With the weather gloriously sunny yet cool, we decided Thursday would be our parks and shrines day. First stop: The Imperial Palace East Garden. The park is free, they give you a pass when you enter that you must return at the end. This is to keep the number of people in the park at anytime low. The center of the garden is a big spacious opening, there are various walls and terraces you can climb up for a better view. On the sides of the garden were several little trails that took you through bamboo and trees. The best part was the small lake on the east portion, there were bridges and pavilions that wrapped around it. There are also several koi that you can watch swimming around, which under the shade of the large trees.
After the park we headed to the west side of town, having lunch at a ramen restaurant in Shibuya. The place was in a small basement only able to seat maybe 10-15 people. There were only one waiter and a cook. The waiter helped us with the vending machine, where we had to purchase our orders. There are pictures of everything they have. Miso ramen, Everything Ramen, beer, etc. You put your money in, push all the buttons for items you want, then take a ticket and change. We gave the tickets to the waiter who then asked us for our preferences on noodles (thin/thick, hard/soft.) After he gave us a pitcher of water and went back upstairs to advertise to potential patrons. I ordered the miso ramen, which was just a little spicy and came with pork. After a tiring morning walking, it was the needed rejuvenation.
The last stop for the day was the Meiji Shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The park around the shrine was quiet extensive, we ended up spending around an hour and a half just walking around. At the entrance to the shrine is a small sink like a fountain with many large wooden dippers. This area is meant for you to cleanse your mouth and hands for prayer to the gods. You fill the dipper with water, then first pour some over your left hand, followed by your right. After your hands are finished you pour some into your left hand and sip it. Finally, the remaining water is poured out of the dipper when you hold it vertically, cleansing the utensil for the next visitor. It was my favorite of the two nature stops of our day, as tall trees surrounded you on large open paths, blocking out a lot of the city sounds, only the faint sounds of the occasional train seemed to break the silence.
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