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Thursday, October 10, 2013

In search of the Maneki Neko...

Thursday, October 10, 2013
Asakusa & Setagaya

Good morning Tokyo!  This is the view from my hotel window


This was another looooong day....mama kuba and I were on a mission to find the maneki neko shrines around Tokyo and supposedly the one in Setagaya makes some an (red bean) pastry thing that's shaped like the cat.  Do you know the meaning of the cat?  If not, here's a quick guide:

Tri-color cat:  beckoning good luck, wealth and prosperity
White cat:  Purity, happiness
Black cat:  Safety, ward off evil and stalkers
Golden cat:  wealth and prosperity
Red cat:  protection from evil and illness
Pink cat: love, relationships and romance
Green cat:  educations/studies

Right paw raised:  invites money and good fortune (usually to businesses)
Left paw raised:  invites customers or people (some suggest the right and left paws both invite business-related prosperity, but that the left paw is for businesses of the night, such as bars, geisha houses and restaurants.  Use of lucky cats in homes is more recent)
Both paws raised:  invites protection of home or business
Coin:  wealth and material abundance
Bib and bell:  may relate to protection, as well as wealth and material abundance

First stop: Imado Shrine in Asakusa.  Ok folks, this place isn't really easy to find so I'm gonna help you out.  Take either the Ginza, Asakusa or Tobu Isesaki line to Asakusa.  You will be right in front of Sensoji Temple, Kaminarimon Gate.  You can't miss it.  Head towards the Sumida River...

When you start walking, don't turn left when you get to the shrine and walk 3 blocks before figuring out that the Sumida River is in the other direction.  Your husband will be grouchy.

When you reach the bridge, don't cross it. Instead turn left into the park that runs next to the river.  You'll see this cat at the entrance

You'll also get a good view of the Skytree Tower

If you walk along the river you'll see this weird bowl looking thing with holes in it.  If you stick your head through you'll see this.  It was pretty bizarre.


Keep walking about 10 minutes and the path will kinda turn to a fork at the big intersection.  Take the left fork and ask the policeman for directions to the Imado Shrine.  He'll tell you to walk down the street and to take a left at the 2nd stoplight where another fork in the road takes place, another 10 minutes. Thank god mama kuba was with me, I didn't understand anything except hidari (left) and ni (two).  Keep an eye out for the signs.

We made it!



I was expecting this huge shrine with tons of cats all over the place but really this place is quite small.  Not sure if it's worth the journey.  It is cute, but be prepared to walk.  Especially for people like us who keep getting lost :|

When you first walk in you're greeted with tons of vistor's prayers



Then you get to this small shrine and all the cute cats







They have this section blocked off...



Like I said, I was a little disappointed, I was hoping for a few kiosks with trinkets and souvenirs that I could buy.  They did have a little table of stuff but I figured since this place was so small that I would have more selection at the Setagaya location...

In order to get to the Setagaya Station you gotta transfer at Shibuya Station.  Luckily it's at the end of the line, while Asakusa is the beginning.  Feel free to pass out on the subway cause it's about a 30 minute ride.  Don't worry about missing your stop cause they'll kick you out before they go the other direction.  While you're in Shibuya why don't you pay your respects to Hachiko?




I didn't realize that there were dog prints in the station also!

The journey to Setagaya we found out was worse than the one to Asakusa...first you gotta walk half way around the earth to get to the Den-en-toshi Line at Shibuya Station.  From there, get off at Sangen-jaya

Get off at Sangen-jaya and go hunting for the signs that say Setagaya Line

Walk another 10 miles through the station to find the next sign (can you tell I'm tired of walking already??)

Aha! Success!

If you time it just right the train will pull up as soon as you walk into the station...

Aieyahh!  I forget what stop you're supposed to get off at.  But I do know it is the 7th stop, the first one starting at Setagaya Station.  This is where the fun get off the train and you get a map that looks like this:

haha yah, it's that kind of town.  We did find an English map across the street, I just forgot to take a picture of it.  It told us to cross the train tracks and head up the street, so follow this lady.

