I had read that on the fourth Sunday of the each month they have an antique flea market at the Nogi Shrine in a part of Tokyo that was not too far from my hotel. I love old things and antiques make really cool souvenirs so I decided to start my day there.
I arrived early in the morning while the dealers were still setting up so I decided to walk around the shrine a bit. I had read a little bit about Shinto shrines before leaving for Japan but hadn’t planned on visiting one until I found out about the market so I didn’t pay too much attention. I watched what a young lady did when she did the ritual purification before entering and tried to do what she did. (Later when I got back, I read I missed a few steps). Hopefully I didn’t ruin the site for the followers and force the staff any extra work undoing what I may have accidentally done.
Since it was early, there were only a few people there. I watched as a grandmother tried to show a 3 or 4-year-old how to bow and pray before the shrine, but he only got about halfway though before jumping off the steps and running around. My biggest fear when visiting a religious site is looking like that kid. He was cute and could be forgiven for not wanting to observe the rituals. A middle-aged westerner is not so cute if he boorishly stomps around their holy site.
After spending a few peaceful minutes walking around, I went back out to look through the flea market. I saw many cool things but my lack of Japanese really hurt me there. I bought some things for myself and some loved ones but without being able to ask any real questions, I was unsure of the whole story of the things I was looking at.
Two things caught my eye. The first was an old postcard of the Nogi shrine (that can be see above) while the second was this photo:
If I could speak Japanese, I could have asked about the photo. Of course, if I could speak Japanese I probably could read the back and wouldn’t need to ask about it. So if anyone out there on the internet can read the script, please let me know what is says. I like a little mystery but only if it can be solved.
After buying my antiques, I walked through the garden to Gen. Nogi Maresuke’s house. Nogi was the tutor for Hirohito and served emperor Meiji. Nogi and his wife committed ritual suicide after Meiji’s funeral. His house was kept as a museum and the shrine to him was built next door.
As I walked through the garden a man in his late 60s who was sweeping leaves saw me and said in English “what country?” while pointing at me. I said “America” and he pointed to a dogwood tree which I had been eyeing and told me what its name was in Japanese. (It sounded like he said mizono). I’m guessing it was a North American variety and that’s why he was pointing it out. His two words of English were proof to me of his superior langauge skills to mine since I could only count to five in Japanese (plus say ‘yes’ and ‘thank you’) and had no idea on how to advance our conversation. I bowed and thanked him and walked to Nogi’s house.
I finished a quick walk around the house and stables and had a brief conversation with a guy from Europe who was surpised to find someone else not from Japan at place far off of the tourist scene. Follwing a walk back to the metro, I dropped my finds off of the hotel and got ready for the day’s big event, a Japanese baseball game.