My intention this morning was to go to the Tokyo Teleport Station, just because it sounded intriguing. Could I teleport to Paris? The jungles of Borneo? How about Mars? One of the world’s tallest Ferris wheels is in the area, and I’m a sucker for Ferris wheels, so it sounded like a win all the way around. Add in the Maritime Museum and the Fuji TV Building, and I was in. Fortunately, I checked opening times, because, sadly, some of these attractions were closed on Monday, and today was Monday.
So – on to Plan B. Ueno Park is a lovely green spot in this huge city. Home to several museums, memorials to poets and samurais, and a couple of beautiful temples, this was today’s adventure. Add the fact that a market street crammed with shops and little restaurants ran alongside, well, this was a pretty good Plan B.
As soon as I entered the park, I met the statue of Saigō Takamori, an influential samurai of the nineteenth century. He has been called the last true samurai, and the movie “The Last Samurai” was loosely based on his last stand against the Meiji government. He was not in
Frogs are a popular motif; frogs only jump forward, never back.
favor of Japan opening to Western influences, or of Japan moving on to more modern ways. I’m not quite sure why his hunting dog is commemorated alongside him, but it looks like it was a good dog.
His statue is on the site of the great battle of the Ueno War. Two tombstones were placed to commemorate all the samurai who died here.
After visiting the Kannon-do Temple and the monument to Wani the Scholar, I headed over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum; there was an exhibition there that I wanted to see. But, my bad luck or poor planning, the museum was closed.
That was OK, though. I had read about the Shitamachi Museum, dedicated to the history and the culture of the low lands of Tokyo. I like history, so that seemed like a good place to head next. Now, I’ve always said that with a map and a compass I can find just about any place. But now I have this ever-so-smart phone, with a compass and two different map apps, and I can’t find one stinking museum.
I stop in a bookstore for directions; people in bookstores are usually helpful. He pointed
me in what turned out to be the right direction, but when I was supposed to turn left at the second street, was he counting the alley as a street? I figured an alley is an alley, not a street, so I ended up back where I started.
There are tiny satellite police stations called koban
, usually staffed with one or two officers, all over the city. I stopped at the one just outside the park.This police officer sent me in the completely wrong direction, but he was nice about it.
Now for a short digression: Many years ago there was a man where I worked who was illiterate. Not functionally illiterate, not just someone who had difficulty spelling, I’m talking about a man who could not sign his own name, nor recognize it when it was printed on paper. I thought then how difficult his life must be, not being able to read. How did he order at Burger King, or know if he was picking up whole milk or skim milk? Reading is so incredibly important to me I could not imagine how he functioned in the world.
Well, I’m finding out. After following the
police officer’s directions, and the booksellers, and passing the same landmark for the third time, I spotted an information sign, complete with a map. Aha! I thought. I’m saved! Except the map was in Japanese, and I had no idea what it said.
I finally stumbled across the museum. It was closed.
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