Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Shinjuku

All Day Scavenger Hunt

I took the Cummings on a tour around the west area of Tokyo on Monday. Dave called on Sunday and was able to reserve two rooms for us at the New Sanno Hotel. This would enable us to spend the entire day exploring and not having to take the train all the way home. 

The first stop on our scavenger hunt was at The International House of Japan. Or as we quickly named it “The International House of Ja-pancake.” 


Here, Sara was able to deliver a book her father published of his notes and recordings from a conference he attended during the 1960s. Fortunately, one of the receptionist spoke very good English. Sara left the book with the receptionist and she in return gave Sara an email for her father to use to contact the library. Mission complete. 


Our next order of business was to drop off our bags at the hotel. As we walked through Roppongi, we could see Tokyo Tower. 


At the hotel, we registered for our rooms and left our bags with the bellhop. Back to the train station we went! This time our destination was lunch! The Vernal Equinox is a holiday in Japan making it difficult to find a place not too crowded at lunch. Outside of Shinjuku station, we found a cute little back alley filled with different ramen shops. 


It was the perfect spot to fuel our Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage. Lucky us, there were five seats available! 

With our lunch mission complete, we set out on the Shinjuku Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage. Seven temples to find! 


At our first temple, Taiso-ji, we collected Hotei and purchased the boat the Gods would rest upon. Hotei: God of happiness, family, peace and protection from illness and disaster.


The second stop was at the Hozen-ji Temple. Here we collected Jurojin. Jurojin: God of long life and protection from illness.


I knew our next stop was a tricky one to find and I took us down a couple dead end streets before finding the path to the temple. Without too much delay, we arrived at the Itsukushima Temple. Here we collected Benzai-ten. Benzai-ten: Goddess of music, arts, and speech.


Our fourth stop was around the corner. We walked over to the Eifuku-ji Temple. The Eifuku-ji Temple is dedicated to Fukurokuju. Fukurokuji: God of health, happiness, and long life. 


The fifth temple was a bit of a walk and required a little refueling. A short stop at the Family Mart for ice cream and we were on our way! About 15 minutes later we arrived at the Kyo-o-ji Temple. Here we collected Daikoku-ten. Daikoku-ten: God of grain harvest and wealth. Everyone also had a chance to shake the lucky mallet for wealth! 


To reach the sixth temple we took a quick train ride to the Zentoku-ji Temple. This temple is dedicated to Bishamon-ten. Bisamon-ten: God of protection from disaster and evil.


As we were leaving the temple, we realized we needed to pick up the pace in order to ensure we made it to the last temple on time. Everyone stepped it out! I was so proud of everyone! We made it to Ushi Kitano a Shinto Shrine. 

But, guess what – it was the wrong one! Yep, I messed that one up! Gah! It was 1600. Hopefully, the temple we wanted to visit stayed open until 1700. Back to the train we went!! Our final God awaited at the Inari Kio-jinja Shrine. Here we collected Ebisu-jin. Ebisu-jin: God of prosperous business. 


I consider us extra lucky after this pilgrimage- we found all seven plus one additional temple!! 

After completing our pilgrimage, we went to Harajuku for the reward I promised – cotton candy. And not just any cotton candy… a mountain of cotton candy! But first, we needed a family picture at Takeshita Dori! 


This part of the scavenger hunt was pretty easy. The cotton candy was everywhere! 


We enjoyed walking around Harajuku and seeing so much “kawaii!” Next up- finding  Shibuya Crossing and a snapping a picture with Hachiko statue. 


Done and done! Time to eat dinner. Oh, boy… always a bit of a scavenger hunt and with two kids it can be tricky. If James had his pick, we would eat ramen again. While walking around Shibuya we turned the corner and saw Outback Steakhouse. Seriously. Our search was over. The American mothership called us home. 


We all agreed, this was much better than the sea urchin pretzels Delaney picked up earlier in the day! 


This massive burger with blooming onions on top made my scavenger hunt complete. 


The day was quite an adventure. I lost track of how many trains we rode. Apple steps told me we walked over 10 miles. Even after a full day of walking and occasional wrong turns, I’m the lucky one. I was able to spend the day with friends doing what I love – exploring! 

PS. Sara snapped this picture in one of the many train stations. Me, wiping my ever runny nose. Yep, that’s about my normal look! Haha

Keio Plaza Hotel

For marathon weekend, we are staying at a luxury hotel adjacent to the start of the marathon. The Keio Plaza Hotel. Let me start with, the hotel offers a 34th floor lounge with FREE beer, wine and snacks. The view from the 34th floor. 


Plus snacks. 


The room is BIG compared to our “business hotel” last weekend. Simultaneously, the price tripled. “Ahhh, it’s whatever.” We are here for Tokyo Marathon weekend. Bucket list. Once in a lifetime. I want to experience everything. 

This luxury hotel is very spacious. A couple pictures for perspective. 


One more for perspective. Those long American legs. From mid calf down, my legs are not supported by the couch. 


Besides space, free drinks, and snacks, the luxury hotel provides a step up to with respect to toiletries. 

