A Change of Pace

A Change of Pace

It’s been a busy four days here in Tokyo… so, time for a change of pace!! Though shopping my be a girl’s favorite hobby (or maybe just mine?) I was tired of the hustle and bustle of the Tokyo shops and streets. So, I decided to visit the local universities to check out the competition!

Here is the iconic Yasuda Auditorium of Tokyo University (or “Toudai” as it’s called in Japan).Every year in Aprilgraduation is held at Yasuda Auditorium, just like graduation is held at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium every June. Since Toudai is famous for being Japan’s best university (think the Harvard of Japan), graduating from here is a huge prestige!

Sincemy majorat Caltech is chemical engineering I, of course, had to find the chemical engineering building!! Sadly it wastucked away towards the side of the campus andblocked by the other engineering buildings… The building looked pretty nicethoughit’s nothing compared to Caltech’s newly built Schlinger laboratories (the mechanical engineering building in contrast was super new and modern looking!)

Afterwards, I decided to visit Sophia University. Whereas Toudai is a public university, Sophia University is a private university… But shockingly, the campus was much smaller and older looking than Toudai’s – the opposite of what it’s generally like in America. Since Sophia University is a liberal arts college that specializes in foreign language studies I actually didn’t take any pictures of the campus……….. Sorry!!

The next day,Saturday, I decided to go visit Tokyo Tower. As you can probably tell, it’s based on the Eiffel Tower, but according to Wikipedia it is a couple of tens of meters taller.

Nearby the Tokyo Tower was the main temple for one of the largest Buddhist sects in Japan, the Zoujouji Temple. It was a very picturesque temple… A stark contrast from the very industrial Tokyo Tower in the background. There was even a huge tree that said it was a present from the 18thUS President, GeneralGrant,that was planted in1879!

Just like at Sensouji (the temple I visited in Asakusa), I bought a “mikuji” – a fortune. But this time I cheated a bit… At Zoujouji Temple, they had two different kinds of mikuji. One was the normal kind of mikuji like the one I did at Sensouji. But they had another kindthat had only good luck fortunes but each fortune was for a different kind of luck (for money, love, business, etc). So naturally, I did the one that guaranteed my good luck… And I drew one that said I would have good luck in “raking in good fortune and money”!! Guess it was a good thing that I decided to become a chemical engineering major at Caltech!

Walking around in the humid Tokyo weather makes one very hungry!! So nearby the temple was this old soba shop (they claim to have been around for over a hundred years, six generations of family ownership.) The soba I ordered was a “shiso soba”… shiso being a very popular herb in Japanese cooking. It resembles basil a bit but the taste is very different. It’s rather hard to describe to be honest!And as all good Japanese do, here I am slurping loudly to indicate how delicious the food is.. and it was :)

All rejuvenated from the soba, I ambitiously decided to tour the Shinjuku Imperial Garden. The garden is a huge complex right in the middle of the city. It used to be a private garden for only the emperor and his family but after World War 2, it was opened to the public.

There was a huge French style rose garden that reminded me of all Caltech in the springtime. There must’ve been over fifty different kind of roses.. it was very impressive!

In the more traditional style Japanese garden there were tons of hydrangeas blooming! Since Japanese soil is so alkaline (or basic) the hydrangeas become a deep blue-purple color (as opposed to becoming pinker if they’re planted in more acidic soil).

Just like at Zousouji Temple, the Shinjuku Imperial Garden (or Shinjuku gyo-en) was a nice change of pace from the usual fast paced city life. It’s an amazingly peaceful hideaway from the skyscrapers just a few blocks away (the tall building in the picture is the Diet, or the main government building in Japan).

But, it’s back to the big city!! Till next time.