Ganbaro Nippon! (Visiting Zojyoji & Tokyo Tower)

Continuing my mission to find “new” places to explore in Tokyo, I headed over to Zojyoji and Tokyo Tower on Saturday 16th April (after my visit to the Tokyo Daibutsu). Somehow I had managed to visit Tokyo a number of times and never visit Tokyo Tower – and I had never heard of Zojyoji! Someone recommended it to me because it has a lot of Jizo statues… a lot is an understatement!

Approaching Zojyoji from Hamamatsu-cho Station, you can see an interesting combination of temple and tower in the main street:

Tokyo Tower

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Zojyoji & Tokyo Tower

I really like this highly photographable combination of old and new.

Zojyoji’s huge grounds are entered by this impressive gate:

Zojyoji

Before going to the main temple building, I had a look around the sides and found some nice statues and Buddhist art:

Zojyoji

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Buddha's feet

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Zojyoji

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Zojyoji

I also found a pigeon who seemed a little confused about how to wash his hands before approaching the temple:

Pigeon

Wherever you go in the grounds of Zojyoji, Tokyo Tower seems to be looming in the background:

Zojyoji & Tokyo Tower

Actually, the temple itself is pretty simple and nothing special (although I think it’s quite beautiful):

Zojyoji

But I promise you it is worth the visit for what is coming up later… 😉

The grounds are very pretty and luckily there was still some cherry blossom in bloom:

Zojyoji

I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to take this picture inside the temple:

Zojyoji

But there were no signs up, and I wanted to share this with people reading this blog who perhaps haven’t had the chance to visit a temple yet.

Inside the temple building I also found this “Ganbaro Nippon! Ganbaro Tohoku!” poster:

Ganbaro Nippon!Ganbaro Tohoku!

This was to be the first of many “ganbaro”s that day.

As I left the main temple building I headed right, to finally see what I had come to see: Jizo!

Jizo at Zojyoji

You might be wondering what these brightly coloured little people are and why there are so many at Zojyoji. Well, let me tell you:

Within the compound of Zojoji Temple are Jizo statues. Jizo, or Ksitigarbha, is a bodhisattva revered in East Asian Buddhism. In Japan, he is regarded as the guardian of children, especially children who died before their parents. Since the 1980’s, he is also worshipped as the guardians of mizuko, or stillborn children. Statues of Jizo are often attired with children’s clothes. These are placed by grieving parents for their lost little ones, with the hope that Jizo will offer them protection in their journey through the underworld.” (Quoted from Tokyo Travel Tips.) I have heard that sometimes Jizo can also protect travellers, but these little dudes were definitely the child-protecting type, I think.

Aren’t they wonderful? They all seem to have slightly different faces and I spent ages crouching down and looking at them.

Buddha & Jizo at Zojyoji

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Jizo at Zojyoji

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Jizo at Zojyoji

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Jizo at Zojyoji

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Jizo at Zojyoji

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Jizo at Zojyoji

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Jizo at Zojyoji

I could have photographed each and every one of them! 😉

Another interesting point in Zojoji is the Mausoleum of Tokugawa Shoguns (which you have to pay 500 Yen to get in). It’s kept behind this mysterious gate:

Tokugawa graves at Zojyoji

I hadn’t read much about the temple before I visited, so I didn’t know about these graves and paid to get in simply to satisfy my curiosity about what was going on behind the gate!

To be honest, there’s not a lot there for the average foreigner, but you do get a nice little postcard set when you go in (as part of the entrance fee), and it’s quite interesting to see the old graves of the Tokugawa Shoguns:

Tokugawa graves at Zojyoji

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Tokugawa graves at Zojyoji

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Tokugawa graves at Zojyoji

After filling up on history I decided it was time for some more modern culture, so I headed over to Tokyo Tower.

Tokyo Tower

By chance, there was an event going on. It was a “Japan Aid” event, but the first thing I saw was this rather curious exercise class:

Japan Aid event at Tokyo Tower - exercise class

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I love how the pink Tokyo Tower mascot is joining in!

The whole place was covered in carp flags, which are traditionally displayed for Children’s Day (which just happens to be today, actually!).

Carp flags

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Carp flags

It was quite a windy day and they looked so pretty, flickering in the breeze. They made me feel a little bit sad though, because they reminded me that by Children’s Day I wouldn’t be in Japan. 😦

I could see that the event was some kind of “Ganbaro Nippon!” event from the various signs:

Ganbaro Nippon!

…but I didn’t know what was going on really, so I decided to head inside and go up the tower as I had planned. (Actually, it was kind of cold, and I wanted to warm up!)

When you enter the tower you are immediately greeted by super-friendly staff:

Going up Tokyo Tower

The whole place is a ridiculous tourist trap really, but I loved it! Everything is totally geared up for foreign tourists, and I found that a lot of people spoke a little bit of English to try to be more friendly. It’s amazing how much difference a “hello” can make sometimes. I would never ever expect it, but I really appreciate their efforts to accommodate.

Given all the recent earthquakes I have to admit I was a little nervous about going up the 332.5 meter tower, but luckily everything was fine and I could enjoy the spectacular view:

View from Tokyo Tower

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View from Tokyo Tower

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View from Tokyo Tower

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View from Tokyo Tower

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View from Tokyo Tower

That last one is Zojyoji, by the way!

One of the novelty attractions in Tokyo Tower is the “Lookdown Window”:

Lookdown window

It was quite fun to watch as most of the Japanese girls who looked down screamed!

Don't look down!

There are two levels to Tokyo Tower. The main observatory (at 150 meters) can be entered for 820 Yen, and then you can pay an extra 600 Yen to go to the special observatory (at 250 meters). Even though it’s quite expensive, I decided to go right up as high as I could go, because I had this real feeling of “last chance” and wanted to make the most of the experience while I was there. Who knows if I will ever have the chance to go up Tokyo Tower again?!

