Japan is usually such a nice place to visit. Spring? Cherry blossoms! Fall? Beautiful autumnal colors and cool, crisp weather. Winter? To be honest, winter in Japan (unless you're living in the more northern Tohoku region or in Hokkaido) is a pretty mild affair. But SUMMER is the WORST. It's humid, like, all the time. You sweat when you walk, you sweat when you sleep, you sweat just sitting their in your apartment cursing the sun. Your clothes don't dry because the air is essentially water. I would almost prefer that it rained more than it does...it's called the "rainy season" and while, yes, it does rain a bunch it doesn't rain as often as one would assume. The rain, at least, gives you a break from the humidity. So humidity + yesterday and today's 97-ish degree weather meant that when my mom and I were outside we were both suffering. But! We soldiered on.
Our first stop yesterday was the massive Ueno Park complex, which is essentially like Chicago's museum campus.
Our first stop was the Tokyo National Museum (which, as it turns out, was ALSO a series buildings rather than just one...)
This was the main building, which had exhibits that I would describe as excellent surveys for the history of Japanese art, spanning the Jomon Period (14,000-300 BCE) all the way through to the Edo and Meiji periods. For me, since I had taken a Japanese art and architecture history class, it was like the classroom came to life:
Here is one of the dogu, clay figurines, that I studied. Art historians don't really know what dogu were used for, but the speculation is, of course, "ritual purposes."
Haniwa, on the other hand, had a distinct funerary purpose. In the Kofun Period (~200- 500 AD) nobles and other notables were buried in keyhole-shaped mounds called kofun. They were terraced, sort of like ziggurats, and the dead in question were buried in the center of the circular part of the "keyhole." These haniwa were placed around the perimeter of the mound; there were animals, houses, soldiers, and attendant-shaped figures delineating the boundary of the gravesite.
This was a sword that once belonged to both Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu.
We also poked our heads into the National Museum of Western Art (because the internet told us to) and while it was a perfectly serviceable museum I don't have any photos.
On our way out we passed by Shinobazu Pond, which is completely covered with lotus blossoms.
I swear, that's the pond:
Exhausted by our museum-wanderings and by the heat, I took my mom to Wagashi Kurogi, a traditional Japanese sweets cafe located in the (somewhat) nearby Todai Campus. Each month the cafe has a rotating flavor of kakigori (Japanese shaved ice) and I figured it would be a good place to beat the heat. We did have to wait about 30 minutes for a table, but this was the result:
An absolutely MASSIVE edamame-flavored kakigori. I know that making edamame sweet and then dumping the resulting puree-sauce-thing over shaved ice and tucking some red bean in the center and then pairing it with coffee sounds weird it was actually delicious. Impossible to finish in my case, but delicious.
Today my mom and I continued our cultured museum experiences at the Nezu Museum, a small but charming museum near Omotesando. There was a special exhibit about Japanese and Chinese ceramic dishes, which was lovely. More lovely, however, was the traditional Japanese garden:
The garden, seen from the inside of the museum.
A peacefully floating boat.
My mom, wandering up into a shrine. The enshrined deity had a bunch of pens left as offerings for some reason. Google did not immediately reveal why.
We also went to Meiji Jingu!
Wrapping up the evening we continued our recent trend of "huge piles of things to eat" with this A-5-grade wagyu nabe (hotpot) at a restaurant near to our Shinjuku hotel, where we are staying for my mom's last few days. My commute to work has been shortened to five minutes, if that!
"Look, ma! I can see my office from my (hotel) window!"