Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 2011 Day 17 (July 13): Ueno Park

Today we decided to make a leisurely visit to Ueno Park, which we visited on our last trip to Japan, in April of 2009. Ueno was the first parkland established by the Japanese government after the Meiji restoration in 1868, & it’s the site of the last stand of the Tokugawa Shogunate before the restoration. We had spent the first couple of nights that time in a bed & breakfast in Ueno, & had made a bleary trip to the park on one of our first days in Japan. It was where we first really saw cherry blossoms & so I was anticipating seeing it in another season. We had another beautiful weather day, which meant it got pretty hot, but there was a nice breeze in the park, & that helped.
To get there we had to re-trace our steps from yesterday’s trip, taking the Mita line one stop to Mita Station, then hiking for quite a ways underground until we came out near the JR Tamachi Station, where we caught the Yamanote line for Ueno (this was also the last day our JR passes could be used, so it was a good day to ride the Yamanote line :). From Tamachi it took about 20 minutes to get to Ueno. 
Our first stop was the Tokyo National Museum, which was highly recommended in our Lonely Planet Tokyo city guide book. The building is an interesting mix of western & Japanese elements on the outside, but inside looks a lot like any museum built in the early-to-mid twentieth century. We focused on the exhibits of clothing (Edo period- about 300 years ago- & Noh theatre costumes), samurai armour & swords, & beautiful painted screens. We then walked over to a more modern side-building to see the Houryuu-ji Treasures, a roomful of small, bronze buddhist statues from a temple in Nara, all around 1400 years old. Then we went in search of lunch.
Lunch was not easy to find in the part of the park we were in, so we ended-up going to the Natural Science Museum, which we’d visited on our first trip to Ueno, since we remembered the cafe there being pretty good, & we did find something everyone could eat there. Since we’d paid admission to the museum, we checked-out a few of the exhibits, such as the Parasol Garden on the roof of the newer, Global Gallery building. The parasols had infra-red sensors in them that sensed our approach & caused them to open. It was whimsical & fun, even though some of the parasols were broken & kind of beat-up looking. 
The place I really wanted to go to was the Kiyomizu-Kannon-do temple, because we’d visited it on our first trip, but I didn’t really know what omamori were then & hadn’t gotten one when we were there. After checking various maps, we first ended-up at the Toushou-guu temple, which is being renovated so you couldn’t really visit it. 

Then we found the Kannon-do. It’s made to look like it’s namesake, the Kiyomizudera in Kyoto, which is very famous, but it’s much smaller. I happily bought a few omamori there to commemorate both visits. 
Then we took all our trains back home & rested for a couple of hours before going back out to what’s become our favourite Chinese restaurant here in Tokyo for dinner. 
When we got back, I took this picture of Brendan because he’s wearing a t-shirt that has given us some giggles on this trip. In Japan, the roman alphabet is considered to be very cool, & all Japanese schoolchildren learn it along with learning both Japanese kana alphabets & kanji. Everywhere we look people have romaji (what the roman alphabet is called in Japanese) on their clothes, tote bags, you name it, & it often doesn’t make sense (sometimes this is called “Engrish”). Well, Brendan’s shirt is the opposite. It has a picture of Vader & a stormtrooper from Star Wars & has the words “daa-ku saido” printed in the katakana Japanese alphabet used for foreign loan words. It’s gotten some bemused looks from folks here :)
Tomorrow is, can you believe it, our last full day in Japan. Charlie spent some time today sorting out how we’ll get back to Narita Airport in time for our flight Friday. I’m being a bit of an ostrich because I don’t want to face leaving just yet. It’s not going to be easy, we’ve had such a lovely time & seen so  many treasured friends. Luckily, I get to see Momo again tomorrow!

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