While up in the tower I spotted this poster:

Ganbaro Nippon!

From what I could make out, it seemed there would be some kind of “Ganbaro Nippon!” illumination on Tokyo Tower, and this day (16th) was to be the last day. I made a mental note to try to check it out later…

When I got back downstairs I got incredibly distracted and caught up in being a tourist. I spent ages wandering around the souvenir shops and looking at stuff. A lot of what you can buy in Tokyo Tower is incredibly tacky – but we all need a few tacky souvenirs from time to time!

Not tacky at all...

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Souvenir shop in Tokyo Tower

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Hello Kitty shop in Tokyo Tower

Somehow the souvenir shops led me right to the aquarium, which I decided to go in. My advice to you if you go to Tokyo Tower: don’t bother with the aquarium! At 1000 Yen for an adult ticket it is a complete rip off! (Especially compared to, say, Ueno Zoo which only costs 600 Yen to enter and is really big).

Still, I made the most of it as I had paid to go in and took some photos of curious signs and even more curious fish:

Tokyo Tower Aquarium

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Tokyo Tower Aquarium

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Tokyo Tower Aquarium

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Tokyo Tower Aquarium

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Tokyo Tower Aquarium

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Tokyo Tower Aquarium

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Tokyo Tower Aquarium

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Tokyo Tower Aquarium

Strangely enough, there is an omikuji (fortunes) machine in the aquarium:

Tokyo Tower Aquarium

It has this perfect little white shrine in it – I was quite taken by it!

Are you getting bored of fish yet? I know, I know, but this last one had me giggling. He seemed so frantic, and I just kept imagining he was trying to say something. Doesn’t it look like he’s shouting, “Bob! Bob!”…

After the aquarium, which really didn’t take long at all, I headed back outside to see what was going on at the Japan Aid event. My timing was great, as I caught this wonderful violin act:

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Japan Aid event at Tokyo Tower

As it turned out, the event was coming to a close and I had made it in time to see the finale: a balloon release. But these weren’t just any old balloons. From what I could make out, these pigeon-shaped balloons would disintegrate in rain water, so they were environmentally friendly. Also, these birds had been decorated by kids throughout the event, and they all contained messages of “Ganbaro Nippon!”.

Japan Aid event at Tokyo Tower

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Japan Aid event at Tokyo Tower

Balloons and song sheets were handed out to the crowd as everyone eagerly waited. I didn’t quite know what was going on, and I couldn’t read the words on the song sheet, but I could get the general gist of the event. Finally, it was “ichi, ni, san, ganbaro nippon!” time…

(By the way, can anyone tell me what this song is??)

It was quite a wonderful moment and actually brought a tear to my eye (I think I was feeling emotional about leaving Japan, especially at such a time as this).

As the birds flew up into the sky, the people on stage continued to shout “ganbaro”. Japan’s “ganbaro” spirit is hard to explain, and “ganbaro” doesn’t really translate well, but I guess the best translation would be “let’s do our best”. It’s so much more than that, though.

Japan Aid event at Tokyo Tower

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Japan Aid event at Tokyo Tower

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Japan Aid event at Tokyo Tower

You might think that would be the end of my tale of “ganbaro”, but there’s one more part yet… Remember the sign I saw in Tokyo Tower? After the event finished, I wandered back to Zojyoji and managed to run into some friendly photographers. They were stood around in the grounds of Zojyoji, and one of them told me that if I waited about 45 minutes I could see the “ganbaro” message on the side of Tokyo Tower. It was getting quite cold, but I had no other plans, so I found a spot and waited. It was worth the wait to see something that I’m pretty sure I’ll never have the chance to see again.

Ganbaro Nippon!

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Ganbaro Nippon!

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If that wasn’t enough, you can see the whole collection of photos here.

So, this post concludes day three of my Tokyo-area adventure. I’m sorry I’ve been so slow about writing everything up! I have a million photos to sort through (or thereabouts!) plus I have to do job hunting, which really has to take priority over blogging (unfortunately). 😉  But, have no fear, I will continue to post at least once a week and I will eventually write everything up!

Coming up next, Sunday 17th April: a flea market and a trip to Harajuku! Watch this space…

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A little footnote: as I’ve been writing this I’ve noticed that a lot of websites spell the temple’s name “Zojoji” and I have been writing “Zojyoji“. I am writing it that way because that’s how it was spelled when it was recommended to me. I get confused sometimes with the correct way to write certain Japanese words when writing them in English. I *think* both ways are correct, but perhaps I am wrong. Please correct me if I’m wrong! 🙂

6 thoughts on “Ganbaro Nippon! (Visiting Zojyoji & Tokyo Tower)

  1. jo vs. jyo
    Both are correct. jo is using Hepburn romanization, mostly used outside Japan and jyo uses Kunrei-shiki the official Japanese style (or possibly Nihon-shiki) which more closely follows how kana work.

    I think jizo are a bit sad really. Very photogenic but each more or less represents a dead child. Notice that there are family names and child’s names on the vases. The myth (belief?) is that children in hell (where every sentient being ends up) have to make piles of stones as penance in order to escape, demons come along to knock those piles down and beat the children with iron clubs, the children then hide in the wide sleeves of Jizo for protection.

    Good Luck with your job hunting!

    Like

  2. Found it!!! The song at the ballon release sounded familiar to me, maybe from an old movie. It’s called Sukiyaki (or Ue O Muite?) there’s lots of versions on You Tube.

    I don’t have much to do today 😉

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  3. I love the fact that even though you’re back in the UK you are still writing about Japan!
    Looking forward to catching up with you tomorrow xx

    Like

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