|Top: SMS in action, bottom L: Seated Buddha seen through the gate R: monk entering side building|
First, we went to Tennoji Temple. There are beautiful temple buildings, a seated bronze Buddha from the 1690s and bronze Jizo statue, guardian of children’s spirits. It was a beautiful day and such a tranquil space. SMS took a cute picture of the resident cat that was napping in the sun. I took a cute picture of SMS taking his cute picture!
|Left: Seated Buddha Right: Jizo, with young school children in uniform in base relief|
|Tokugawa Shogunate Plot Area and nearby blooming Plum Tree|
Next, we walked through the Yanaka Cemetery. SMS took a few photos at the Tokugawa plot area, where there was a small temple. Next, we walked to the foundation remains of the Tennoji Temple’s Five-Story Pagoda that was burned down by arson in 1957. I took pictures of the signs because in so many places, temples have burned down but I’ve never seen photo-documentation before.
We briefly stopped by the Kannonji Temple, where we saw the small pavilion dedicated to the 47 masterless Samurai who avenged their master’s death and then committed Seppuku. This apparently is the plot for a popular Kabuki play. Not quite my response when I change bosses but still, an interesting monument.
|Left: SMS and a temple wall from the 1200s Right: Street in Yanaka|
Next, we went to the highlight of our Yanaka Day: the Asakura Museum of Sculpture, Taito. Asakura Fumio (1883-1964) was a gifted artist and designed his own studio and home. It is now a museum and really an incredible place. The modern, black facade that houses the studio and the bulk of the displayed sculptures yields to a very traditionally designed Japanese-style home in the back. It’s huge! The house is three stories with several rooms. There is a large rooftop garden with a nice view of the surrounding neighborhood. The center is a courtyard with a rock garden and small pools designed with five large rocks to represent Confucian ideals.
I highly recommend a visit for several reasons. First, the sculptures are absolutely beautiful. What most impressed me was how he could show the age of a person through his/her skin and wrinkles. It was so delicately wrought, even in such a seemingly rigid medium as sculpture. His busts and full-size figure works were amazing. He also had several sculptures of his beloved dog Star and several of his housecats that were perfectly proportioned.
A second reason to visit is that the house is very beautiful and a gorgeous example of traditional Japanese architecture. It’s very soothing to walk around a centrally designed house with an calming courtyard garden and cool tatami under my feet. The Fodor’s guide said that the house wasn’t worth much time but SMS and I strongly disagree!
|A surreptitious photo from the rooftop garden. No photos were allowed inside the museum. Sads.|
SMS walked from the museum to Yanaka Ginza, a pedestrian-only, uncovered shopping street. There were lots of tempting tasty snacks for sale such as croquettes, squid crackers and savory crepe-like pancakes. The shops were also very cute, ranging from food stands to crafts. We were starting to speed up our day a little by this point so I would love to go back and stroll a little more leisurely.
Sights we saw on the way to Yanaka Ginza included Tabisurumishinten, a small craft store with a very nice young artist who was selling his book covers, cards and assorted fabrics designed with his hand drawings of cute animals. There was also a small temple just before the shopping arcade started, but we didn’t see any signs.
|Small, unnamed (to us) temple; cute shopping cats! Yanaka loves its cats!|
|Top: Nezu Entrance Left: SMS looking more Zen than he felt Right: Small Stream|
|Top Left: So that’s where the Statue of Liberty went! Top Right: Tidepool, Bottom: Rainbow Bridge, slightly
higher vantage point than where SMS set up his camera
Finally, we had a delicious dinner at Mamma Luisa’s Table. It is a great restaurant in Ebisu. The ambiance was great. The decor was nice and the patrons very eclectic. There were English speakers and Japanese and the owner was conversant in several languages. He’s from Florence originally and the food was a standout. We were so hungry when we got there but it was worth it- even SMS said so and he hates pushing into the hangry territory! We had an assorted bruschetta plate, an amazing orange/beet/mozzarella salad, a tagliatelle dish with pork ragout/cauliflower/Brussel sprouts and a pillow-like gnocchi dish that was the best gnocchi I’ve ever had. I highly recommend the place and I hope to go back soon.