Ueno park, Taito and Asakusa

View of Mount Fuji across Tokyo skyline
View of Mount Fuji across Tokyo skyline

Woke up at a reasonable hour this morning thankfully the rain had been replaced by sun with the clearest blue skies and depending on which forecast you believe no more rain till the weekend when we will be long gone.

We started at the usual station and with precision we changed trains at Akihabara then for off at Nishi-Nippori the headed down the side stress of Yanka talking in the shrines and cemeteries in the area. The shrines are scattered amongst the local houses and often it is not clear whether you could enter the shrine but the gates are always open, which makes them very welcoming. They are very calm places. The area appears to be a well to do area judging by the cars on the garages. The weather was gorgeous not a cloud in the sky, only a light coat was needed, it was so clear at one loint helen spotted mount Fuji in the distance with its snow capped top.

We were following a walk in the guide book which took in most of the sights in the area and would lead us to Ueno park, but like all the guide books the map did not have much detail, so we had to follow our noses a bit. At the exit of the cemetery area we find a coffee shop called Kabaya-coffee.com. I had scrambled eggs on toast and a nutty coffee, Helen had a latte and vegetable sandwich. She said she had never been so pleased to see some ice berg lettuce.

Ueno Park, Taito, Tokyo, Japan

From there the theme continued as we headed towards Ueno park. We saw more shrines down the back streets and came across an antiques or bric a brac shop where I purchased a holiday souvenir two small Sakii cups in a wooden box. We skipped the zoo they are the anywhere in the world. Just as you go into the park the first thing you see is a very large area of water similar to a reed bed but made of plants with big leaves and I imagine large flowers. We ticked off a few Japanese birds including an interesting duck, and thrush. We still haven’t figured out the screaming birds that stick around these trees with yellow fruit which the locals collect the seeds off. Earlier in the day we saw a great tit.

In Ueno park there are lots of museums we choose the museum of western art , which is a great collection. Strange you say to go all that way and look at western art, our excuse is that it is in Japan so probably the only chance to ever see it. Out side the science and nature museum is a big plastic whale. We stopped for coffee on the edge of Asakusa district, I had what looked like custard tart but turned out to be pumpkin tart but tasted like custard tart with a hint of pumpkin.

Asakusa is an interesting place, lots of artisan shops quite a few knife shops the prices seemed quite high but you pay your money you take your choice as they say. As you get towards the magnificent shrine it gets quite touristic, with lots of trinket shops and food shops. The shrine it self is quiet extensive and the temples are on much larger scale to the ones we had seen earlier in the day.

The Tokyo Sky Tree from Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo, Japan

Next mission was get back to Tokyo station for some good before heading back to the hotel. We were right next to a metro station so the obvious choice was to take our first underground journey. First we had to buy a ticket using a list in English but a map in Japanese, Helen figured it out straight away and we soon had two 190 yen tickets. We went from the end of the line to Ginza then change to take another train one stop to Tokyo station. The metro is much slower than the trains we were used to, but we were soon at our destination. Next mission was get out of the underground to the station and into the train station, as it is a maze of platforms and perhaps the tube company would rather keep you on the tube than deposit you with the train company.

We found the station and headed for a JR East office to book tickets for tomorrows excursion to the seaside town with yet more shrines, can you see the theme developing. Next we headed for the food place we had used yesterday, and found an establishment that suited both of us. We both had a noodle dish Helen’s was with mushrooms and vegetables and mine was with mixed seafood, they came with a bowl of what looked like stock with eggs stirred in strange taste but not unpleasant. We then had trouble find the right platform and when we did we got off at the wrong end of our local station, so had a longer than necessary walk home which was not welcome after being out on our feet for over eight hours, but all in all we had had a great day, and we had seen Mount Fuji.

Yoyogi park, and the Meiji shrine

Entrance to Meiji Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

After the marathon time spent awake yesterday we slept pretty well, and did not finally wake up till 09:30. We have decided that we will skip breakfast at the hotel as it is 2,300 yen each. We stopped of at the lobby of the seven eleven next door for Helen’s first fag of the day,then headed down to the nearest station to try out our Tokyo Oyster cards. The station was confusing until we spotted the English signs. From Suodobashi station we caught a train to Shinjuku where we found a nearby Starbucks some breakfast, then we got back on the trains to go to Harajuku station. Shinjuku station is the one famous for employing people to squash commuters onto the trains during rush hours, it was quite crowded and it was only a Sunday, I wonder what it is like on a week day?

The train was an over ground so we had the opportunity to see the world go by. We passed lots of water one area seemed to have boats for hire, we passed a fishing place where there were lots of fishermen on methods jetties with fishing rods, apparently quite popular I remember seeing it on a documentary about cap once on TV. We guessed correctly which station to get off at, and soon found the park entrance, there were lots of people walking down the wide tree lined avenues we followed the crowds and eventually came to the main shrine area. People come to the shrine to get married so there are as lot of people in traditional dress especially ladies and children. There seemed to be a harvest festival gong on as there were many displays of produce some on the form of large boats worth sails made off leeks. I didn’t know where to point my camera there was too many things to photograph.

We did a leisurely loop around the rest of the park, we were on the look out for the rockers that the park is also famous for. We spotted for a coffee then headed out to find them. We had a stroke of luck my Kindle is a 3G version and can access data worldwide, so we found a picture of the rockers and showed it to an official, who pointed us in the right direction. The rockers were strutting those stuff at the entrance to the park, which is separate to the shrine park. We walked round the park and did some people watching. It seems the Tokyians know how to make use of the green spaces, there was not just lounging around, the rule was that you had to be doing something either cultural or physical. We saw people with Frisbees, hula hoops, shuttle cocks, basketballs, soccer balls, tambourines, then there was the was the cultural ones singing, dancing, reciting, playing etc. There were also some street performers, one on a cylinder and board was very good as he flicked bowls on tithe head of the girl balancing on his head. There was an fenced off area that seemed to be full of dogs and their owners I thing the area was where you are allowed to let your dog off its lead.

Dancers in Yoyogi Park, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Next stop was to be a the oriental bazaar near by which Helen had spotted in the guide book. Lots of Japanese ware in a nice shop that was well spaced out, unlike the western shops which are squeeze in as much as you can. Helen bought some gifts. Then we headed back to the hotel because we needed a east before going out for something to eat. The trims were quite busy people were on the move, the Japanese queue on the platform nears marks then was politely for the disembark before getting on themselves.

After a rest and freshen up, we ventured out again to find something to eat. We could not make our minds up where to eat. Many restaurants have photo’s or plastic models of the food they sell but neither are very appetising, add to that neither of us eat meat and Helen does not eat fish either it makes the whole thing a bit of a challenge. We ended up at the Tokyo dome we we found a Spanish restaurant, I managed to stay slightly Japanese with the Japanese crab pasta, and Helen got another tick on the list of countries where she has eaten a Margarita pizza. Before going back to the hotel we had a look round the attractions at the dome, and stumbled across another unusual Japanese tradition, there was an area with posts of fairy lights including a long tunnel, and all around were late teenagers, mainly girls all dressed up in Anime style clothing, photo graphing each other. Some of the camera and kit was very serious I saw a 50mm f1.2 canon lens they retail at £1,200 many of them had flashes and reflectors.

Back toward the hotel we tried to go to a Belgium beer establishment we had spotted yesterday, but alas the place was shut, so we went back and had a beer at the hotel. We managed to stay up until 21:00 the jet lag is wearing off.