Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tokyo 2016 - Part II pink swans and skyscrapers.

Our third day started out with a very relaxing morning in Ueno park a park surrounded by towers, immediately reminding us of New Yorks Central Park albeit on a smaller scale. Our approach into the park was met with a sea of brown 'reeds' that really seemed quite off putting. Surely the super clean Tokyoites wouldn't tolerate such a messy lake. We quickly realised however that this wasn't a lake full of scruffy reeds but actually a huge lotus pond associated with the temple located in the centre of this section of the park. This must look stunning in the summer time.

Heading round the park the larger body of water was home to a floating armada of pink swans (and blue, yellow, green etc), how could we resist!

From here and into the main section of the park which is home to numerous shrines and temples.

The guide book had suggested a walk from here into a more traditional Tokyo neighbourhood, one that hadn't had the same level of high rise development, although low-rise in Tokyo clearly has a very different definition to at home. The area was home to many smaller neighbourhood temples and small cemeteries, all open to wander into but also free from hoards of tourists.

This area was also home to a very traditional shopping street with a curious focus on cats.

Selecting lunch by pointing at grilled meats on sticks - no English on this roadside takeaway we ended up with very tasty grilled liver and possibly grilled chicken skins although we were not 100% what we were eating, tasty as it was. Another shop sold sponge based deserts also with cat motifs so that was lunch sorted.

Back to Ueno and the market under the tracks. Tokyo seems to use every available space to the maximum, with markets and shops crammed under railways.

After a couple of hours in the market and it was time for more food! This time a 'grill it yourself' place.

For some reason all our photos in here came out slightly blurred

Having planned to visit the Tokyo Skytree we realised just how close it was to us and with night time approaching decided to see the bright lights of Tokyo from 450m above the city.

The Skytree is a fairly new attraction, both communications tower and observation deck. At 2036yen to the first level at 350m it's somewhat more expensive than the Tokyo Tower but the view is so much more impressive. For an extra 1030yen (check) we headed up to the second level for the view from 450m. This higher level probably isn't really worth visiting. The views are only marginally better, but due to the design of it it's much harder to take good photos. There was also a valentines anime exhibition taking place that to our western eyes was just odd. The locals however seemed to love it.

Close to our hotel

After a slightly later start, our forth day started out with a visit to the outdoor markets close to our hotel. one of the highlights in just above every guide book and videologue we watched was the wholesale fishmarket and tuna auctions. Tokyo takes its fish very seriously and just recently a Tuna sold for half a million pounds. We managed to pick a day when the wholesale market was closed, so it pays to check the website. However as its only a short walk from the hotel we would return another day.

We couldn't visit the market without sampling the delights on offer, Mark was reminded of his childhood with emochi (a rice based sweet) and the freshly grilled tuna was simply delicious seasoned simply with salt and pepper.

From the market we headed to another of the highlights in Ginza, the Kabuki Theatre. Kabuki is a traditional form of musical theatre and unplanned by us an act was about to start. Each performance can last many hours, usually with various acts from different plays so you can attend just part of the overall show. Photography was strictly banned so you will just have to take our word for how vibrant and visually delightful this was.

After a long morning lunch was in another workers cafe, we were slightly stumped by how to order until we were shown that you choose what you want, and order if on a vending machine. This gives you a ticket with your order that you take to the counter. It's all freshly prepared and when your food is ready they call you over to collect.

Refuelled and it was time to head off to Sensō-ji a large and one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Tokyo.

We were planning on a short visit to allow us some time to rest before the evening but this was such a spectacular location we stayed a lot longer than planned.

We were back at the hotel in time for a rather stunning sunset
Finally day four was finished off with a a trip back to Shinjuku, firstly with a trip to the top of the Metropolitan Government Building, a 45 story tower with a free observation deck at the top.

After returning to the ground we headed to Shinjuku Train station to find the infamous "Piss Alley", this was another favourite with the videologues we had watched before going to Tokyo. The alley itself is tricky to find, but google maps proved our saviour. It's a step back into older Tokyo with 60 or so small restaurants and bars packing this tiny alley, many of the places could house a dozen patrons and served up typical street food. Ramen, noodles, grilled meat on sticks. As I write this, there is clearly a pattern, we ate a lot of ramen as well as grilled meat on sticks.

Whilst "Piss Alley" is clearly the more childish and amusing name there does seem to be an effort in the more official publications to use the name "Memory Lane".

Full of grilled pork, chicken, liver and "meat of unclear origin" we headed back to the hotel.



  1. "meat of unclear origin"...when in Rome...

    So did you take one of the colorful swans out for a trip around the "lake?"

  2. Love the views of the city at night. You are braver than me with the street food!

  3. I'm enjoying following along on your journey! Those wide city views are absolutely fabulous but the street scenes are fun too. I've heard that many Japanese are very fond of cats - that's a positive in my book.

    1. They seem very fond, so many references to them there. Wish we went into the cat cafe there now...

  4. What a fun trip. I remember exactly the same confusion in a cafe and then being led to the vending machine to get a ticket :-)))
    The food looks delicious, even if 90% of the time you have no idea what it is you're eating.

    1. That vending machine thing, I won't be surprised if it will eventually make its way in the U.K.

  5. I'm enjoying your adventure from the comfort of home.

    Views from vantage points too high are not the best. Just visited a neighbor's new deck with a 180 view. It's just high enough. Another neighbor up at the top of the hill, about 400 feet higher--not nearly as good. Everything is too small and too far away. There must be some rules of what details that can be perceived that are satisfying to the human DNA.

    1. That is so true Gail. Too high and the angle to view what's supposed to look good becomes uncomfortable and awkward, defeating the purpose of seeing beauty.

  6. You make excellent tour guides. I almost feel I've been there.

  7. What a fun and interesting trip! The swans made me giggle, as did the cats. The Japanese is such a different culture... As for the tuna auctions, have you seen Jiro dreams of sushi? It gives a good introduction to its magic!

  8. Here's a link to a fellow blogger's take on Tokyo:

  9. Oh I so wanted to see a photo of you both on the swan, in the middle of the lake! It all looks so fascinating - especially the markets. What a fabulous trip! Enjoy!

  10. My son recently visited Tokyo. He has been slow in sending me photos! I especially like your images from the sky tower and also the stunning sunset from your hotel. The swan boats look like they would be a lot of fun.


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