Mysterious Mountain Monk

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For Tokyo's size, density, and sprawl (those last 2 things might sound contradictory, but here they're not), it has tons of parks -- big parks, that are astounding both in how carefully they're kept, and in their ability to block out the bustling city around them. Take Yoyogi Park in Shibuya. It's vast, manicured, and serene -- on the weekends, it's apparently hopping with cos-players and street musicians. But today, the other people visiting (besides Pejk and me) were an odd assortment of homeless folks and teams of young people doing fashion photo shoots. The landscape pulsed with the caw of crows and other noisy birds -- and one other sound... a haunting sort of moan that reverberated off the ginko trees.

We followed the sound into a corner of the park -- there, we found a man methodically pacing in circles, breathing deeply and blowing into a giant conch shell. He turned out to be a self-described mountain monk who spends most of his time in the city, but plays the conch as a means of focusing and liberating his spirit... (more details to come)

Later, we made our way to Meiji-Jingu, which some consider to be Japan's most important Shinto shrine. There we ran into 2 wedding processions -- and dozens of tots celebrating (we think) the holiday of Shichi-go-san (7-5-3), which marks the occasion of these age milestones. Although the kids were carefully dressed in beautiful kimono (the girls' hairstyles alone were astounding), the normally quiet complex was punctuated by the click clack of their traditional sandals: like kids everywhere, when they saw the big open space, they couldn't help but take off running through it. (See our flickr page for a big dose of adorableness.)

Kurt just got in to the city today -- more from him soon.

- Jenny Lawton