Tokyo from the modern to ancient

Asimo the robot.
Asimo the robot.

The World always looks better after a good night’s sleep. So it was with a bounce in our step we set of to navigate Tokyo’s wonderful public transport system to  Maraikan – The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

Tokyo’s transport system is a joy to use. The signs are clearer than back home, the trains run constantly, the interchanges are a doddle, and tickets are simple to buy. We caught a train a few stops and then transferred to a driverless monorail to travel out to the reclaimed islands that are Tokyo’s newest suburbs. These islands are not only by the sea, but a couple of decades ago were the sea. There’s a lot of Tokyo where you can see the futuristic evidence of the economic powerhouse that Japan was in the 70s and 80s, although there are also signs of slippage since the crash of the mid-90s.

The Maraikan is an absolutely fabulous museum. It is clever, well designed and jammed with fascinating stuff. We saw Asimo the humanoid robot strut his stuff; some great exhibits on  scientific innovation ; a wonderful presentation on mathematical modelling; got to go inside the International Space Station and a deep-sea submersible; and enjoyed a pile of other things. Really we could have spent days there, but we were on a schedule.

Tears - Baby memorial at Shiba Park.
Tears – Baby memorial at Shiba Park.

We were meeting Jennifer’s Japanese cousins for lunch. In the 1930s a missionary came out from New Zealand, ended up marrying a Japanese woman and stayed. We had lunch with his son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter. Lovely people and a lovely authentic lunch looking out over Tokyo. I was fascinated to hear Roy tell of his father who had remained at Tokyo University throughout the War teaching English – a tricky and awkward position to be in, in so many ways. Our boys managed to impress the locals with their deep knowledge of Shogunate period Japan – largely, strangely enough, gleaned from computer games.

After lunch we visited the Pokemon Centre for Declan to revel in Pokemon overload. He walked away with a souvenir and a broad smile. We also ran into Japan’s latest girl-band craze strutting their very peculiarly Japanese stuff, which we though vastly amusing but the entirely male crowd of fans clearly found entirely captivating.

Shiba Park was the highlight of the day. Just round the corner from our hotel, we were surprised to find it was a stunning temple which had sat in this spot for over 500 years and was dedicated to the Tokugawa Shoguns. The lovely grounds were full of pathos though because the shrine is used to pray for the spirits of unborn children who die; an army of little statues stand behind ranks of gently rotating whirlygigs. We saw a memorial ceremony involving monks drumming and chanting. It was a hypnotic, moving scene brought to a close for us by the time being tolled by a novice on a n enormous bell. A scene which could have dropped out of almost anywhere in the last few hundred years as long as you didn’t raise your eyes to see the surrounding, thriving, utlra-modern city.

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