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Tokyo 2015: Day 3: Ueno, Akasuka and Nakameguro

Pandas and cherry blossoms!

rain
View Tokyo on Gavin_w207's travel map.

Waking up at 7.30am, I took a look outside to notice that one of the offices across from us was already filled with workers! This wasn't an unusual sight by the end of the trip, yet I was always amazed to see that the same people were still there when we got back to the hotel and would still be there until around 10pm. It would seem that Tokyo's office workers really do work as hard as they say!

After a night in, we were both ready to hit Tokyo once again. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't quite so ready and this day marked the beginning of some pretty terrible weather for our trip! We woke to rain, which continued for much of the day, but we didn't let it stop us and soon made our way to Ueno park.

Ueno park is a scenic place with some great temples, an excellent zoo and Tokyo's national museum all making for a great day out. Add to that an astounding amount of cherry trees in full bloom and you're onto a winner. Unfortunately, the rain was coming down pretty hard and people were still clearing up the debris from the night before's hanami parties so the effect was lessened slightly.

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Before hitting Ueno Zoo, we visited Kiyomizu Kannon. Its a small temple, modeled after Kyoto's Kiyomizu-Dera, and overlooks Shinobazu pond. Apparently, the temple is popular with couples trying to conceive, with them leaving dolls of the children they would like to have at the temple. These dolls are then cremated on the 25th September every year. From a westerner’s point of view, I can imagine this not being the greatest advert for responsible parenting...

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Next up was the zoo, famed for its pandas above anything else. The zoo is huge, with a wide range of animals, and costs the grand total of £3.20 to enter, which has always astounded us. If this was a zoo in England you would be looking at around £15 considering what they have on offer! The zoo itself is split into what feels like two sections, the more modern area as you enter and a slightly older feeling area after this. The more modern area is fantastic, with large enclosures and a range of happy, healthy animals. The pandas are the obvious draw, but there are also gorillas, lions, tigers and an excellent polar bear enclosure with underwater viewing. The secondary area of the zoo didn't impress us last time so we decided to give it a miss this time. This isn't to say that the second area is terrible, the enclosures are just a little smaller and it doesn't have as positive a feel.

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After the zoo, we visited Toshogu Shrine, which is just off from the main park. Over the last few years, the shrine has been undergoing maintenance so we hadn't been able to visit the shrine properly. This year, however, we were in luck! The walk to the shrine is an interesting one during hanami as it's lined with street food vendors and there was a wide range of delicious looking food on offer. The shrine is intricately carved, with a walkway lined with copper lanterns making for an impressive sight. What really caught our attention was a small statue, within which is enshrined a small flame. Amazingly, the flame was carried from Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped and has been kept lit since. It’s quite an emotive symbol of both the devastation unleashed on the city, as well as the enduring spirit of the Japanese people in the face of such an event and makes the shrine well worth a visit.

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From Toshogu Shrine, we made our way to Bentendo Shrine which is located on a small island on Shinobazu Pond. The shrine itself is interesting enough, but it’s the pond that's the real attraction. Go at the right time and its filled with lotus flowers and lily pads, making for a beautiful sight.

Finally, as we left the park and headed indoors, the rain relented. Our next stop was for a bit of shopping at Yodabashi Camera. The store is split into two separate, but equally massive, sections. One deals with electronics such as computers and televisions, whilst the other caters for video games, toys and hobbies. It was the second building that we were looking for and we spend a good while stocking up on various merchandise and having a good rummage.

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Heavily laden with merchandise, we then exited through the building and straight onto Ameyoko Shopping Street. Its entrance is directly opposite the station and always filled with people. Ameyoko shopping street is like no other experience in Tokyo and walking through its main streets and winding alleys you'll find a huge selection of fresh fish, sold right next to t-shirts, sweets, trainers and just about anything else you can imagine. Its great fun, if a little crowded, and it’s always surprising to see the sheer range of things on sale.

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With the afternoon drawing to a close, we made our way to Akasuka which is home to one of Tokyo's most famous temples, Senso-Ji. Almost everyone who visits Tokyo, even for just a few days, visits this temple and for good reason, its a truly iconic part of Tokyo. The walk down to the temple is filled with souvenir shops, mostly selling a range of stereotypical souvenirs so think anything plastered with ninjas, Hello Kitty and Doraemon and you're pretty much there. You can also buy Japanese crackers and other food, but it’s all at quite a mark-up. If you're looking for that kind of snack then look no further than a convenience store, its exactly the same but half the price. The temple itself is an impressive, imposing building with a stunning interior and interesting gardens. It really is massive and normally packed with tourists. Interestingly, later on in our trip we made our way back to the temple in the evening evening and we were really glad we did. The whole temple is lit up, giving it a beautiful and atmospheric feel. Its arguable that this is the best time to see the shrine, especially considering the lack of crowds but we personally think that the busy feel is part of the temples charm. There are many roads and shopping arcades running parallel and off of the temple, giving you plenty to see and do. It’s worth checking out the streets behind the temple as well as they have a traditional style and feel that's often hard to find in the city.

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To finish off what had already been an action-packed and busy day, we decided to head away from Akasuka and visit Nakameguro. Kathy had found out that they held an annual cherry blossom festival along the river that winds its way through the area. When we arrived, we found that the river is lined with countless cherry blossom trees that are all lit by traditional lanterns. The festival must stretch a good couple of miles and was beautiful. It really was one of the highlights of our trip and well worth a visit for anyone visiting during Hanami. Many Japanese couples were enjoying flutes of champagne. We decided to opt out, considering a glass was selling for more than a bottle does in England!

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And that's it for day three. Our next post is about DisneyLand Tokyo so be sure to check back, or subscribe!

Posted by Gavin_w207 07:34 Archived in Japan Tagged ueno_zoo ueno panda cherry_blossom hanami kiyomizu_kannon toshogu_shrine bentendo_shrine shinobazu_pond yodabashi_camera ameyoko_shopping_street aemyoko_arcade akasuka senso_ji nakameguro

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