Tokyo Adventures: Shrines, Shrines, Shrines
So, time to talk about shrines.
You can't really go to Japan without visiting some shrines...it'd be like visiting Paris without eating bread or cheese. They're not exactly everywhere, but they are certainly easy to get to, and absolutely worth the trip out. So let's do our day of shrines chronologically.
First up, the cat shrine! It probably has a different, more official name, but...it's basically what it is. The legend is something along the lines of - shrine's cat beckons samurais, samurais are like 'holy shit a waving cat', eat at the shrine, love the shrine and the cat and the dude who owns it, go back to their masters, and say 'there's a waving cat also this religion is dope' and the shrine gets a ton more support. Pretty sure that's the TL;DR, but feel free to look it up on your own (it's called Gotokuji Temple but cat shrine works too).
This shrine was quite a ways out and required a different type of rail pass, but was worth it. Beautiful, spacious, well-kept (people literally just sweeping dead leaves off the pathways), and has a nice little way of including you. You can buy your own wood block and attach it. I chose to honor all the cats in my life, so it might be a little sappy for some of you.
Up next was the Meiji Jingu Shrine, one of the most popular shrines to visit because of its size, and the fact it's accessible. No need for a different rail pass, like the shrine above.
The Meiji Jingu Shrine is huge, and to call the whole complex the 'shrine' is inaccurate. It's a huge park, basically. You can pay something like $5 to tour the gardens, a ~30 minute walk if you take your time and enjoy the scenery. Of course, there is THE shrine, pictured above. You can pay a few dollars to get your own fortune. They had a box of sticks with the numbers of fortunes on them that you could shake and tilt out, if you didn't know which fortune you wanted. I got the number 4...which didn't actually exist as a fortune because it's the Japanese bad-luck number. Why even put it in there then?!
Finally, we visited the Sensoji Temple, which is probably the easiest temple to get to. It's right off the subway, and is also the tourist destination. Lining the street leading up to the temple are booths, probably like a mile of just super-touristy, stereotypical gift booths and street food. Ever wanted that cliche Japanese tea cup? It's here. Masks? Yup. Kimonos? Duh. So you get your shopping done, AND visit a truly awesome, breathtaking temple.
During the day (until about 6pm), you can go inside the huge temple. But if you don't get around to this area of Tokyo until after, it's still worth visiting. The shops are closed, but the temple grounds are still open for sightseeing, and they are beautiful. You can feed Japanese koi fish in Japan, with a lit tower guiding your way back into the city away from the grounds. It was worth just to pause and soak in the ambiance.
*Side note - what's with the weird-ass pedestrian walking signs?? They look like aliens.
To finish a truly exhausting day (we probably walked 20k steps, easy), we found a soba shop nearby.
It ended up being the quintessential Japanese experience. Walking through the hanging flaps, sliding the door open, sitting in a small room that looked like someone's living room and choosing to sit Western-style as opposed to cross-legged on raised platforms...and eating some of the best food of the trip. This equivalent of a hole-in-the-wall ended up having all three of us agree it was the best meal we've had, and we seriously considered going back here (a 40 minute train ride from our AirBNB) for lunch the next day. It was that good.
Thus ended the most brutal day of the trip. If you have the time, I definitely advise limiting temple visits to two a day, if that. I tried to make it so our trip was linear, starting in the west of Tokyo and heading to the east, but there was just so much walking. But, if you do decide to pack everything in...make sure to reward yourself with an epic meal at the end.