Ueno Park

posted in: Japan Trip 2012 | 0

Refreshed by a good lunch and bottled drinks from a vending machine, Andrew and John make their way to Ueno Park from Ameyokocho. Although I’ve been to Ameyokocho in the past, I never found the time to visit nearby Ueno Park which is a very peaceful public space with a lake, zoo, temples and shrines, several museums and plenty of space to walk.

3:30pm JST

After scaling several flights of stairs, we arrive at the southern entrance to the park where we find the statue of Saigo Takamori, one of the generals in the Battle of Ueno. Then we proceed to walk the central pathway, lined with hundreds of cherry trees, although not in bloom at this time of the year. Ueno Park is very popular as a viewing place for cherry tree blossoms in the Spring and I’m sure they are quite beautiful.

Ahead of us stands the Kiyomizu Kannon Temple. Sitting on a hillside, this temple was inspired by the Kiyomizudera in Kyoto, which I toured during my stay in Kyoto. We walk passed the temple and down the hill for a spectacular view of the Bentendo, an octagonal temple hall built on an island in Shinobazu Lake, and the multiple red tori gates of the exit from the temple.

Further down this path we find the Ueno Zoo, home of the giant panda bears and children’s amusement park, home of Doraemon and Thomas the Tank Engine.

Then we find several displays that are apparently a part of the Tokyo Green 2012 Project. A straw man? Two large mirrors reflecting the plants at their bases? Rice cultivation? Vegetable and flower plantings? These installations lead us to a courtyard with a highly choreographed fountain show. Andrew thinks the fog is actually a deliberate way of misting the flowers. Its all very entertaining although I found the natural beauty of tonight’s sunset more compelling.

Finally at the North end of Ueno Park we have the Tokyo National Museum, housing the largest collection of national treasures and cultural artifacts in the country. In addition there is a science museum, a modern art museum and other museums which beck us to return and learn more about arts in Japan.

5:00pm JST

Time to rest my weary dogs with a visit to, yet another large and very beautiful, Starbucks. I believe I’ll have a Venti Mocha and cinnamon roll. This is also the first cup of caffeinated coffee I’ve had in almost a year. Andrew and I experiment with night time photography of the moon and trees as the air grows somewhat chill.

7:30pm JST

We wander back towards Ameyokocho and the Ueno-Okachimachi subway station where we pick up the Oedo line for a quick trip back to Monzen Nakachou. On the way, I find a Beard Papa’s!

There is MUCH more to do in Ueno Park so I anticipate a return trip sometime soon!


posted in: Japan Trip 2012 | 0

Again, we roll the dice… today’s adventure will be a return visit to the shopping district known as Ameyokocho in Ueno. In the years following WWII, Ueno Station became the gateway for migrants seeking work and prosperity in the city, and adjacent Ameyokocho something of a black market. Since those days, Ameyokocho has evolved into the legitimate street bazar, collection of open air stalls and shopping district you see today.

12:00am JST

Once again the Oedo subway line proves to be the most convenient jump off point to the Ginza line and then Ueno. From the subway exit we find ourselves before the Ueno train memorial. Then, we cross the street and enter Ameyokocho, the massive “under the train tracks” bazar and shopping district.

Andrew is a little cagey about where he’s leading me but I think I know where we’re going: an Enka store where you can find all kinds of Enka recordings, in all kinds of formats from CD to cassette. This store is so small, only a couple people can fit inside at any one time. The wife of the proprietor greets us and proves to be not only an Enka expert, but totally knowledgeable about every single recording in her store.

After much guidance from the proprietor’s wife, I select three Enka CDs, one featuring Ishikawa Saiyuri-san, and two CDs featuring a mix of old classic Enka songs. Before leaving, I just have to have a few photographs of this store and its owners. The store owners take our photos too and I’m sure our visit will end up on their wall with all of their other visitors and Enka celebrities.

2:00pm JST

Andrew wants to take me to a rotisserie chicken place, but instead we have lunch at a hole in the wall filled with lovely old stylings and warm patrons enjoying their drinks and meals. Andrew has the tankatsu and I have the grilled mackerel dripping in fish oil and butter. We are introduced to Mugicha, an herbal tea made from roasted barley. It’s light and not as bitter as tea.

3:30pm JST

Refreshed by a good lunch and bottled drinks from a vending machine we make our way to Ueno Park. I’ve been to Ameyokocho in the past and there’s little here for me to buy, so we decide to make our way to the next attraction, Ueno Park where there is a lake, zoo, temples and shrines, plenty of space to walk and museums.