I entered the JNTO Visit Japan Year 2010 Essay Contest because I wanted to visit the places that had inspired the Edo period poet, Yosa Buson. Although Yosa Buson lived during the eighteenth century, images of nature found in his poetry can still be seen around the modern city of Tokyo.
I was so thrilled to learn that I was the Grand Prize winner! Continental Airlines provided two round trip tickets between Newark and Narita and Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel awarded a room for two nights. Continental Airlines kindly assigned seats with lots of leg room for my father and me. Cerulean Tower Tokyo Hotel is located in a modern tall building near the Shibuya Station that makes travel around the city easy. The hotel staff was courteous and helpful. The room we stayed in was spacious and had a city view. Shibuya is a bustling dining and shopping district in downtown Tokyo with massive crowds of young people.
In Tokyo, I found the Senso-ji (Asakusa Kannon Temple) most exciting. It is a popular temple devoted to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. Legend says, during the seventh century, fishermen found a statue of Kannon in the Sumida River and founded the original temple. We entered the market street called Nakamise-dori through the Gate of Thunder. The street is lined with colorful stores selling wind chimes, masks, combs and kimonos. There are so many shops selling rice crackers, green tea ice, and mochis of all shapes and colors. Nobody ever left the Gate of Thunder hungry!
One day, we visited Nikko. I was most interested in the Tosho-gu, a shrine-mausoleum built in the seventeenth century for Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. There are wood carvings of the famous Three Monkeys, See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Speak No Evil. There is also the famous image of the Sleeping Cat which the tradition says was carved and painted by the artist Hidari Jingoro. Like the poet Yosa Buson, Hidari Jingoro lived during the Edo period. Like Hidari, I am a cat lover.
Another day, we toured Kamakura. I was most impressed by the huge bronze statue of Kotoku-in Daibutsu (Great Buddha) and its story. The Great Buddha was completed in the mid-thirteenth century. In 1495, a tsunami (tidal wave) swept away the hall that housed the Buddha. The statue has been sitting in the open ever since.
At the start of my trip, I was nervous about trying to speak Japanese. I pleasantly found out that most people appreciated my effort. I could actually make myself understood! It was a wonderful feeling. I enjoyed very much seeing the beautiful images and places that inspired Yosa Buson's poetry. The rich experience of this trip helped me to better understand Yosa Buson, a poet from another age and another country, but now a friend whose poetry I am now able to appreciate with greater understanding.