Ben Greenfield in Tokyo #2



I am spending days with Ben Greenfield in my hometown Tokyo Japan. Since he had a private speaking event yesterday, I visited my old neighbor, Musashikoyama, Shinagawa, Tokyo where I had been living there until 7th grade. My elementray friends came to see me and I met most of them for the first time in two decades!! It made me so nostargic and reminded me of childhood. and…Guess what!? My random visit because of Ben was a sheer chance to come back to the september festival in my old hometown. It had been 20 years since I participated in last time. What a huge surprise! Sunday was the day for me!

My old friends recomended me taking Ben to their hometown festival, but I was afraid of suggesting “too local“ experience. However, Ben is not a regular turist, but a true experience seeker,. Ben was like…”I’m game, lets do it!!”, so I told me friends we were coming. They prepared our outfits and permission from neiborhood association because it is very traditional and only for the residents

Yakumo is the most well known places for wantanmen in Tokyo.

Yakumo is the most well known places for wantanmen in Tokyo.

Before we visited my old neighbor, we punished a bowl of amazing ramen in Tokyo. Yakumo has one Michelin star and is located about ½ miles from Shibuya, one of the most popular districts for shopping in Tokyo. It’s been one of the most popular Ramen restaurants for many years. The tasty broth and the volume of Prawn and Pork wontons will keep your tummy full for hours. The ramen in this place does not make you feel bloated. The soup is super clear and taste like it's from fish and salt based soup. I and Ben took Kion Lean and Gluten Guardian for guilt free ramen experience.

order by vending machine

order by vending machine

This ramen place is my “go to“ place when come back to Japan. Ramen place has Michelin star? This Japanese confort food is an extremely boom all over the place on the planet in my opinion. I love to see many people enjoy ramen, and Ben is one of them. He asked me for a good ramen place. I know he is a foodie as well as particular about what he puts in his body. Yakumo makes everything from scratch and has a Michelin star, so I took hime there. What makes this experience very special for Ben? Because there is absolutely no English and no pictures in this place, and orders are taken by vending machine in Japanese. Well, this place is not foreigner friendly place at all. Since I translated everything for him, Ben had a great bowl of ramen with extra topping after we waited for about 30 minutes at line (very busy during lunch time) Dish recommended by the supreme ramen maniac, AKA, my brother was Shirodashi (meaning “white broth”) wanton ramen. Ben had a white broth ramen and I had a black broth ramen (picture above) We enjoyed tasting both!

Ben and Tateki at Yakumo

Ben and Tateki at Yakumo

Types of Festival

There are so many traditional festivals held annually all across Japan, each one usually associated with a shrine or a temple, and organized by the local community. Portable shrines (mikoshi), floats, food stalls, and games are just some of the common features you can find.

Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival. Japanese festivals are not held on specific dates throughout Japan. Each neighborhood schedules and holds their own matsuri. A Japanese festival is usually held anywhere from late spring to fall, and it is possible to attend several throughout the year. There are many large and famous matsuri. The larger festivals are usually visitor-friendly, but you should go with a Japanese friend in order to get the full experience. When I was a kid, an uniform was provided when carring “mikoshi“. However, adults, who are resident in the area must be recognized by neighbor associate to have an official uniform.

“Shinto Jinjya” are the center of the Japanese festival. During the festival, mikoshi (portable Shinto shrines that look like miniature temples) are carried throughout the neighborhood. Shrines house the kami (gods or spirits) for the duration of the festival, and the locals celebrate matsuri by carrying the shrines through the streets, drumming and chanting and bouncing the whole way.

What we did was ”mikoshitogyo” carrying of miniature shrine, where the guardian god/sprit of my hometown stays in. We were carrying the regional guardian god to bless local residents. The shrine is huge and very heavy, and they require a dozen or more people to carry. Especially, Ben is taller than other Japanese people, so he had to carry hard or keep bending his knee all the time.

