May 27: Tokyo: Edo Museum, Asakusa Temple
The Mandarin Oriental Tokyo provides security by having a reception on the first floor and the check in on the 38th floor. Rooms are accessed by room key activated elevators to floors below. As expected, the room was over the top. We took breakfast this morning at a window table in the French restaurant, Signature, where we each ordered two eggs Benedict. Poached eggs with orange yolks were served upon a bed of crab over an egg-sized muffin, and covered with a lightly seared Hollandaise sauce. Sliced lobster lay between the two eggs. We learned from the waitress that the chickens were fed three varieties of red flowers to produce yolks of such a color. Filled with this delightful breakfast, the view, and two cups of cappuccino, we boarded the motor coach for the Edo Museum.
The Edo Museum was a good accounting of the Edo period of Tokyo history and culture – 1603 to 1868. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_period The museum experience begins upon crossing a replica of the “Nihonbashi” Bridge. One enters the Edo-Tokyo Museum permanent exhibit from 1590, when Tokugawa Ieyasu first built Edo, renamed Tokyo during the Meiji Era. The Nihonbashi Bridge has been called the center of Tokyo and of Japan; we walked across that bridge on several occasions.
The permanent exhibit at the Edo-Tokyo Museum showcases politics, culture, and an insight into the lifestyle of the people from its birth to present day Tokyo. During 265 years starting in 1603, Japanese society was controlled by a succession of Tokogawa shoguns who instilled order; influences of this period are seen today, as Japanese we met follow rules of etiquette. One instance: Amy, on my left, and I were walking back to our hotel, and came to a small cross street. The walking figure light was red (Stop). As there were no cars coming, and with a New York mindset, Amy started to cross the street. A pedestrian on my right stepped in front of me and gently guided Amy back onto the curb. The Tokogawa shoguns have left an indelible mark. The museum was a good review of much information we had received from Brenna Shay, our tour director and the two local guides, Tomo-san and Micky-san. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo-Tokyo_Museum .
Uniquely Japanese, Kabuki theater was started in 1603 in Kyoto where we saw the original theater. Read about this Japanese art form: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabuki
Next stop before lunch, we were driven to the Buddhist Asakusa Kannon Sensoji Temple, established in the sixth century and the busiest in Tokyo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensō-ji The temple is situated next to the Nakamise shopping arcade comprised of 89 shops which had been established by the Tokogawa shogunate between 1688 – 1735, to allow those neighbors who received and served visitors to Sensoji Temple a special right to open their shops in the approach to the temple. This was said to be the beginning of Nakamise. The present generation of shop owners operate with an inherited deed. http://www.asakusa-nakamise.jp/e-history.html .
We took the afternoon off to reconnect with a Japanese couple whom we met in 1970 when Nobu and I were interns. I had seen Nobu with his oldest daughter Momi once about 20 years ago, but this would be the first time to catch up with Kuni. We spent four hours just talking in our hotel room. We then went by cab to a small restaurant in Ginza which served simply the best sushi and Hida beef imaginable. To top the evening, we took the subway back to our hotel which had a stop three levels below ground floor, the Mitsukoshimae G12 stop named for the famous retail store, Mitsukoshi next door, that first sold kimonos with payment at the time of sale. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsukoshi