Today I met with my small classes, and we had our field trip to two different places. First, we went to the Imperial Palace. To get there, we took the subway to the main Tokyo station. It has really beautiful architecture and has some signs around it explaining the history of it. One sign was talking about how the station was 100 years old but had to be restored after a fire. I went on to read aloud to my students that the fire had been caused by a bomb that America had dropped on it. Ohhhh…….That was actually a really awkward moment. I mean, I know I had nothing to do with it, and I know that they weren’t alive when it happened, but it is strange to have lingering. I never really thought about that aspect before coming to Japan. Our countries have done some terrible things to each other in the past. However, I think while the older generation may hang on to some past afflictions like that, we, in the younger generation, don’t.
As we continued walking to the palace, I asked my students the name of the emperor. In Japan, the emperor has no real power and is more of a figure-head. The prime minister is the one that makes all the political decisions for the country, like in England I guess. Well, when I asked the name of the emperor, they all looked at each other with confusion. “We just call him emperor. We don’t know his name.” I couldn’t believe it! “You don’t know the name of the emperor of Japan?” I asked amazed. Well, the question was answered quickly with a little help from an iphone- Akihito. After doing a little reasearch myself, I discovered that the emperor is never referred to by name; he is only referred to as “His Imperial Majesty the Emperor” or Tennō Heika. So, I guess they had a good reason for not knowing!
The imperial palace is mostly just old castle walls and gardens. You can’t actually go into the “palace”, and we never saw the actual building in which the emperor lives. Lame! I did see my first bonsai trees though. They were the pine trees surrounding the moat. I was told by my students that doing bonsai trees is an old person hobby. Haha.
On my way back to my hotel, I stopped by a shrine that I have passed by everyday and have been curious about. The fox shrine. There were 100’s of fox statues at this shrine. Foxes are important in the Shinto religion in Japan. Inari, the protector of the rice harvest, is guarded by foxes. Foxes, or kitsune, are thought to have supernatural powers, such as being able to morph into a human and also hearing and seeing all human secrets. It was definitely different than any shrine I have ever been to, and I have been to 100’s of them!