Tokyo Trip 2024 – Day 2

It is 10:44 AM and I’m sitting at a Mister Donut near Yanaka Ginza. As usual I woke up very early, got my sento and was out the door.

The first stop was Shinjuku to learn the station layout. With my family arriving I want to know where I am going and the station is enormous. I was a bit intimidated yesterday as being Sunday, it was busier than usual and I got a bit lost. Being a weekday today it was surprisingly less crowded (by Shinjuku standards) and I have it figured out. I needed to know the best route to the hotel as well as how to get from West to East. I learned that the main corridors are just one big circle around the center with the passages from East <-> West are North and South. My family will be bringing luggage and with ten people I don’t want to make them walk farther than necessary. As I write this I now remember I forgot to find out where the “Romance Car” (train to Hakone) is located. Oh well, I can do that tomorrow.

My first stop today was a visit to visit a memorial to Yaoya Oshichi (八百屋お七) at Enjō-Ji. She was a girl of 16 who had to stay at the temple after the great fire in 1682 where she fell in love with a samurai. Hoping to see him again she attempted arson and was burnt at the stake. The magistrate knowing she was a minor attempted to help her avoid the death sentence by twice asking if she were 15 years old, the oldest age to avoid that gruesome sentence. Not understanding he was trying to help answered twice that she was 16.


This is one of those historical gems I occasionally find when reading historical books. I found her in “Five Women Who Loved Love” by Ihara Saikaku. Even though I’ve read many historical books I cannot understand what life might have been like in 1682 Tokyo. However, I can understand the flame of passion when young as I was young once too. Times were very restrictive back then and committing that unfortunate act doesn’t seem too outlandish for a young person consumed by love. Standing silently in front of that memorial with ancient memorial stones I said hello and wondered if she could perhaps hear me in whatever plane of existence she now resides. I imagined she would be pleased that a foreigner from a land then unknown to her would come visit her memorial 400 years later. We are all souls spending a brief time in this reality and all experience the same emotions regardless of the timeframe in which we are born.

This makes me think of death and my belief that it is not the end. However, I’ve not come to a conclusion if after death we simply reside in the void in a state of “無” (no thoughts), if we can be reincarnated, if we pop back into existence to live the same life again, or perhaps in other times. I read with enthusiasm current science on the universe and it may be the universe expands, then contracts and is created anew. Would we just repeat the same events of the previous universe, would everything be different, and would we even be apart of it?

Nobody can say for certain but what I do know is we have very little idea of what this reality truly is and I think the closest we can come to an understanding is through quiet meditation and perhaps an enlightening which unfortunately, I’m a long way from achieving.

The second stop was to Yanaka Ginza which I discovered thanks to Instagram / YouTube. I may have arrived too early and been too influenced by the very hot weather, but to me it was just a usual shopping street selling random goods along with the usual pastry and beverage shops you’d find anywhere.

I’d say the best part was a serendipitous discovery of a small temple and graveyard I found while waiting for the shops to open. Kyōōji temple is right next door and I sat in contemplation of the graves and those at rest there. I thought of my Father-in-Law who I miss tremendously. I always remember seeing him in the morning sitting on the floor reading the newspaper with his coffee and making a “gomi-box” or little trash box out of a piece of paper. He spent his whole life in the same house, making his life in the quiet countryside of Saitama for 70 odd years and now he is gone. We’re here, we have a life, and then we go. Yet the city and activity continues on without us and everything we’ve done is eventually forgotten. 70 years of living a life and eventually nobody will remember it or that we even existed. As I sat next to the temple looking at the graves I wondered about the lives of those who are interned there. Most would have spent their existence in this neighborhood and I imagine the neighborhood now looks unrecognizable to them with the relentless pace of change.

As I look out the window from the 2nd story of Mr. Donut I see housewives riding their “Mama Cheri” going about their errands, women walking by with umbrellas to shade them from the sun, taxis looking for passengers and motorbikes taking people to their jobs or doing deliveries. The majority are only focused on the here and now but how many remember or can feel the echos of the past, a past which goes back millennia. Most of it has been paved over with concrete, old structures demolished to create high rise living spaces, shops selling goods and restaurants selling food which would seem strange and foreign to those just a few decades ago. Everyone going about their lives and eventually just like those in the graveyard will be gone to be replaced with the younger generation who, in turn will have forgotten what and who now exist.

Thinking this way it makes all our modern activities seem kind of pointless. Perhaps the monks are on to something when they say we should spend more time in meditation preparing for the eventuality of death. It is like there is a trip coming up which everyone is obliged to take, yet nobody packs their bags or does any type of planning what-so-ever. They’re just going to get on the train, whenever that train comes and give no more thought to the matter.

My plan was to simply visit a shopping district found on YouTube and I ended up contemplating life and death.

My next stop is to nearby Nezu Shrine which I didn’t have in my itinerary but is nearby and I’ve got time. It is an interesting feeling not having a place I can return to midday and sleep. I don’t believe I’m allowed back to the capsule hotel until 3:00 PM, and it would be a waste of time going all the way to my mother-in-laws house for just a rest, so here I am wandering the streets of Tokyo occasionally looking for a place to just sit down and take a break. That place now is the wonderful Mr. Donut where I wish they served bigger ice coffees as I’ve drunk mine and there isn’t any courtesy water.

After Nezu Shrine I’ll head to Shibuya to remember the layout of that large station. Again, it is for the benefit of my family so we don’t get lost. Actually, it is for my benefit as well because those stations are small cities in themselves with shops both gigantic and tiny, so plenty to see. My main objective is to find the quickest route to Shibuya Sky which I’ve never been to but has gotten very popular recently per Instagram and Tiktok.

I’ll go ahead and post now, but will most likely add more once the objectives above have been completed.

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/