After arriving evening of the day before and having so predictably average instant noodles for dinner Emma and I woke up ready to explore Tokyo. For our firstly we decided on some more cultural and historical places to explore and visit, so after a short walk to the station we began to try and navigate the train system which led us over paying for our first ticket paying ¥550 instead of ¥160. Our first stop after a quick breakfast of ritz crackers was the Eastern Imperial Palace Gardens.
The gardens were, unsurprisingly, beautiful and well maintained, as were the buildings that remained from when the palace and it’s grounds were still in use. There were three guardhouses left, all of different sizes and from the placement and style of the buildings for different purposes or rank of guard. The largest was on of the main guardhouses and according the information in the Gardens would have 4 groups of guards each group being made up of 120 guards. And I don’t know about you but that seem like a lot of guards if that is only one of the buildings. The other building left was a tea house that was moved because it looked more elegant in the Eastern gardens than in the western ones. Near the teahouse there was a set of ponds with Koi Fish, bamboo bridges and a small waterfall.
As we left the Eastern Gardens to head towards Ueno park, we were passed by a lot of runners, too many for it to just be a running group or popular route, especially in the middle of the day. We still don’t know where they came from or where they were going. Actually most of the time we barely knew where we were going let alone Tokyo’s residents.
After we left the station near Ueno Park, we managed to completely miss a sign to the park zoo and turn in the other direction, and found Nezu Shrine. And I am so glad we did, it was a really quiet shrine that was easy to walk through, as well as having one of the Torii (red gate) paths that are sometimes found at Shinto shrines and are normally there to represent the movement from profane to sacred. While the animal statues that are there to guard the shrines have red bibs on them in order to ward away evil and demons. The shrine was also home to yet more Koi Fish and a set of dream cards, these are wooden squares hung up near the shrine by those asking for good fortune for either themselves or others.
After that detour we finally made it back on to the main street and having bought a large bottle of water we headed into Ueno park. Even knowing that Tokyo is a large city and even larger in person, the map of the park did no justice to quite how large this park is. With one side, having a series of ponds and water life, followed by a temple. And the other side containing a fountain, several museums, some more shrines, and a zoo. We entered from the side with the ponds, and unsurprisingly there were a lot of Koi Fish, as well as all of the water plants. Just past these was a Buddhist temple, which in part paid respect to an Indian goddess of fortune. After the Nezu temple which was rather extravagant for a shrine this one seemed more at ease with its surroundings, as well as seeming more accessible to those who are just visiting or are interested in the temple.
From there we walked even more, and then up way too many steps to the rest of the park where it became our sole mission to find somewhere to eat and rest for a while as the clouds had cleared up and it was beginning to get warm. But of course we got distracted by some other smaller shrines a long the way, which seemed so serene in amongst the busyness of the main park. Finally we stopped at one of the food places on the edge of the park and both ordered some ramen, which came with what I can only describe as a tofu mattress, which was not only a pain to eat but also very strangely sweet in comparison to the rest of the components in the bowl.
After a while just sitting and eating/recovering from the amount of walking we had been doing we explored some more of the park investigating which museums were based here. One of which was a natural history museum that we didn’t visit but we were impressed by the giant statue of a whale that had been placed next to the museum. Then we went and spent sometime by the ‘Grand Fountain’ where we discussed where we should go for dinner/drinks that evening. The fountain just seemed like a normal fountain for a while but then it started producing mist from the edges making seem more magical that first thought.
It was decided that dinner and drinks would be in Shibuya, while we were trying to understand the vending machine system for a lot of the ramen places we sat in a small bar where they served us gin but with water instead of tonic… safe to say it wasn’t the nicest drink I’ve ever had. After finishing somewhat uncomfortably those drinks we moved on to a ramen place where we attempted to use the vending machine, and we got ramen with dumplings that honestly I wasn’t sure what was in them. After that we went to have a beer and people watch at a bar near by, and honestly neither of us have ever seen that much head on a beer poured at bar before. Not long after finishing our beers we headed back to the hostel via the supermarket to pick up some snacks and a small can of something cold, we chose these barely alcoholic (3%) fruit juice type drinks which tasted amazing. We were exhausted by the time we eventually made it to the hostel which was less surprising when I looked at my phone approximation of the number of steps we did, 27,000. Naturally we finished our drinks and headed to bed ready to explore even more of the city the next day.