itchy feet cravings

Tokyo Diaries: Ueno

Another winning place in Tokyo where you can feel the good old time vibes and roam around for free most of the time is in Ueno. If you’re a budget traveler and the type who prefers to be in a solitary place, then hie off to this famous district in Taito ward.

My friend and I only had one day left to spend in Tokyo before we moved to our hotel near Narita Airport. I was contemplating which way to go for a nice day trip that night we arrived from shopping at Tokyo’s electric town, Akihabara, I was poring over our travel maps, consulting my Lonely Planet Tokyo, and trying to study the routes on my Ipad’s Tokyo railway app. I’ve already been to Yokohama during my first trip to Japan. So I told my friend we’ll just try to go to Ueno. I’m intrigued about this place when I saw it featured once on a cable channel NHK World at home.

We arrived early at Ueno Station that day and our eyes were immediately drawn to the entrance of the Ameya-Yokocho shopping arcade almost opposite the street where we exited. The shopaholic tendencies were once again triggered, yet we restrained ourselves from heading that way, muttering to ourselves “later, later.” We can’t afford to lose the chance to see Ueno’s Park…

 

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We were a bit unprepared to visit Ueno because it was too late to figure out that this is such a vast place featuring a lot of tourist  attractions. Another thing problematic was that it was cold, cloudy and there were scattered rain showers when we visited. I feel improperly dressed too even though I’ve put on five layers of thermal clothing already.

Unknown to us that time, there are plenty of interesting things and places to see in Ueno besides of course, the iconic Ueno Station and Ueno Park. This venue is home to cultural and historical sites notably Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Western Art, National Museum of Science and Space, some Buddhist temple structures, the Ueno Zoo, the Tokyo University and a whole lot more. We didn’t get to visit all of it but thankful we were able to get close to some iconic spots within this sprawling site which is one of Tokyo’s oldest parks with historical and cultural significance.

Walking past the entrance grounds we chanced upon a Buddhist temple, the Kiyomizu-Kannon-do where some visitors took time to bow…

IMG_0029_7 IMG_0031_6 IMG_0032_7 IMG_0035_7We left the temple grounds and walked some more, our aching feet brought us to a clearing in the forest grounds where visitors are warned of mosquitos. But before moving away that far, we took the chance to get charming photos of golden maple leaves that fell on the grounds.

 

We thought that’s all we need to see here in Ueno, until we saw some Westerners walking towards a…Starbucks!!! And within the compound is a beautiful park adjacent to the Tokyo National Museum.

We decided then to take some time out for coffee since its so cold outside and we are in desperate in need of thawing our frozen hands. Being inside was heavenly. I sooo love the feeling of sipping warm coffee at my fave coffee bar while munching on some yummy chocolate cake and watching the world go by…

IMG_0057_7 IMG_0058_7It rained suddenly while we were leisurely taking our coffee break. We decided to leave Starbucks when it stopped and took turns taking a selfie at the fountain…

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We managed to visit the Tokyo National Museum, finally. I’m gonna make another blog post of our visit here ‘coz the place was so vast, but we got to get inside the three huge buildings which served as the repository of its local historical artifacts as well as other nations’. Just to give you an idea, here’s a snapshot of TNM outside. Entrance fee is Y620.

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After making the rounds inside TNM, we went back to the Park grounds, walked past the Starbucks again. I saw the Ueno Zoo just near the bend but we decided to skip it because it’s already so late in the afternoon and it was raining again. We didn’t bring any umbrella.

Then we found ourselves walking up the pathway towards Toshogu Shrine…

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While traversing this path, I spotted Kaneiji Temple’s five-storied pagoda  which can be accessed if you enter Ueno Zoo.IMG_0108_5

IMG_0110_3Before going near the shrine we checked out the “Hiroshima flame” found at the side of the path incongruously situated near a row of bronze lanterns on the ground. Toshogu, by the way, it was said, is dedicated to the Tokugawa shoguns, and one of the few structures in Tokyo that survived wars and disastrous years.

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What’s with the Hiroshima flame? Well, for a country that has a turbulent history, you’ll be amazed that Japan was able to preserve one of the very things you would want to forget if you are a victim of the atomic bombing during World War 2. The flame inside this marbled stone slab shaped into a dove, serves as a testament to the utter destruction Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced when US military forces dropped atomic bomb on these two cities during the war and at the same time, a reminder that never again should this happen in the future…

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Wanna know how they were able to keep the fire burning? and the reason they won’t snuff it out? Read on…

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After a contemplative reading of its origins, we summoned the courage to walk on. Accepting the fact that where we stood is a place that is now the epitome and advocate of world peace…

We ventured closer once again before Toshogu’s golden shrine. Since dusk is setting in, we lost the chance to get a peek of what’s inside this Shinto shrine. Viewing hours was already close.

 

 

IMG_0119_3The walk back to Ueno Park’s entrance grounds was a bit arduous but we managed to take a peek of the Bentendo Temple when we walked on the sides of the Shinobazu pond.

As promised, we left Ueno’s Park grounds and headed off to Ameyoko street. Had a blast roaming around the street market and window shopping. We bought some food stuff and checked out nearby electronic department store and bought some gadget accessories afterwards.

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IMG_20141111_163028 IMG_20141111_162629 IMG_20141111_162622It’s been told Ueno is the best place for ‘hanami’ or cherry blossoms viewing. I hope I can get to visit it again during spring so I can have that experience.

Access: There are a number of stations that can get you within any area in Ueno, but the most popular so far is still Ueno Station. If you get off from here, take the ‘Koen’ which means park so you can easily find it and Ameyoko.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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