Sensoji Temple

Tokyo’s oldest temple (approx. 628 A.D., rebuilt in 1958 after being destroyed in WWII); legend states that the gold statue of the goddess Kannon was fished out of a nearby river and that the temple was built to house the statue which is reputed to still be housed in the temple; shops and colorful stalls line the street leading up to the temple and crowds throng the incense stands, asking for Kannon to grant favors

For a few yen you can do the Japanese fortune thing. Basically you pull what looks like a chopstick out of a big tin can, then you match a symbol on the chopstick to a symbol on a bank of wooden drawers. There are monks on hand to help you with the translation (actually, they hand you a translation book and you’re on your own to search for the proper translation).

My wife tried this first. We probably should have been content to save the fortune as a souvenir. When we finally found the translation, it was bad . . . very bad. Summary: Bad marriage, bad job, bad travel. That would just about cover everything, wouldn’t it?

Fortunately there is a procedure for negating bad fortunes (which is what she immediately did). You tie the fortune to a nearby tree. Or a metal structure that represents a tree (conveniently provided by those thoughtful monks).

After tying her fortune to a tree she tried again. Prognosis: Regular Fortune. Regular marriage, regular job, regular travel.

That was good enough for me. We quit while we were ahead and moved on.

Ekoin Temple

(aka the Shrine of the Rat Boy)

After visiting the Sumo stadium, follow the street lined with Sumo statues until it ends. Across the street you’ll see a wooden gate: this is the entrance too Ekoin Temple, one of the most eclectic temples in Tokyo. Legend has it this is where retiring sumo wrestlers bury their topknots.

Originally built in 1657 as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the great fire, the temple has long since transcended its original purpose.

For example, on the temple grounds, there is a memorial to lost pets. Owners buy large sticks in their pet’s memory and place them around the temple grounds. It would be incredibly sad if the grounds weren’t filled with so many stray cats who are very much alive and waiting to be fed. Generally, these felines are demanding, but friendly.

There’s a huge tower on the grounds that is said to serve as the final resting place for unidentified dead people, criminals, and those who have lost their lives in various disasters.

The “Shrine of the Rat Boy” is perhaps the biggest draw to Ekoin (at least for the cats). The Rat Boy was apparently a Robin Hood-like Japanese figure from the 19th century.