Soaking up Japanese culture

Exactly two weeks ago today, we went to Ueno Park to check out the sakuras, we also went in the the National Museum. It has the most amazing collection of Japanese art as well as a real impressive archaeology collection. I just wished we ate before we went in and had more time. There were so much to see and be provoked by.

national museum

One of the authors I enjoy, Paulo Coelho actually reckons when you visit a country you shouldn’t visit their museums but just spend time hanging out in their coffee places and learn how other cultures live their lives. I don’t necessarily disagree but I’m more old fashion that learning about someone’s past will always throw light on how they live their lives today. So while I did my fair share of people watching in cafes, the museum opened my eyes to the evolution of Japanese art. They were always pushing the envelop and I guess that’s why they still do in so many way. Here’s my favourite shot from inside the museum.

japanese woman and traditional kimono

It isn’t posed at all, that’s a real Japanese lady in traditional wear enjoying the collection of kimonos through history. I pretty much stalked her through out the museum as the plan was to catch her in a shot but I lost her somewhere in between the silk paintings and samurai swords. Just when I started to look for another subject, I turned into the hall showcasing the kimonos and there she was 🙂

2 days later and on the only day that rained while I was in Tokyo, I visited the Yasukuni Shrine and Yashukan, the museum devoted to Japan’s military past. Yep, the one and only controversial Yashukan. So the weather seemed apt for the occasion and as I held my umbrella, enjoying the somewhat quiet walk into the shrine, I couldn’t help but feel sad for all the people who die in the fight of war. I’m a softie that way, empathy is the one emotion that usually fills me before anything else. Made me wonder as a race, when it comes to wars, the human race hasn’t evolved much.

the walk in

What did I think? Well, I figured everyone has their own version of the truth. Like the Akira Kurosawa’s film, Rashomon, we see what we can and want to see. It happens everyday, even in our own home turf. It still doesn’t make it right.


With that said, walking the grounds made me ponder between black and white, right and wrong. If my life experiences are anything to go by, grey is more common than anything else.  I have hope yet 🙂 Deep down in my sometime quietly cynical mind, my soul believes that everyone is good and at the end of all, it’ll all work out right.

Hachiko in Shibuya, Tokyo

When you get to the Shibuya station, there’s an exit called Hachiko. Everyone knows Hachiko, the little dog born in 1923 and belonged to a Professor who lived in the Shibuya area. This little puppy would wait for the professor everyday at the train station and they would walk home together. One day, the professor has a stroke and passes away in the university. Hachiko continues to go to the station everyday for the next 7 years before joining the Professor in heaven. How incredible is that?


So the Japanese people did up a bronze statue and placed it where he waited. Sweet, huh? Now people say, “Hey let’s meet by Hachiko.” Since it’s by the most popular crossing in the world, regardless of the time of the day, there are always heaps of people around him 🙂

hachiko, jules and me

This is quite the crazy crossing. Apparently, it sees about 2million people daily. That to me is a little insane but there’s a certain rush that fills you when you’re among the crowd making through the crossing.





It affects me in a way like the ferry ride in HK did. Not exactly the same way.

While in HK the ferry crossing took me away from the hustle and bustle, in Tokyo, the Shibuya crossing heightens the intense energy that is quintessential to Tokyo, Japan.  Two transient moments in two different cities, yet they both strangely inspired very similar poems I wrote.

I’m not feeling particularly brave today but when I do, I’ll post the poems up 😉