Friday, July 29, 2011

Sights expected and unexpected

To stave off jetlag, I walked southeast from the little ryokan-style hotel I'm in staying in at Ikebukuro (not a part of Tokyo I know at all). Starting with the owls (fukuro ふくろ) with which Ikebukuro fudges its name (it's actually pond (ike 池)-bag (fukuro 袋), not pond-owl), I made my way through the claustrophobic passageway under the train station, wove through cyclists on a broad shopping street, and continued past the demolition of a neighborhood's last wooden house as an elevated expressway roared above. At the big cemetery of Zozoji I passed a station of the city's last surviving streetcar. The headquarters of the big publisher Kodansha displayed recent work. Under a sullen sun I had a look at Kenzo Tange's rather wonderful Catholic Cathedral of Saint Mary (a gift of the city of Köln), a Lourdes cavern rather jarringly facing it, and ended my trek at the ritzy hotel garden of Chinzanso, which boasts a medieval pagoda brought from rural Hiroshima in the 1920s.

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