Posts Tagged ueno park

July 25, 2004 – Tokyo with the Penpal

Rental boats at the Ueno park duck pond

Rental boats at the Ueno park duck pond

I managed to wrangle a day off, and met The Penpal at Tokyo station. Recently we have always been meeting in either Numazu or Kawasaki, so this was a nice change.

Our first stop of the day was Ueno Park. We walked around the park and rented a swan shaped paddle boat in the duck pond. Yes, it’s cheesy, but it was still fun. After Ueno, we moved on to Shibuya to explore the area.In the evening, we went to the Shiodome building in Shimbashi to look for restaurants. We ate dinner in a sensibly priced restaurant, and then decided to check out how expensive the restaurants on the 46th floor are.

In big buildings in Tokyo, you can usually find restaurants in both the basement and the upper floors. The restaurants in the lower levels are more likely to be moderately priced. The restaurants on the upper levels are likely to be expensive, especially in skyscrapers. Shiodome was no exception – one of the restaurants near the top offered a multi-course meal for a fixed price of 10,500 yen (not including drinks).

The best part of the evening was the glass elevator from the basement to the 46th floor. We got an amazing view of nighttime Tokyo as it fell away from us. Highly recommended.

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June 29, 2004 – Ueno Park, Homelessness, and Museums

My sister feeding pigeons in Ueno Park

My sister feeding pigeons in Ueno Park

Today I took my visiting family out to Ueno Park. We got moving after breakfast and took the Odakyu line from Noborito to Shinjuku, then the Yamanote line to Ueno station. My family was impressed that all of the trains arrived exactly when they were supposed to. Mass transit in Canada is nowhere near as punctual.

We explored Ueno Park, enjoying the trees, duck pond, and the people. In one of the large open areas there was an older man feeding pigeons. Pigeons are a very common sight in parks and temples in Japan. The man was standing in the middle of hundreds of pigeons, distributing bread crumbs. My sister walked into the middle of the pigeons for a picture. The man approached her and offered her some bread crumbs. The pigeons were so used to being fed that they literally ate right out of my sister’s hand!

After feeding the pigeons, we headed towards the Tokyo National Museum. Just before we got to the museum we saw something that I hadn’t seen before – a huge group of homeless people. A local mission was distributing sandwiches and was also providing free haircuts.

Japan overall is a wealthy and successful country, so many visitors to the country are surprised that there are any homeless people at all. Officially there are about 25,000 homeless people in Japan. You can easily find makeshift shelters built from cardboard boxes and tarps in Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park, and in various areas around Shinjuku. Most of the homeless people are older men.

We continued walking towards the Tokyo National Museum. I had been to the museum with my friends less than a month earlier, but it was still incredibly interesting. I could probably spend a few days in the museum and not get bored. We spent a few hours exploring the extensive Japanese collection, with much of our time devoted to the popular attractions – swords and armor. Like my friend previously, my family tried to take a lot of pictures, and most of them came out blurry.

When we finished with the museum, we started the journey back to Noborito. Since my dad does not like crowds, we got reserved seats on the limited express from Shinjuku to Noborito. This allowed us to have our own seats and avoid all of the usual pushing and shoving. The cost was about 600 yen each, but I think my dad would have paid more to avoid the packed commuter rush.

It was a good day out in Tokyo, and we are looking forward to exploring in Yokohama tomorrow.

(2014 Update) I think it’s interesting that we saw both pigeons and homeless people lined up in Ueno Park looking for some food. People were happy to see the pigeons, but many people were uncomfortable by the presence of the homeless people.

Sanyukai is one of Japan’s largest homeless charities. Check out their English website here. There are other organizations as well, and they are all doing very important work. If you aren’t in Japan, see what you can do in your own community. Shelters and food banks rely on their volunteers to survive. Your donation of time, money, or clothing can make a huge difference to someone who really needs it.

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June 1, 2004 pt1 – Mexican pandas and fighting monkeys

Code Red and I in front of a Mexican Panda

Code Red and I in front of a Mexican Panda

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.

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March 15, 2004 – Vanilla Ice wants to talk to the manager NOW

I went to Western Union to send some money home. The only Western Union in Tokyo is in Nihonbashi, which is about a 45 minute trip from Noborito. The office was really busy – I had to wait about an hour from the time I got there. There was some American guy who was REALLY angry about something, arguing with the manager very loudly. Notable about this was:

  • He spoke really great Japanese
  • He looked like Vanilla Ice

Vanilla had a problem, but Yo, he didn’t solve it. The Western Union manager rocked the mic like a vandal, lit up the office and waxed a chump (Vanilla) like a candle. Seeing this reminded me that I would like to work in retail about as much as I would like to watch Cool as Ice.

After Western Union I headed over to Ueno park, which is centrally located and huge. Usually a “park” in Japan is a bench and a few trees. Ueno Park is actually big, and features many benches and lots of trees. It is also the home of a zoo, several museums, and a cool pond where you can rent a boat and paddle around. I watched some live performers, talked to some friendly people (who all asked if I was American), and took a bunch of pictures. Ueno Park is a must see for anyone coming to Tokyo.

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