Rainbow Bridge Walk

The Rainbow Bridge is a Tokyo landmark connecting the island of Odaiba with the rest of the city. At the end of Golden Week, I decided to walk across it and see a different view of Odaiba and Tokyo Bay. It’s actually quite a nice spot and I was quite happy with some of the photos.

Everyone knows that Odaiba is a man-made island, but I had no idea that it dates back from just after World War II or that there were once seven such “daiba” built or planned during the Edo Period for defense against the West. They were originally called houdai, and they contained cannon batteries and powder magazines. This photo shows the Daisan Daiba (third daiba), which is now a very nice and little-visited park that you can get to from the Odaiba side.

The famous Fuji TV building.

The walk along the bridge usually starts from Tamachi Station on the Yamanote Line. Go out the West Exit and walk straight down Nagisa Dori Street, and you will come to the bridge after a 10 or 15 minute  walk. Shibaura Station on the subway Yurikamome Line.

These fire department boats were practicing for some kind of display.

This is the Dairoku Daiba. It has been left to nature, and no visitors allowed on it. It seems a little strange in such a crowded city. If you know why it has neither been developed nor destroyed, please leave the answer in the comments!

The air on the Tokyo side is quite dirty, and the scenery is rather  industrial, so if you just want to go for the views, it might be better to start from Tokyo Teleport Station on the Odaiba side and not cross.

Here’s an interesting post (Japanese only) about the history of the area’s development:

http://oldmaproom.aki.gs/m03a_coastline/m03a_daiba/daiba.htm

Buddhist Pet Funerals

I hear the word “pettoro-su” (pet loss) surprisingly often these days, and it seems a lot of funeral parlors and graveyards are springing up to help bereaved owners put their loved ones to rest. One of the biggest companies is called Petto Ceremoni- Makoto (Sincere Pet Ceremonies), and it offers a wide range of pet funerals and cremations.

If you want to give your pet a sendoff, they have contracts with Buddhist temples to perform ceremonies.

After the funeral, you can have your pet’s ashes stores in a charnel house. According to their brochure, “The Shou Kannon watches over the charnel house. It’s said to be a Bodhisattva with great compassion, so you’ll be able to feel confident that your beloved pet’s soul is resting in peace through it’s enfolding kindness.” The urn storage service is free the first year, and costs 5,000 yen per year after that.

Here’s an article with more information about pet funerals: http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20090702-152168.html

Gogatsu Ningyo, the Dolls of Boys’ Day

Japan has some of the most amazing dolls in the world, and when I went to visit my wife’s family during Golden Week, I was surprised to see that one of the rooms in the house had been taken over by an enormous display of gogatsu ningyo (literally ‘May dolls’) in honor of my new son.

The official name of the holiday being celebrated is Kodomo no Hi, or Children’s Day, and it comes on May 5th, every year, but it used to be called Tango no sekku, and was originally just for boys. The festival is centuries old, and no one knows exactly where it came from or how it originated, but there are some theories here.

Anyway, it’s basically a day to wish for the health and happiness of male children, and there are a lot of masculine symbols associated with it, like the above tiger and the below carp.

These are irises, the flower that gives the festival its old name, Shobu no Sekku. Irises were used in purifying rituals, and because the word for iris, shobu, sounds like the word for military spirit, it also became associated with samurai virtues.

The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The Kagaku Miraikan in Tokyo’s Odaiba district really is a museum that everyone should see. I went there a month or so ago, and it put me in a good mood for a week thinking about all the ways that technology is going to improve our lives in the next few years. Quantum computing, robots, and incredible medical advances are going to radically change our society, and this amazing museum gives you a tantalizing look at what’s coming.
The displays on robots, the Internet, new medical techniques, and much more are mostly all hands on and informative, and there are dozens of talks and demonstrations (unfortunately all in Japanese) that are just fascinating.
For example, I heard a mini-lecture on why Japan needs the supercomputer that the government tried to slash funding for last year. They explained that one very good reason is that it would take about 30 minutes for a tsunami off the Ogasawara Islands to reach Tokyo. With current computers, they can predict whether the tsunami would hit Tokyo in about two hours. With the controversial new supercomputer, it could be predicted in just two minutes.

Most of the exhibits are bilingual, and they have a website in English with details about how to get there and opening times at: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nb20091217a3.html

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