Published: November 14th 2007November 14th 2007
This is Ueno, but it's before the markets; you can see where they begin a bit further down in the photo, where there's a crowd. I don't like being one of those tourists who go into crowded areas and photograph everything, so I missed a good shot of the markets.
I had a frustrating experience getting out of Hokkaido for Tokyo. Due to bad weather, the shinkansen stopped running on Monday afternoon, and I found myself back in a Hakodate hotel room for the night. I was tired, I'd had to wake up at 5:30 am on Monday morning to get a series of trains which would see me in Tokyo by 7 pm. Tuesday morning saw me exhausted. I had already booked another early morning train to be sure of arriving back in Tokyo.
The train ride itself was quite nice though, I did a lot of work on my laptop. An elderly woman sat next to me, and at one stage tried to give me chocolate, or something wrapped like it! She was really quite sweet.
Finally, the outskirts of Tokyo began flashing by at 3 pm on Tuesday afternoon! Such a nice feeling to get back. I hopped off the shinkansen at Ueno, stowed my backpack in a coinlocker, and wandered through the Ueno markets. I had a few hours to kill before Ben finished work.
I'd been to Ueno already, in the evening, for a meal, but this was the first time I'd really
bothered to pay attention to it. I was in an excellent mood. Being an inner city boy, I always experience a certain relief when I arrive back to urbanity after being somewhere more remote, and this was combined with an excitement of being in a city as massive as Tokyo. And, for all of my frustration while up north, I realised I was probably lucky to enjoy arriving in Tokyo for a second time.
In fact, after wandering through the markets, which were colourful and noisy and bustling, with so many stalls and so many different scenes to look upon, as the twilight was coming on, it made me want to see other cities, where I would find other cultures to surprise me - Shanghai, St. Petersburg, Istanbul!
I began walking into the Ueno park. I discovered a an impressive lake, full of lotus flowers, set about a Buddhist temple. I wandered through the immense park for some time. It became dark, but the park lights lit everything beautifully. I walked for two or so hours, letting the time pass. At the end of a tree-lined boulevard I took a small path which led me toa large, open
space at the border of the park, drenched in darkness except for a dancing, elegant knife of light in its centre. I had found the most spectacular fountain, the waters of which constantly change in shape, shooting very high up in the air then receding down, sometimes children founts of water surge up at its base, giving it bulk, before it again becomes a single, straightened shoot of water. White lights shine beneath the water, glowing to life to match the energy of the fountain's cycle. It was really something to come upon from a distance at night, and I've attached a couple of photographs of it to convey the impression it makes (the camera, of course, struggled with the chiaroscuro of the scene, but you'll get the idea). I met a nice Polish backpacker there also, Katya, who took a photo of me before it. Ta da!
I rang Tupman and he told me to meet him for a colleague's birthday drinks in Ikeburo, so I jumped on the subway and was there quite quickly. I met Ben's colleagues, all teaching English with him at the university. Most of them live in the same building as Ben, so
there's something of a small, slightly exhausted, educated community here. They live in each others' pockets and joke about it themselves. In a way, it's almost reminiscent of the British comedy which plays late on the ABC most nights - 'Teachers'. It was Kate's birthday, so we went to a restaurant.
So, I sat there catching up with Ben, toasting the birthday girl. The meal came in a little bowl, and was a mixture of uncooked ingredients which we had to cook for ourselves, something like a pancake. Ben took a couple of shots of me flipping mine.
Later we found a boutique beer bar and kept the night going. When it came time for the last train out to Monani Yono, Ben, Cormack (an Irishman), and I wondered whether to have an all-nighter. They were actually more enthusiastic about it than I was, and they had work the next day! We ended up deciding to save our energy for the weekend, but Cormack came back to Ben's, and we drank sake and messed about until the wee hours.
I almost felt guilty watching them struggle to become ready for work at 7 am, so I gave
them a little cheer and told them they'd make it. Then I fell asleep again and didn't wake until midday.
Probably going to see some Sumo on the weekend. There's also an exhibit of Edward Munch here, at Ueno, which Ben and I are going to check out (I really like Munch). I'm going to make Nagano a day trip on Monday. Ben and I are planning to ascend Mt. Fuji and visit the suicidal 'Forest of Fallen Leaves' next week. So I'm just enjoying Tokyo, really. Tomorrow I'll visit the east garden of the Imperial Palace and perhaps go up Tokyo Tower.
I'll head to Kyoto and Hiroshima late next week, so this will be my last weekend in Tokyo.
I'm also reading Kierkegaard's 'The Sickness unto Death' and it contains some of the most poetic prose entwined with philosophy! Enjoying my holiday.
There are more photos below