Our group slept in again, likely as a result of our previous night’s karaoke outing. When we finally got moving, we went to Ueno to check out a museum, the park, and the zoo.
Our first stop was Tokyo National Museum, which is located in Ueno Park. The museum is massive, with collections from Japan and other parts of Asia. We stayed in Honkan, the Japanese gallery. I took a Japanese history class in University, so everything in the museum was fascinating for me. I could have probably spent an entire day looking at all of the pieces from Japan’s long history and reading each and every single one of the displays. The other guys, having never taken any courses in Japanese history, were mainly interested in the swords and armor. After taking what seemed like hundreds of blurry pictures of swords and armor (due to glass cases and lighting), they dragged me out of the museum and on to our next destination.
The next stop was Ueno Zoo, also located in Ueno Park. Ueno Zoo opened in 1882, making it Japan’s oldest zoo. It currently has around 2600 animals from around the world. Since the five of us are from Canada, we were used to seeing huge zoos with massive animal habitats. The Ueno Zoo was a very nice zoo, but the animal habitats were much smaller than what we would expect to see back home.
We were pretty confused when we started seeing panda statues wearing sombreros and ponchos all over the zoo. None of us have been to China, be we know that pandas are not commonly associated with sombreros. It turns out that Ueno Zoo was borrowing Shuan Shuan the giant panda from a zoo in Mexico during the time of our visit. It’s always cool to see pandas live!
Other than the panda, the highlight was the monkey enclosure. We watched for at least 10-15 minutes while two monkeys were fighting. The fighting wasn’t life or death fighting, but more along the lines of WWE style play fighting. I would be happy to go to a zoo that just had monkeys, because they are always entertaining. The one lowlight for us was the polar bear enclosure. We saw two skinny polar bears walking around, definitely not enjoying the heat. I think we would have all liked to see an indoor, climate controlled area for the polar bears.
We stayed until the zoo closed, and then went to Roppongi Hills. The movie theater at Roppongi Hills occasionally has current Japanese movies with English subtitles. We wanted to see the new live action Cutie Honey movie, but the schedule didn’t work out in our favour. We ended the first half of our June 1 adventure at Saizeriya.
Travel tip: when you have a group of people that all like different food, find a family restaurant like Saizeriya or Gusto. The food is reasonably priced and there is something on the menu for everybody.