top of page
  • Shelley Dark

18. Tokyo Sunday

This message by a vendor on the website of the Nogi Antique market convinced me we must go there. How could you not visit someone who says I love you? Plus it was the only one on this weekend. We were in front of Nogi Shrine when it opened, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

We got into conversation with this charming man on the subway. He said he is Japanese, but lives in Italy. I asked him what he does for a living. Opera singer, based in Verona or somewhere near there. He is back in Japan to sing in Tokyo and other cities. I think he said Rigoletto but I'm not sure if that was part of his repertoire of if he's singing it here. Isn't that wonderful? He has been back once before to sing in Japan, and his parents came to see his first performance on Japanese soil. How proud they must be! If I had more time I'd search for him on the internet. Maybe he's famous! After we'd left the train I turned to take his photo.

We went into the shrine first - such a sad story attached. It illustrates the old Japanese ethic of bushido or samurai chivalry. The longer I live, the more I realise that there is no civilisation which at some glorious stage in its history has not placed enormous value on loyalty, chivalry, honour, gallantry, respect and manners. Many human beings are truly noble. Japan is no different, and Maresuke Nogi embodied those traits.

He served in the Meiji Emperor's army from 1871, and always wore his uniform, even in private life. He was sent to Germany for military studies and distinguished himself in the war against China in 1894. When hostilities broke out against Russia in 1904, he led the Japanese forces, including his own two sons, in the successful siege of Port Arthur. Not only 15,000 of his own men died, but also his two sons. Imagine his return to his wife.

General Nogi was welcomed home as a conquering hero by the people, but he felt responsible for the loss of his men. He said to the emperor that the only honourable way for him was to commit suicide. The emperor replied, 'Not until after I have left this world'. I wonder if at that moment, he took the emperor at his word.

He continued as an army general, travelling the country visiting the parents of soldiers who had died. Subsequently he was appointed royal tutor to the children of the Imperial Palace and aristocracy, including the future emperor Hirohito. Hirohito once said that Maresuke was the man he admired most in the world.

When the old emperor died, Maresuke was 63 years old, his wife the countess 53. In the samurai tradition, as the emperor's body was leaving the palace for its final resting place, first Maresuke and then his wife committed hara kiri in their home. They've been venerated ever since.

But back to the flea market! It turned out to be a fairly small affair with only 15 or so stalls.

Ange was able to buy more indigo boro for her shop, and this square as well. We forgot that we would have to carry it all day!

I bought two grey and white plates with Japanese motif, about 70's vintage.

It was a very friendly market, if a little pricey.

We were sorry later that we didn't buy this stuffed animal. Rather cute!

This wooden umbrella or wagasa was very inexpensive. Look at the incredible workmanship in it. They were first introduced from China to the capital Kyoto in about 800. They are handmade individually one by one from all natural elements: washi, wood, bamboo, glue from tapioca, natural pigments (although this one looks naturally coloured), cashew nut juice, lacquer, and linseed oil. Wagasa have 3-70 ribs where ours have 8. Now there are only a few producers left.

Loved this dealers head gear. A hand towel. If we did that we'd look silly!

On the subway again, this time to Yoyogi Park, for the crazy action we've heard happens there on a Sunday with people dressing as their favourite anime characters, dancing, singing, exercising, partying raucously.

Our crowd was fairly sedate. Perhaps they warm up later.

We saw a small band of about 5 people about to play so I readied myself for to take a video of Japanese music. What melodious sound drifted across at us? A wee Scottish tune!

I first thought these were soldiers. They were exercising and chanting loudly at the same time. Snapping to attention at the end of each move. They turned out to be university students.

As we were leaving we ran into the famous rockabilly boys who perform near the front gate, starting at 1pm. They were a cheery lot and happy for a photo.

Yoyogi's tulips are nearly over

The Japanese exercise as frenetically as Australians. I like the see-through sun visor but wonder how sun-safe it is!

The Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando Street is a good place for souvenirs - dolls, pens, fans, cheap yukatas, ceramics, lacquer ware - so we spent a little time there on a gift or two.

The Louis Vuitton shop, bristling with guards, is in a side street.

We felt we had to walk the full length of Takeshita Street just because all the guide books say it's the weirdest teenage street in Tokyo. Someone forgot to tell the teenagers.

All we saw was a street lined with tacky shops, not many Japanese teenagers, and hordes of tourists, rather like being in a moving crowd at the Brisbane Ekka or Royal Easter Show.