Okay, where did today start? We didn't close the blast curtains all the way, so Rebecca woke up at sunrise, about 5:40am. We met Jeff downstairs at about 8am. We walked a different way to the Access office, but ended up eating at the same CoCoCro a block away anyway. It started sprinkling on the way there, and didn't really stop until around 3pm. After breakfast Rebecca and I walked back through the drizzle to our hotel, because I hadn't packed our umbrella. It turned out to be not very useful with the baby and the stroller though, so it spent most of the day crammed into the stroller pocket.
Since it was raining, the initial plan was to do something simple, like go to the science museum in Kitanomaru Park, just south of the hotel. But I thought Rebecca would be going to sleep in an hour anyway, and I was feeling a little more adventurous than that, so we took *two* subway lines from Kudanshita Station to Asakusa Station. I'm getting better at manhandling the stroller and Rebecca around subway stations. We can usually find an escalator to go up, with her being relatively cooperative and holding my hand, presumably since escalators are still novel, and on the way down, well, sometimes she holds my hand and we just galumph down the stairs. It turns some heads, and I've had one man help me down the last two steps of many, but I haven't dropped the stroller on anyone yet, so whatever.
It was raining pretty hard when we finally made it to ground level after some number of corridors and elevators, which wasn't helped by the escalator-enabled exit being the furthest from Asakusa Kannon Temple. We made a whole three blocks to Nakamise-dori, the shopping street leading from the main gate of the temple to the temple with only one rain break at a bus shelter, because Rebecca demanded to get out of the stroller, because she was getting WET. Luckily as she got more tired she cared less that her feet were getting sprinkled on, and the rest of her was under the stroller hood.
We didn't walk up Nakamise-dori, because I've done that before, and it was crowded and raining and mostly not covered. So we went down the alley next to it, that wasn't crowded, but still, naturally, raining. We walked half way up to the temple gate, then cut through a covered shopping arcade, then the rest of the way up to the temple grounds wall, and we followed that to Chingodo-ji which I'd been curious about. It was just a tiny little place, but I chucked all my 5 yen coins in the offering slot, the 5 yens are supposed to be the lucky fate ones, and did a random combination of clapping, ringing the bell, and praying, and bowing. I can never remember the proper order, which is apparently offering, pull on bell, pray silently with hands in 'prayer' position, clap twice, and bow twice. Or I could still have it wrong. My gods don't care, but these might.
We were roughly following the Lonely Planet Asakusa walking tour, so we continued along the temple wall, oh, before the Tanuki temple there was a little shop set up against the temple wall (one of many) that had skeleton watches, I need to either take Jesse there or go back and get him one. We walked down some more shopping streets, found another covered arcade, turned down a main street that had a good percentage of overhead cover, and got sembei (rice crackers) at a store on the corner. Rebecca actually eats them too. In general she did better with food today, and I did better making sure there was food.
I walked past the drum museum, and past another temple the LP guide said would be there, and finally found what I'd been looking for, Kappa-bashi-dori, the restaurant supply shopping street. The best thing about it was that it had its own cheery theme song, "Kappa-bashi! Kappa-bashi! blah blah blah" I wish I'd had a camera that could take movies so that I could have recorded it. It had little red, green, yellow and blue pennants all down the length on both sides that said Kappa-Bashi, so you were quite sure you were in the correct place. They had stores full of knives, stores full of bowls, a store full of stainless steel counter units, stores full of chopsticks... and what I had come for, stores full of fake plastic food. The streets were closed off, and there were police directing traffic, perhaps for the holiday. It didn't matter much though, because everyone was crowded into the covered sidewalks in front of the stores since it was raining.
The best thing I ended up finding was a traditional Japanese housewife apron. At least that's how I think of them, in cute little retro fabric. Sugoi! I was thinking I would have to make one, and there were racks of them, for less than I could get the fabric for probably. At least fabric that cute.
The plastic food was pretty outstanding too, although it was also very pricey. A little box of nigiri sushi with about 8 pieces was $45, and the fun little sushi boat that wasn't a whole lot bigger was $150ish. It looked really incredible. I wanted one of the sushi clocks, as hokey as they are, but I only saw them at the really nice places, and they were $160-$250 depending on the size, which was just too much. I did find a set of mini vegetables and mini fruit for Rebecca that were only about $15 all together. And one big Japanese carrot. :-) Rebecca was napping by the time we got there, so I had plenty of time to slowly creep up and down the street with the crowd. I was most surprised to see a shop selling a lot of Le Cruset, for some reason, maybe because it is such a familiar home brand to me.
