CONTRIBUTED BY CHRISTINE BRUNS
During a trip to Tokyo, my family spent a fun day exploring Tokyo Tower and the nearby Zojoji Temple. We woke up bright and early (well, not too early – didn’t want to get on the subway during rush hour!) and headed over to Tokyo Tower. It was a quick 2-stops on the subway from our hotel (the New Sanno) and my son was excited, as he had seen the tower in the Cars 2 movie and short.
Tokyo Tower is very similar to Paris’ Eiffel Tower, and is actually a little bit taller. The tower is painted orange and white to comply with the area’s aviation requirements. It was the tallest structure in Japan before the Tokyo Skytree was built in 2011. The tower has two mascots, named Older Brother (in blue) and Younger Brother (in red), who were created in 1998 to celebrate its 40th anniversary. We boarded the elevator to the first level and enjoyed the view.
You could purchase small, wooden plaques (known as Ema) to write wishes or prayers on. Ema are left at shrines in the hopes that spirits will take them and grant the wishes. We had to make sure my son’s toy Mater and McQueen made it to the top of Tokyo Tower, so we also purchased tickets up to the top level. I laughed when I saw the sign mentioning that operation of the Special Observatory could be suspended in rough weather.
And then we boarded the elevator, where all you saw was glass and beams…and felt it swaying in the wind…not cool! Okay, a little cool. It afforded great views of the neighboring temple, the Skytree, Odaiba Island, and Mt. Fuji in the distance.
After I peeled my husband and son away from the inner wall, down we went… to yet another observation deck, which had these cool lookdown windows, in varying sizes:
At the bottom level, we looked over the displays, posed for pictures with the mascots, and stopped for lunch in the downstairs cafeteria. We picked the stall and food we wanted, and then had to feed money into a wall machine to get our order tickets. Thankfully, there were matching pictures and we had sort of figured out the dollar-won-yen conversion rates at this point. We weren’t totally sure what we had ordered, other than rice and noodle soups, but it was pretty darn tasty.
Our next stop was the basement level Aquarium, since our little guy loves all things ocean related. It was simple and mostly large tanks, but it was a nice little aquarium. We fed the koi fish a quick treat at the end and then headed outside.
We took a walk through the neighboring Shiba Park, found the remains of the Suiro aqueduct, and admired the park’s entry gate, which is guarded by two serious looking statues.
Right next door to Tokyo Tower is the Zojoji Temple, the main temple for the Jodu sect of Buddhism, founded in 1393.
It was very peaceful and the grounds have a number of statues, memorials, and other items of note – I managed to fill up a good portion of my camera this day.
Among all of the great things to see, we found a tree planted by George H. W. Bush in 1982 when he visited as Vice President, a water station to quench our thirst, a giant ceremonial bell (Daibonsho), and the main hall (Daiden).
After quietly gazing on the very ornate buddha and musical instruments inside the hall, we ventured to the building next door (Ankokuden), where there was a prayer service with drumming going on. After purchasing some items in the gift shop, we walked around the grounds for a bit more. There is one side garden completely filled with stone statues of children, representing the stillborn babies of Japan, where parents can go to pray for a quick trip to the afterlife for their lost little ones. A very solemn sight, indeed.
There were more messages and wish emas here. We also found one more interesting tree of note – a giant Himalayan Cedar, planted in 1879 by President Ulysses S. Grant when he visited the temple.
While many who visit Tokyo opt to go to the newer Skytree or the Asakusa Temple, this day was just right for our family and we had a great time.
Tokyo Tower Information: www.tokyotower.co.jp/eng/secret/
Tower Google Coordinates: 35.65858, 139.745433
Zojoji Temple Information: www.zojoji.or.jp/en/index.html
Temple Google Coordinates: 35.657424,139.748208