We purposefully had about half a plan that Sunday in Tokyo. We’d arrived on Friday night, late, spent Saturday on a guided tour, and Sunday, had only to ensure we kept the gang fed and were on time for a ninja experience. It’s my favorite way to travel. A passport in hand, and no stringent plan? Yes, please.

We decided to take a 20 minute walk to the popular Meiji Shrine in Shibuya – the section of the city with the best name for yelling. The spacious garden and forest acres were instantly calming, and the grandiose arches and buildings well inside the grounds, welcoming.

The gang learned the etiquette of this ritual quickly and used it when appropriate to clean their hands before entering a shrine throughout our trip.

The kids prepared to go inside (see above), and some decided to offer prayers (none of which are pictured here – these belong to strangers) to kami, the Shinto gods. I counted nine different languages before I stopped reading. They’re out there for all to read, but I actually felt it was like looking directly inside a person’s heart, if you want to know the truth. Sometimes I even turned them around so others couldn’t read them either.

Gosh, I hope that didn’t get me into trouble with the other side. I really should learn to leave things alone!

These are just from this one morning. They are collected for a year before burning.

Of equal importance, these.

Millions of people every year leave prayers written in black ink along the four walls of a structure outside the largest shrine on the property. These are procured in hundreds of shrines all over the city. On January 1st each year, these wooden offerings are burned and all the prayers released to the gods together, as one. I truly wish I could be there for that. Maybe someday.

We finished our writing and turned to go just as a wedding was promenading through the square. Everyone there turned and raised their cameras. Turns out, these were members of the royal family!

I. KNOW. What luck!

That, my friends, is the kind of thing that happens when you wander rather than plan down to the most minute detail. It was stunning. Patrick whispered to me, “these people are very important! Oooh, she is loving all eyes on her!”

That pop of red! It’s like a National Geographic photograph just waiting to be taken. But not by me. Because I have zero eye for detail.

And she did. This couple was clearly the center of the universe on this day. Which reminds me, interesting fact: those clog/flipflop things the ladies wear. They are always too short for the woman’s foot. For the love of all that is holy, why? Is it to slow her down so she can’t change her mind and run (not that this bride gave any indication)? It does make one wonder. I asked four different Japanese people this question and none of them knew the answer. Curious.

Next, the gang went for a ninja experience. I have no pictures because I was back at Tokyo Station getting a refund on a set of JR Rail Tickets we didn’t need. I have no pictures of that because I have blocked it completely from memory.

Then, though, came dinner. And it was ramen noodles. And they were nothing like the .29 noodles we buy at Hannaford. Enjoy these absolutely not National Geographic worthy pics. Feel free to drool a little.

I can’t remember what this is, but I know it was delicious.

Patrick’s was also divine.

We didn’t plan to have Ramen for dinner. There were lots of things we didn’t plan for that day. But every one of those things we discovered or serendipitously stumbled on were worth the freedom of a day lacking an itinerary. I loved it. And I’d do it again tomorrow.