May 31, 2011

The Shinshoji Temple in Narita

I wish it was as easy to get from every airport to our hotel as it was from Tokyo’s Narita. The airport is neat, quiet and efficient. After exiting the luggage carrel area we went to the Information Desk and asked for directions. She looked at the schedule and told us to go to Stop 13 just outside the door and the Limousine Bus would be along in a few minutes. We prepaid $30 by credit card. A taxi into Tokyo can be between $200 and $300 depending on the traffic. We went to the assigned spot where a digital readout listed the next bus, its destination, and how long before it would arrive. Meanwhile an attendant, wearing white gloves, tagged our luggage. The bus pulled up on time, the attendant loaded our luggage, and we boarded the new, clean bus. No tipping. Tipping is not common in Japan; it can be considered an insult! An announcement said, “Please do not use your cell phone. It will annoy your neighbor.” We arrived at our hotel relaxed.

We decided to spend our last two days in Japan in Narita. The Limousine Bus picked us up in front of our hotel in Tokyo and took us to the airport where we walked up one level and were picked up by the free Mercure Narita Hotel shuttle bus; 20 minutes later we were at the hotel in the city center. The hotel has a beautiful covered pool on the top floor, several restaurants and Happy Hour in the Half Time Bar includes free popcorn. The popcorn was our first real taste of home in three months. I said to the waiter, “The popcorn is excellent. Now I am hungry for a hamburger but I don’t see it on the menu.” “No problem we can make you one.” Often times hamburger meat outside the US is “different.” The hamburger was excellent and a great way to start our return to the US.

The next day we walked around the corner from the hotel and took the Retro Bus ($2) to the Shinshoji Temple complex, one of the most popular in Japan. The temple’s park was closed so they could repair the damage from the earthquake. The temple was built in 940 around a stature of the Buddhist Fudo Myoo deity. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and there were plenty of visitors. The temple architecture is beautiful, especially the Three-story Pagoda built in 1712. At the highest point in the complex is the Great Pagoda of Peace built in 1984. In the Great Main Hall we attended a Buddhist ceremony called Sacred Fire Rite. It is conducted several times every day and anybody can attend. During the service wooden sticks are burned on a platform in front of the image of Fudo Myoo. The fire represents the wisdom of Fudo Myoo and aids in eliminating earthy passions, which are symbolized by the sticks, and helps to bring worshipers to a higher state of mind in order to win the favors of Fudo Myoo.

The street by the temple is lined with typical shops and restaurants. After lunch in one of the restaurants we boarded the Retro Bus and completed the loop, which stopped at a large shopping mall and the airport. Anyone with 3 to 5 hour layover in Narita can take the Retro Bus.