Traditional festival in my old hometown

Traditional festival in my old hometown

What to expect

Most matsuri are rather casual affairs, but some mikoshi carrying or festivals have significant religious significance and are not to be touched by outsiders. I even felt like I was afraid of jumping in when old people were carrying mikoshi next to me, but they welcomed me and Ben very well.

Heavy & Tradition

My old hometown has a very traiditonal way to carry the shrine. We had to lean toward the center, so if there is no power balance from each angle, some people get pushed by the shrine and kicked out from the very narrow road in Tokyo. You know how tight it i in concrete jungle. There are some guys guiding carriers to stay on the middle of the road.


I have no idea why we yell “washoi“ while carring the shrine. It is the most well-known festival chant in Japan. According to this page, the origin of the wasshoi chant is said to be a Japanese phrase meaning “Carry Peace” or “Carry a Ring”; “wa” in “wa-sshoi” can mean both “peace” and “ring.” The former expresses people’s wish for peaceful lives while the latter symbolizes the unity required to achieve something collectively as a team.


Mikoshi parades have their origins in religion, and the parade does start from and finish in the shintô sanctuary. Shintô is Japan’s indigenous religion; it has strong links with animism, which has a strong respect for the divine forces of nature and the rhythm of seasons and agriculture. Shintô is therefore related to the primal energies of life and Earth. Matsuri are moments of religious expression; but more than that, they are moments when Japanese people make peace with their inner energy.

I was expecting that it would be very difficult to join into a group of mikoshi careers who will be carrying the shrine around my old hometown for the festival because it is quite an unusual for a gaijin (foreigners), particularly for one who doesn’t belong to the community. I saw another foreigner joined the group, although he speaks Japanese and has been living in Musashikoyama for years and fully belongs to the mikoshi careers group association. Fortunately, one of my close friends dad is a board member, so we got traditional uniforms provided and permission to join the team. I am thankful, as the experience is not only completely new to Ben and threw back me to 20 years ago, but just very unexpected.

Shimizu-yu (hot spring in Tokyo)

Shimizu-yu (hot spring in Tokyo)

Hot Spring

Natural hot springs (Onsen) are numerous and highly popular across Japan. Every region of the country has its share of hot springs and resort towns, which come with them.

There are many types of hot springs, distinguished by the minerals dissolved in the water. Different minerals provide different health benefits, and all hot springs are supposed to have a relaxing effect on your body and mind. Hot spring baths come in many varieties, indoors and outdoors, gender separated and mixed, developed and undeveloped.

Black water hot spring ©

Black water hot spring ©

I and Ben went to Shimizu-yu right after carrying Mikoshi, and we did hot and cold therapy there. The natural hot spring and the hot rock sauna are really famous in Japan. Shimizu-yu Musashi-Koyama is popular because you can take a natural hot spring bath at a reasonable price in Tokyo. I know many of you from oversea may think “how come we find hot spring in the middle of concreate jungle?“ Well, this place has “history“! They found the hot spring from underground and it was established in 1924. The Kuroyu (black water hot spring) comes from 200 meters below ground, and said to promote skin softening and moisturizing. We enjoyed an electric bath, Jacuzzi and also a jet bath. All of them have the device to create nanobubble, so can have a Kuroyu nano bubble bath. 100 years old history and modern technologies meet up right here!

The Golden Hot Spring outdoor style at Shimizuyu ©

The Golden Hot Spring outdoor style at Shimizuyu ©

This brownish-yellow hot water, which contains water at 38 degrees Celsius brought up from 1500 meters below. This hot water is good at moisturizing, and it is called ‘Hot spring of beauties’ or ‘Hot spring for beautiful skin’. It was great recovery and relaxing because this Golden water is qualified as a medical treatment spring that contains abundant amount of iodine, which helps to cure external wounds. The Golden Hot Spring and Black Hot Spring are the two you must try!

Shimizu yu Mushashi-Koyama

3-9-1, Koyama, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 7 minutes walk from “Musashikoyama” station

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12:00~24:00 Mondays 03-3781-0575 Adult (Over age 12) 460 yen
Child (Junior high school children) 300 yen
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