Touring Japan with Jeff Alexander, Dispatch 2
Editor's Note: UW-Parkside History Professor Jeff Alexander and 11 students are in Japan through June 13. They are touring and learning in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima. Dr. Alexander is tweeting updates and photos regularly and you can join his followers on Twitter at @jeffalexander99 and follow the tour through Ranger Today and the university web site.
Dispatch from Japan 2: Four Hundred Years of Tokyo
In just the last 48 hours, our students have traveled much of Tokyo through both space and time. We began by visiting Sengakuji Temple, the burial place of the famous 47 Ronin (masterless samurai). Led by Oishi Kuranosuke, the 47 Ronin avenged their dead lord by killing his rival, Lord Kira, in 1703. Though punishable by death, their plot to reclaim his honor earned them enormous respect throughout Japan, and after waiting for 47 days, the shogun allowed them to commit ritual suicide rather than face decapitation. Our students laid burning incense sticks before their gravestones, including that of Oishi himself.
Next, we visited the Edo-Tokyo Museum, where elaborate displays enable visitors to see how the city of Edo evolved from a feudalistic warrior capital into the metropolis we know today as Tokyo, or "Eastern Capital." After pausing for a bowl of hot soba noodles, we journeyed to ultra-modern Akihabara, known as "electric town" for its numerous electronics shops and equally numerous comic book shops and manga-themed cafes. The next day, we viewed the vast collection of national treasures in the Tokyo National Museum, including beautiful lacquerware, ancient Buddhist statuary, and swords dating to the 12th century. Finally, we toured the grounds of Asakusa Shrine and Sensoji Temple before visiting Tokyo's restaurant supply district, where the city's top chefs fit out their shops with everything from the finest knives to the hyper-realistic models of food that they display in their shop windows. We capped off our last night in the capital by venturing into the neon glow of Shinjuku to sing karaoke in a private box. Our days are filled with contrasting experiences, and as we board the bullet train bound for Kyoto, we are sure to find many more.
On board the Shinkansen
7 June 2013In the photo, UW-Parkside students visit Tokyo's Sengakuji Temple, burial place of the famous 47 Ronin.