Adventures in Kawagoe, actually, but that didn't start with an A. ;-)
We don't have many free days in our schedule, since we have class for half the day, six days a week. This past weekend, however, we got a Saturday off. Hooray! (It's sad when you celebrate not having school on a Saturday, similar to "Hooray, I have enough to eat for the next two days!" or "Hooray, the doctor says that squirrel flu season is shorter this year!") So I wanted to make my free day count.
It was several hundred degrees outside, but I didn't want to let that stop me. I'd been wanting to go to Kawagoe, a town about a half an hour outside of Tokyo, ever since that I'd heard it was called 'Little Edo' and had lots of historic buildings and temples. (I have a mad love of history, only rivaled by my mad love of architecture.)
Of course, I had no idea where the historic district in Kawagoe was in relation to the train station, but I wasn't going to let that stop me either. Operating on my two general principles of A) maps are for weaklings, and B) any direction you choose is automatically the right one, I decided to set out and see what I came across.
What I came across ended up being shrines. Lots and lots of shrines. These aren't the giant shrines that serve as tourist attractions. They're small, out of the way, and fairly deserted. I took pictures and tossed in a coin at each one I came across. I felt like I was on a pilgrimage: The Pilgrim's Progress of Beautiful Buildings. Fortunately for me and the citizens of Kawagoe, I made it to the Kurazakuri Zone, where all the old houses are, before I died of heatstroke. I did end up picking up a map there, but I'll maintain that it was only because the nice tourist office lady offered it to me.
The houses were lovely.
And then there were the turtles.
On the way to the Kita-in Temple, I stumbled across another temple (which turned out to be the Naritasan Temple, although I didn't know that at the time). It was pretty cool, but nothing out of the ordinary…until I found the turtles.
It was simply happenstance; I found a small path that wound around a small statue of Buddha and a shrine area. I decided to walk around it to get a closer look at the statue. There was a bridge and walkway over a small pool. And when I looked down…there they were. So many turtles.
I probably sat and watched those turtles for twenty minutes, just thinking. About home, about Japan, about everything I've seen and done since I've been here. Tokyo's not known for being a peaceful spot, but the Naritasan temple is definitely one of the most peaceful places I've ever been.
Alas, none of the turtles were ninjas. On second thought, that might have been for the best.
-Kendra Leigh Speedling