way to defeat stay-at-home malaise, I'm sharing some pictures of the beautiful and remarkable places I've seen in my travels. Many of these experiences served as research for my novels, including EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE, due out this summer.
I first visited Japan last year in the late spring, and what an experience it was. [If you missed it the first time, or you'd like to read more, the post can be found HERE.]
This is the five story pagoda found at the site of the Sensōji Temple. Found in Asakusa, and built in the first century, this is the oldest of Tokyo's buddhist temple sites. [The buildings themselves are comparatively new, having been flattened during WWII.]
When I was there last year, the place was jammed. It's popular with visitors and devout locals alike, particularly in the springtime.
You enter the site through the brilliant Thunder Gate -- the Kaminarimon -- shown here.
This gate leads through the Nakamise, a 200 m long marketplace, and then through a second set of gates and into the temple itself. I don't generally do very well in crowds, but this was worth the crush [and being a tall girl helped, too!]
The contrast of this ancient site with big city Tokyo is striking, of course. I stayed in Shibuya, but tried to get through as many of the other special wards in the city as I could -- Shinjuku and Sendagaya being particular favourites.
Tokyo, like many of the big cities I've visited, is a shopper's paradise, but for someone with a single carry-on bag, it was all window-shopping for me. [It's possible I bought a new Japanese fountain pen or two, however...]
As with Hong Kong, I was amazed by how much of the city shopping --including groceries -- is done in highrise centres. I had a lot of fun just walking through all these districts and taking it all in.
Shinjuku is also home to Harajuku, known as a massive shopping district, including a three story cat cafe. But to the other side of the train station, I found the entrance to the Yoyogi Park, home to the Meiji Shrine.
This huge gate -- the largest Torii of its kind in Japan -- welcomes you into an unexpectedly mammoth park within the city. Yoyogi is awash [when I was there, at least] in koi ponds filled with water lilies, gardens laden with iris and bonsai, and even a lucky garden well.
[I also managed to pick up my first-ever case of poison ivy while traipsing around...].
And finally, no post on Japan would be complete without a look at one of the public conveniences -- that marvel of engineering known as the Toto.
Check this out:
I should mention that my hotel room housed just a regular toilet -- the one pictured here was found inside the Tokyo airport. Please note that you can select the area you'd like to have hosed down [ladies can avail themselves in the front or back!] AND privacy is provided via a button [marked with a musical note] which will play a flushing sound while you tinkle. After which you can opt for a full blow-dry, should you so choose. [Confession: I...I couldn't bring myself to try it out in a public facility, I have to say. Perhaps I just didn't have enough confidence in the wand sanitizing?]
My final experience in Tokyo was a magnitude 5.0 earthquake that rumbled through the airport as I was waiting to catch my plane to Hong Kong. The quake, which was centred just across Tokyo Bay near Chiba, made the entire airport sway gently. After the floor settled again, the only person other than myself who reacted at all was a British woman, sitting across from me awaiting her own flight. While we bulged our eyes at each other in shock, everyone else just got on with business as usual, Japan-style. Amazing.
A quick reminder as we say goodbye to Tokyo that this is your last chance to sign up for my newsletter, and get your name in the draw for Tony Ollivier's new thriller, THE AMSTERDAM DECEPTION. I'll be drawing for two copies -- one for a new subscriber since the last issue and one among the pool of already subscribed. Winners get to choose between signed hard copy or an instant digital copy. So if you haven't done it yet, sign up today! The link is on the bottom of this page. The next issue, arriving in your inbox the first week of May, will have an interview with Tony about his debut novel and lots of other book news and recommendations. And don't forget to tune in to the blog later next week, for a new virtual journey to another part of our beautiful planet!