Well, the start of another Japan trip with arrival from Sydney into Tokyo on 23 May.
This was at usual 6.15am but I was in no rush to leave the airport into the morning rush hour later. Not to mention I had to access some local Japanese Yen. This was somewhat complicated by the fact that 1. (which I already knew) – the vast majority of Japanese banks will not touch overseas cards. In my last two flying visits of 1 or 2 nights to Tokyo on way to/back from Europe not really an issue as really only needed cash to get downtown and changed some Euros etc at airport. With a longer stay this time did need substantial amounts of cash. 7Bank (of 7-11 fame) seemed to be the way to go, but from mid-April 2013 seemed to be problems with chipped Mastercard. But Citibank gave me some Yen – and also later the Japan PostBank seemed to work. So fingers crossed.
Downtown on the preferred Keisei line Skyliner which only takes 40 mins to Ueno station – and the hotel Kinuya is virtually directly across the road from one of the exits. Naturally could not check in
at 11am or whatever. But ended up in a 5th
floor room looking out over Ueno Park – no traffic so nice and quiet. So as Ueno Park and the Zoo is just up the road decided to visit there. Which ended up taking up 4 hours! Relatively cheap too – the equivalent of only $6 – Sydney is likely $25 or so – and they even give you a 25% discount if you produce a foreign passport! Try that Sydney (extremely unlikely) – they love tourist dollars too much. Had not been to a zoo for decades it seems. So saw some stuff I had never seen – armadillos, they have an aye aye house (from Madagascar, not to mention lemurs from there). And of course 2 giant pandas who seemed distinctly indolent. It seems this is 40th
anniversary year of pandas being kept at Ueno. This is not a greenacres zoo and conditions seem pretty cramped.
That evening had dinner down at Yurakucho – just south of Tokyo station there is about 5 storeys of the Bic Camera store which sells everything electronic. And there are a pile of eateries under the rail tracks. Although one of
my choices of what looked like meat balls or something in the colour pic ended up being halved kidneys I think and although tasty were pretty chewy.
Somewhere in there I was over at Shinjuku and poking around there. There are all these effective mini-cities in Tokyo like this. Up the (free) Tokyo Met Govt tower for a night view of the city – not very exciting. A day view a couple of days later was maybe a little better.
On Friday 24 May I was over in the sumo wrestling area at Ryogoku. They are only on in Tokyo in 4 months of the year and May is one of them. It was Day 13 of 15 and since tickets were available at the Kokugikan Stadium, I was there and the matches were on til 6pm (it was 4pm) decided I should try it out. Its less blood thirsty than bullfighting obviously but a little the same in terms of general interest. After 3 faceups the wrestlers finally attack each other and the average bout lasts 3 seconds – of the entire 4 mins allowed for a bout. So that was a first for me – and
maybe like a bullfight the last (in person at least).
Another afternoon was spent at Harajuku. Went to the Meiji shrine first which commemorates the loved emperor and empress Meiji who died in 1912 or so. Not much to see – although being a Saturday a Shinto wedding procession was interesting. Then to one of the tightest packed narrow streets in Tokyo – Takeshita-dori which is where 20 year old girls go and pick the latest transitory fashions. Seems quite an area for second hand clothes (fashions do change quickly!) and even bought a shirt myself for $13. The Omotesando avenue there has every high-end fashion label known to man/woman and is a much nicer tree-lined compact stroll than Ginza. Had dinner at a western style Japanese place in a centre called Omotesando hills.
Yesterday was Shibuya’s turn – after a daytime view from the high point at Shinjuku. It’s inevitable that a lot of this ends up in shopping centres. Here it was a building called the Hikarie. But at least here on an upper floor there was an exhibition of hand made craft items – like beaten brass and silver, porcelain and timber etc. On the
Ueno zoo meerkat
always on the lookout
other side of the station there is supposedly a statue of the loyal dog Hachiko who waited for his master every day at the station for 9 years – even though his master had died at work. But it was so crowded I could not find it! Had dinner there in a sort of tapas place with a couple of glasses of wine for a change.
up to Ikebukuro and ended up going to the Konica Minolta planetarium – not something I have done for about 40 years! It cost about $13 for a 45min “show” and was reasonably impressive. Largely based on Finland and the Northern Lights/aurora etc. Had a spaghetti dinner up there before the show. Then afterwards down to Akihabara, or Electric Town just south of Ueno. However as I did not get there til about 8.45pm things were shutting up.
This entry is largely to quickly recap what’s what with my current Net connection and will largely lack photos which I may add later. Off tomorrow on a rail pass to northern Honshu but not quite sure where yet!
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