I ended up with 4 raffle tickets, which you get when you spend 1000Yen somewhere, and I knew the places I was supposed to take them, there were maps on the tickets, but there were long lines at both of them, in the rain, and it looked like everyone was filling out forms, so I chickened out, and I still have them.
We also saw a gold statue of a Kappa, which is a mischievous mythical creature, they look like WoW merlochs, and the source of their power is a depression on top of their heads filled with water, to defeat them you bow to them to get them to bow to you to empty out the water and then they are powerless.
Eventually Rebecca woke up, and we found a dry nook next to the drum museum and had some pieces of grilled potatoe in sweet sauce that I had picked up from a vendor. Presumably as part of the holiday there were little food stands at about 1/10 shops. Maybe they are always there though, I don't know. Yummy potatoes, and Rebecca ate them once I had managed to force a little piece of one into her mouth. Good, really, no, really! Come ON!
We went in the drum/festival supply store under the drum museum, figured out the drum museum was up the stairs, and then figured out that they were closed Monday and Tuesday, which it says in my guide book, which I often have trouble reading carefully enough. Bleh. So no we had two reasons, watches for Jesse and the drum museum to come back to Asakusa. So maybe we will, maybe we won't.
We went down the street to Mr. Donut, Rebecca complaining every time we went out into the rain, and trying to climb further up me, as if that would help. We had a tiny set of different donut holes, and called Jesse to tell him about the watches. Rebecca had delicate nibbles of the different colored donut holes, another minor food victory. I know, donuts, but I was content for any progress, no matter how sugary for today.
We were pretty much out of money, but the Asakusa post office showed up on our map as not too far out of the way, and I asked Rebecca if she wanted to go on a boat, the answer was a resounding yes. So we went to the post office, got money, and then walked over to Azuma-bashi. I was a little nervous about taking Rebecca and all our stuff on a boat ride down the Sumida river by myself, and more worried that the only way up to the ticket window was a set of stairs, since that seemed like a good indication that this was not a handicapped accessible sort of cruise. But a tour person helped me up the stairs after I started dragging Rebecca's stroller up, and showed me the right window for the kind of ticket I wanted. We got in line, and Rebecca was excited. It is hard to contain an excited toddler for 20 minutes. There were more stairs down to the boat, but a helpful man in front of us carried the stroller down for me, I'm glad he didn't kill himself, because the stairs were really really steep. We made it on to the boat with only a little more help, and there was an easy place for us to sit in the back of the boat. I saw a sign that said I should fold up my stroller, which was unfortunately full of stuff. So I pulled the stuff out, folded the stroller, and stuck the stuff on top of it. It was probably more of a hazard that way, but I felt like being a compulsive rule follower since it seemed like the cultural thing to do.
The boat ride itself was pretty uneventful, it was an 11 bridge tour, and the bridges were all interestingly different shapes and different bright colors for the most part, but it wasn't really that interesting, and there were a lot of diesel fumes, and Rebecca wasn't very interested after the first 10 of 35 minutes. The boat tour dropped us off at Hama Rikyu Garden, which was pretty. We waved good by to the boat from the foundation of an old light house, and then walked around the garden. Well, first Rebecca almost set off the fire alarm in the bathroom, but luckily she didn't push hard enough. We almost got to have tea in the tea house on the lake, but we were about 5 minutes too late, I think.
After that we had to find our way to a train station, which was harder than it should have been, because there were too many signs, and too many expressways and elevated walkways and subterranean walkways. But eventually we made it up and down about six elevators, escalators and stairs to a station on the Ginza line. Two trains later and we'd made it up out of Kudanshita Station to our hotel. I thought I'd done pretty well for the day too, I was happy, until we decided to go to a too-fancy restaurant and I got all upset and stressed about Rebecca acting like a baby. There are babysitting services here, but it seems like you need to contact all of them by six o'clock p.m. the previous day, and we are also compulsive do-it-yourselfers. So we left with our cake, and had it after putting Rebecca to sleep.