Tokyo Day 3 – temples, market, outskirt neighbourhood, europe, observatory and very sore legs
I didnt sleep good, maybe because I was overtired, but at least it was not terrible. This morning I thought I better miss the morning rush and waited until close to 9am to leave for the day. The Station seemed very much more manageable, although it could have to do with me getting used to it.
Off to Ueno. The day is perfect, sunny and clear.
View of the station from the walkway to the park.
Ueno park has a wonderful old feel to it. Heaps of people are pouring in. I am a bit surprised and somewhat worried that the place will be packed before i know it. I am headed to one of the temples (or so I think) and pass a bunch of the museums where numerous school groups are gathering and more and more people are coming.
Now that is a woman! One on the back and one on the front.
A sign gives me lots of hope and confidence I am on the right way:
I stand in the line and observe the people around me.
Ok, so I get my ticket and get in, along with all the other people. It seriously looks like the place will get sooo busy, you wont be wishing to be around. Some special exhibition is going on. Since I have a ticket I decide to go too and follow the gang.
Pass this, which I later figure out is the Tokyo National Museum. Duh!
When we get to the building with the special exhibition, there is already a line and buckets of umbrella’s on offer for people, so they wont have to stand in the sun. I take one. Feels nice. Love those Japanese people and their forward thinking.
A guy walks around with a sign and is shouting something. I look at the sign, but not a word of English, the only thing I gather is the number 40. The closest I can think of is the minutes anticipated to wait. I dont like that a bit.
Look around…the line coils about 4 times before the entry and its moving barely.
I look at my ticket… Yes, its clear what I am waiting for…
Back to the park and to the Toshogu Shrine.
The shrine was established in 1627 and is one of the few that survived the great earthquake in 1923, war destruction and whatnot. Apparently the lanterns are not typical for shrines, but the beauty of the place is amazing.
Its strangely quiet and cool inside. Intricate carvings on the ceiling and tops of the walls. Few exhibits of very old kimono like cloth, strange writings on wood – called Munafuda – with swastika on them. (I planned to look this up, but if any of you has the time to it will be great).
Tatami mats, silk screens and dragon statues are in the area for praying. Slow instrumental Japanese music can be heard slightly in the background.
When I pop out, I dont want to put my shoes back on. Felt so nice to be bare foot. But no, come on socks and warmish shoes, thank goodness they had few of those slide your sticky foot in the shoe things.
I am off again and thirsty. At least in Japan there are vending machines everywhere you look. I grab my water and then got pulled by this nice sounding drink. So I got that one too. What in the world is Calpis?
Off to the next stop.
Gojoten-jinja Shrine. Not on my plan, but it looked interesting with its entry made up of numerous red poles and went down some stone steps.
This place consisted of a few buildings. The place was not busy and quite nice. Later on I figured out what were those scoopy things with long handles (they are at every temple/shrine). People wash their hands with them before entering the places.
I see a group of three English speaking tourists and offer to take their group picture. Then the boy offers to take mine…My camera is not easy to operate, but I was not about to refuse the offer. This is my bloody trip after all and I have no proof in the end. So I tell him “focus with that, shoot with that” and hope for the best. Just how badly can he do this…
Yes, I have had better and it would have been nice to be in focus, or at least anything to be in focus, but it is it, what it is. Beggers cant be choosers.
Next – Kiymizu Kannon-do temple. A wonderful red building, which was modelled after Kiymizu-dera in Kyoto. Women who hoped to conceive a child would leave a doll here and they are burned ceremoniously every year in September.
I wonder if that is why its red.
Few more stops at statues and whatnot and then I went to the little lake to visit the temple of art and creativity.
People visiting would stop at the incenses burning and spreading a wonderful exotic aroma round and “grab” some of the smoke and pull it over their faces and legs.
About enough of this now and I decide to venture into Ueno itself in search of the Ameyoko arcade, one of the only old fashioned outdoor markets in Tokyo.
After and interesting ‘conversation’ with a policemen, I think I am on the right way.
It is pretty much straight out of the park area and its memorizing as soon as you get in it. Its located under the subway line and runs in few rows of tiny alleys and is buzzing with people. The area with the fish and fish products smelled oh so good. I wish I knew whether I could try some of the produce that looked like a take away, but since I had no clue, I left it at the salivating stage.
Here is me again.
How fun does that look?
