Ueno: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
We arrived in Tokyo early afternoon on Thursday, and checked in to our LOVELY ryokan near Ueno (I’ll say more about this in another post). Not wanting to waste the day, and both feeling excited to be in Tokyo, we set off to explore Ueno Park. I have to admit, I didn’t have particularly high hopes of finding an afternoon’s worth of entertainment in a park – but how wrong I was!
The park itself is gorgeous, and massive. We were greeting by a huge pond of lotuses:
I don’t think I’ve ever seen lotuses before, and at the time we didn’t know what they were and it took me quite a while to work out what I was looking at!
Benten-do, a temple dedicated to Benten, the patron goddess of the arts, is on an island in the middle of the pond.
Big kids that we are, we decided to go to the zoo. I have to say, at only 600 Yen each (about £3.00) I thought it was a massive bargain! You get hours of entertainment for that price, and plenty of interesting animals to gawp at (even if the giant panda, Ling Ling, the zoo’s main attraction, did pass away earlier this year…). The temporary state of panda-less-ness didn’t stop the zoo from cashing in on the popularity of pandas, though!
I think my personal highlights, as far as animals go, were the gorillas (which were hard to photograph because of the glass):
The lions and tigers, which were also pretty hard to catch because of all the reflection:
The hippo, which moved surprisingly fast (once it was done pooing all the way up the wall… ugh!):
And of course the elephants, which, of all the animals, looked the saddest:
Conditions in the zoo seemed pretty good, but you’ve got to wonder how happy the animals can really be.
Akihabara: bright lights and maid cookies…
After Ueno, we walked to Akihabara, perfectly timed so that it was getting dark as we reached Akiba, the ‘mecca’ for otaku, and people like me who just love Japan’s crazy side.
Omiyage – maid cookies:
Character shop – so many cats!
You’ve gotta love Akiba!
Taking a walk: from Shibuya, to Harajuku, to Meiji Jingu, to Shinjuku…
We started the next day with a coffee in the famous Starbucks by the scramble crossing in Shibuya (made famous by Lost in Translation, one of my favourite movies). I’ve been here a number of times, and always seem lucky enough to get a window seat so I can watch the world going by across the crossing. My photos from Starbucks weren’t so good this time, but here’s a pic of Starbucks itself:
I know it must seem like I’m obsessed with Starbucks, maybe I am, but this one is special because of the movie, and also because it’s one of the first places I ever went in Japan (two years ago).
As I have done it a couple of times before, and sort of know the way, we walked from Shibuya to Harajuku. It’s quite an interesting walk, and you get to see lots of shops etc on the way. Harajuku was chocca-block, I assume because of the holiday, and we could barely move! We did manage to get some of the famous Harajuku crepes though!
The shops were, of course, full of many weird and wonderful things, and some interesting t-shirts:
I do like Takeshita Dori, but I sometimes wish it wasn’t always so packed full of people! I bet you could get some really cool stuff if you had time and space to browse properly…
After Harajuku we wandered into Meiji Jingu for some shade. Part of it was closed off, presumably for renovation of some kind, but it was still really cool, and also full of tourists. In this day alone, I felt like I had seen more non-Japanese people than I had in my four months in Nagoya!
I learnt on this day that the little signs you write messages on and hang at shrines are called ’ema’, and that they are meant for personal prayers and gratitude.
Some of the messages were really moving, and some even had drawings on them:
After a bite to eat, we walked to Shinjuku, where life is a whole lot faster, brighter and taller!
And, as promised in my last post, we went up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and took photos from the great height of the 45th floor…
After skyscraper spotting, and a spot of shopping in the wonderfully tacky giftshop located in the middle of the observatory, we headed into Shinjuku and managed to stumble upon a streetlive by Shinjuku station! The band were called Inshort and they were pretty good!
The sound on this video isn’t great, as it was taken on my phone…
And here are some stills:
Unfortunately, something happened after a few songs and it looked like they might be getting in trouble or something. So we quietly slipped away!
Ginza – Kabukiza!
After the excitement of Shinjuku, we decided to take a quick look at Ginza, and snap the famous Kabuki theatre by night. Two years ago I went here on my first day in Japan, to actually watch one act of a kabuki play. Looking back on it now, I don’t know how I managed it!
Asakusa – Sensoji Temple
On Thursday, our last day together in Tokyo, my mum and I went to Asakusa to kill time in the morning. I didn’t really know what to expect, as I hadn’t been there before (well, I don’t think I’ve been there before!), but it was awesome! It was also really crowded, but it was the perfect place to lose ourselves before the inevitable goodbye at Narita that afternoon.
Following a map I had picked up at the tourist information, it suggested we should approach Sensoji Temple through Nakamise, a shop lined street which leads right into the temple grounds.
The shops were mostly filled with tatt for tourists (some of which I love!), and also lots of nicely packaged food for omiyage, which is a very important part of Japanese culture.
The shops and stalls continued right up to the temple itself:
The temple was totally packed with tourists and, again, many of them were non-Japanese tourists.
It’s quite amazing how much we managed to cram in to a week! Tokyo surprised me, too, as I didn’t think I liked it so much, but I had a wonderful time! It’s very different to Nagoya, and I certainly wouldn’t want to live there, but it’s a fabulous place to visit!