Walk up the residential area and wonder if you're in the right place.  But don't worry!  There's a stoplight up the road, maybe 10 minutes away if you have sore legs.  Take a left and you'll see this.  This looks like an entrance to a shrine right?

Walk down the little lane

And come to this deserted looking temple place

Walk around the grounds looking for anyone you can ask for directions.  You won't find anyone.  But wait.  You can ask the tourist lady in broken Japanese if there's a Maneki Neko Shrine and she will tell you go behind the building and to the right and it will be right there!

And then you see....

And turn the corner and Success!

Holy moly!





I can't believe how none of these get stolen or vandalized.  It's amazing how much respect the Japanese have for public property.  



But where's the kiosks? The snacks?  Mama kuba said the program she was watching had lines of vendors waiting for people to buy their stuff...this is what you have to do to find your red bean have to walk about another half a mile up the road and find out there's absolutely nothing there except houses.  Turn around, walk back towards the station and ask about 5 residents about any pastry sweet shop that sells the pastry shaped like maneki neko.  They all will tell you gomenasai! Wakaranai...Sorry, I don't know...But then, you walk in to a Lawsons and you ask the clerk and she'll tell you go up one more stop to Yamashita and there's a shop there that sells the pastry you're looking for!  So off to Yamashita we go!  When you get to the next stop, ask the girl handing out flyers if she knows where it is.  She thinks maybe it's towards the left so to the left you go.  Walk about 100 yards and she'll run up to you and tell you "masugu! masugu!" Yes, straight ahead is the shop you're looking for!

I can't believe we finally found it!  The pastry actually tasted pretty good.  I bought some to take home with me.  Crazy mama kuba came all this way and never bought any!  Sorry, I was so excited to find the shop that I forgot to take pictures of the snacks inside the shop.  Also it was dark so that means I would've had to bust out my flash and that just takes too much energy.

We were totally exhausted after this so we opted for getting some food from the department store and eating dinner in our room in comfort.  No one wanted to hop on another subway to go to dinner!
I didn't buy this but it's so cute yah!  It's cone sushi!

This was our dinner tonight...notice all the toro Randy picked up?  Oh my gawwwd it was so good.  

We were all stuffed and content and ready for bed.  Except for me.  I had to stay up and write this 10 page blog.  *yawn!*  See ya tomorrow!


jalna said...

I loooooooved the day! So good fun to have a mission. I so looked forward to seeing Randy in the pictures. Totally cracked me up . . . and his dad . . . HAHAHAHAHA!! I just love mama kuba. She's so game to do stuff. And so funny how you guys bought dinner to eat in because you were so pooped. Reminds me of when we got hamburgers to take home because there was no way we was gonna go back out that night.

Les said...

So basically at the end of the day mama kuba and I decided that both of these missions were a bust. Not really worth all that walking. You know I never got my little souvenirs cause the second place never had um??

I'm sooo happy we came back to the room to eat too. I was practically falling asleep while eating :)

KitTKat said...

Just reading this exhausted me. I would not be happy if I spent my day like that. Thank goodness I got to live it thru you. I love love love the hello kitty cone sushi!

Les said...

yah I can just hear you bitching now...good thing we didn't go together. We never would've made it.

Dd said...

ohhh...but we are sooo glad that you did this post !!!! was enjoying ALL your pics ... and den... and den... DA FOOD !! HOOO ;o}

Jenny said...

We only made it to one of the maneki neko shrines. Thanks for sharing the other one and your thoughts that it wasn't worth it to venture out there. Saves me a trip next time. Sounds like you guys are having fun!

Les said...

hahah I wish I took more pictures of the food! By the time we eat we're so hungry that by the time i remember it's almost all gone :(

Les said...

Jenny - yup, it took way too long and once you get there there's nothing else to do! I guess it's the journey that's important eh? :-\