After some good browsing and looking around its time to figure out a place to eat. I was looking around at the eateries when while looking at a sign trying to figure out what they were saying, behind the blue flags pops a smiling Japanese and invites me in a somewhat understandable English. I am going in, I knew it was a sushi train, so I have nothing against that.
Its a small place and I am greeted as usual. Given my space and a menu. Again, not one woman inside.
I get the miso soup and ask if I can take some pictures – but of course, with big smiles.
My neighbour ot the left asks in broken English what kind of camera I have. He whips out a Nikon too and we compare. Mine is better ;) . Chef makes a joke about it, but I have no idea what. We chat a bit, I take his picture and he takes mine. I gave him my email so he can send it. We will see.
Very pleasant. He shows me how to whip up the green tea with the faucet that is stuck in front of me and since his visit to Japan is over hangs me over his map of Tokyo. We bawl at each other when he leaves and I order a few more things. I loooved the crab salad sushi, found the cattlefish one a bit strange in texture and enjoyed the rest.
Here is Chef and my crab salad sushi.
Out of there ( gosh I am fading, the rest might have to be quick and short)
I drop the plan to go to Asakusa, another older place and decide to follow a random tip from information on the Internet and get myself to an obscure neighborhood, who knows where.
I start to make a plan of attack, but according to my subway map, I cant get there. I friendly young man jumps to help me from somewhere. In a pretty broken English he understood what I want to do and goes ahead to ask the station guys how to go about getting to that place.
Bla, bla, bla….hai…hai…bla bla bla…flip through books..
I have a plan and I can now see it on my other map. Thank you so much, kind stranger.
Off again. In the train I notice this sign and found it so funny. I think the pregnant woman is going to explode and the old man has gas. Hahahaha
After a train change and some lesser line with very little english available, I arrive to Shimokitazawa. And it is exactly what I thought. A lovely place with small streets, only a car can pass and cute little shops and whatnots. Buzzing with people.
I spot a bakery and since I havent tried one so far, decide that now is a good time. No English signs or explanations or guides. I choose two things by look and the third one because it looked weird – seaweed wrapped and something strange inside.
They were all yummy. The sweet ones were just perfect, not too sweet, as are most ‘sweets’ here. The seaweed one was filled with who knows what, but it was very tasty, donut like texture.
So, I am nibbling and enjoying my walk. The place is wonderful – with little streets and houses and alleys. The shops are cute as a button.
You get the picture. I still have a bit to go with this story, yes, I feel like that doll.
And I get myself to Harajuku, another of those young trendy places.
And it is. Youth everywhere, sitting on the side lines, chatting and just being. The area looks a bit like its pulled out of Europe somewhere. Big streets, fancy shops and cafes.
Seems so strange after the morning and early afternoon I have been spending. Its like I moved to another country.
Fancy some Ralph Loren?
Some fancy shop front or youth culture?
Fight my way through the crowds and crawl to Shinjuku.
By now the bottoms of my feet can feel every little bump on the road like a samurai cutting me. The legs are even starting to be unruly and dont quite listen to me. I get out of the station and in my vision comes the Tocho or Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, with a great observation deck. The weather has been great all day, so I am thinking, oh, wouldnt it be lovely to get there, catch the sunset and maybe see Mt. Fuji! And those legs started walking, despite my brain screaming to them not to.
At first the place seemed not to far, but it was one of those that kept on getting further, the more I walked. That or my head was playing tricks on me.
I am almost there and the thought of maybe the place is closed, as its getting dark now hits me, but nothing can stop me now. I will get there if it kills me. And I do, and it doesnt.
The place seems suspiciously quiet and dark, but I push through and then I see the sign that saved my life – the Observation deck this way and its open till 23:00. Thank goodness!
Well, not that I would have missed much, as Mt. Fuji didnt want to show again. The horizon was hazy and my view sucked. Haze and sunsets dont go together well. I waited a bit for the sunset, so I can at least see the place at night, but my body was ready to let go of me and I decided its really time to get to the hotel.
Somehow I get to the home front and collapsed in a heap on the bed. It was 6:30pm. I have been out since 9am…
They do say that pregnant women should keep active ;)
For dinner I just dragged my body down to the place under the hotel and had some soft egg, sea urchin and asparagus pasta and a lovely fresh tomato and mozzarella salad.
Then wobbled back up here.
I am a bit burned, exhausted and dying to be in bed. I hope I can walk again tomorrow…