You need it – they’ve provided. 


PS. If the hotel goes out of business after we leave… its Dwyer’s fault. He drank too much free beer… or maybe it was my bottle of wine or three. Kanpie! 

Shinjuku Seven Lucky Gods

The “Shichifukujin” or Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimages are quickly becoming one of my favorite adventures. The pilgrimage reminds me of a modern day urban scavenger hunt. You must find the Seven Temples/Shrines, stamp your temple book and retrieve your cute figurine. All of this while using Google Maps, a map found on the Internet and if you’re lucky, a little bit of broken English from a monk. Or as in case today, a monk who spoke no English but was great with giving directions in Japanese while pointing at a map. I’ll come back to that story in a little bit.

This is my third Seven Lucky Gods adventure. First in Meguro and then in Zushi. Each time, I receive information about the God’s meaning. I will share what information I was given today, which may vary a little bit from what I have told you previously.

Dina and I set out this morning to Shinjuku. Shinjuku is located on the northwest side of Tokyo. It was a little over an hour away. Here was our route.


Yesterday, I marked all of the temple/shrine locations with a star so it would be easier to navigate between them. We started at the bottom and walked toward the center cluster. Then walked to the temple on the far left. Then we took the train to the two temples on the far right.


At our first temple, Taiso-ji, we collected Hotei and purchased the boat the Gods would rest upon. Hotei: God of family, peace and protection from illness and disaster.


From here we walked towards the Hozen-ji Temple. However, we were sidetracked along the way by an amazing bakery.


I enjoyed a delicious chocolate croissant. I felt super lucky it was chocolate and not red bean paste!

Around the corner was the temple.


Here we collected Jurojin. Jurojin: God of long life and protection from illness.


Our third stop was at the Itsukushima-Jinja Shrine. It was literally in the corner of an intersection. There was a Koi Pond, Tori Gate and Shrine. Yet, no person was present.


We decided to continue our journey to the fourth temple, Eifuku-ji Temple. We thought perhaps we could ask at the fourth temple where to go for the third stop.


As I learned in my previous pilgrimage, one must be bold and knock on a door or ring a bell or even just walk inside the temple. Feeling brave, Dina and I went into the temple. There was a small doorbell next to a cushion. In English, it said “bell.” So, we pushed it. Simultaneously, there was a motion detector that kept going off when we moved. Behind the closed doors, we could hear someone moving around. In fact, it sounded like he was doing gymnastics. So, we waited. And rang the bell again. And waited. And rang the bell again. Finally, a monk came out not because he was responding to our ringing. He was doing his monkly business and we startled him so badly we thought we might have helped him finish his path to enlightenment. He almost fell over. We tried not to laugh. He recovered immediately and promptly came over, greeted us, set out cushions for us to sit upon and then went to stamp our books. It was incredibly hard not to giggle. When he returned, before we could even ask how to get to temple number three, he took out a map and started explaining how to get there, in Japanese. Very fast Japanese.


To summarize, we were at the purple dot and needed to got to the small blue dot. We had been at the large blue dot in the middle of the intersection. Again, all in Japanese with finger pointing and charades.

Before leaving, we collected Fukurokuju. Fukurokuji: God of health, happiness, and long life.


The other strange part of the conversation was that the monk was so happy to give us directions he almost forgot to give us Fukurokuji. We finally asked and held up our fingers showing little God. More charades…  Ahhhh, hai!

Perhaps, the funniest part, we actually made it to the Itsukushima Temple. Here we collected Benzai-ten. Banzai-ten: Goddess of music, arts, and speech.



Plus, a few early cherry blossom pictures!


Our fifth stop was at the Inari Kio-jinja Shrine. This shrine was so tucked away!!


We collected Ebisu-jin. Ebisu-jin: God of prosperous business.


My favorite picture at this shrine was of the banana at the alter. It seems to be glowing!


To get to the final two temples, we took the train to save a little time and warm up!

Our sixth temple was at the Kyo-o-ji Temple. Here we collected Daikoku-ten. Daikoku-ten: God of grain harvest and wealth.


At this temple, there were many cute statues.


Inside the shrine, we were greeted by a monk who encouraged us to open the window and shake the mallet three times for our wish to come true. So, of course, we shook and wished!!


Our final temple was Zentoku-ji Temple. This temple is dedicated to Bishamon-ten. Bisamon-ten: God of protection from disaster and evil.

The completed Seven Lucky Gods of Shinjuku.
We never received an explanation of the boat during our adventure and so, I looked it up when we returned home. One explanation is the Seven Lucky Gods travel together on a treasure ship (Takarabune) and visit Japanese ports on New Year’s Eve to dispense happiness. Also, the symbol on the flag of the ship is the Chinese character for BAKU. BAKU is a fictional creature said to devour or prevent nightmares. Children are told to place a picture of the ship with the Gods under their pillow on the evening of January first. If the child has a good dream that night, they will be lucky all year.

It was a fun and successful day exploring another part of Tokyo. Honestly, I was pretty impressed with our navigation skills and ability to find all seven Temples/Shrines.

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