Ueno Park: Blitz through the museums

Ueno Travel Blog

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Random Observation/Comment #55: Science museums used to be so much more fun, but now that I know all of the physics involved, it’s not as much of a mystery. It’s like watching a magic show where you’ve already learned all the tricks. Damn, how could I have been so impressed by simple concepts like magnetism, pullies, air pressure, and optics?
Dragging that stupid luggage early in the morning made me loathe its existence… Mendoksai. I don’t really mean it though – it holds all my precious belongings. I just wish it would sprout legs and follow me like an obedient dog that doesn’t need a leash (Or a gullible person that lost a bet).
Kinuya hotel was very close to the station and I give it a very positive review. The room was normal, but the doorway heights were a little low.
The height was 6 ft, which left my hair grazed every time I passed through the doorway (I guess there are other tight fits in Japan). The itinerary said we would meet at 6PM, but it was only 11AM. After reading the sheet, the only thing I could think was “Shyt, I should have gone out the night before.”
Ueno Park is a recreational center, dating spot, tourist attraction, and even a home. There are quite a few fountains and statues sprinkled throughout the park that act as landmarks and gathering spots for street performances. The museums in this area are not ridiculously large, but running through the art, nature and science, and memorial museums can take a few days. If you follow the route I took and skim through the artwork, however, you could probably walk it in about 5 hours.

The museum experience should not be about pictures – it should be about learning new facts and admiring the mysteries of our past that foreshadow our future. It’s about the beauty of centuries of art that captures the hidden story of an evolved civilization. The science and nature museum was interesting since they tried to cover as much of our world’s life as possible, but in the end it’s obviously an understatement. I moved from floor to floor quickly because most of the mysteries of these animals had already been sorted in my mind. It used to be my interest, yet now I felt nothing – not a sparkle or a tingle of captivity. It disappointed me, which lead me to read in even more detail and look even harder to see something that would amaze me; something that I had not already learned. One of the few things I found incredible was the 360 degrees theater. It showed a short film about dinosaurs, which really made you feel like you were immersed in the film. My attempts to take videos of this just turned out to be a dark mess.
The Tokyo National Museum was a little different from the Science and Nature museum. It was filled with a lot of Asian sculptures and artifacts with brief explanations of each. I think combining these two museums in one day would be like walking any one of the museums in the city. Pictures were taken and descriptions were breezed over. The history is interesting, but once again, I did not feel it as a part of me. It’s not even the fact that I couldn’t understand the text or talks; it’s more that the facts were not new. There were some beautiful pots and swords that fit the timeline of events very nicely, though. Every new piece gave a more vivid video of this historic playback. In my mind, the recreation of battles included these samurai armor and swords. Different angles in this battle followed the small snippets of graphics through the display case. I guess if it was only for that, I’m glad I continue walking through each exhibition.
While wandering around the park, I saw a street performance that kept me mesmerized. The performers here are much more entertaining than those in the city because they don’t just break-dance or play music (not that any of those do not show extreme talent); they actually get the crowd involved like in a real stage performance. It’s a combination of humor, interaction, and practice which makes these people a great show. Unlike most Americans, the audience of Japanese children and adults feel an obligation to show support of his hard work with bills. Often the performers would incorporate into their routine the volunteer of children to help their effort. The particular guy I saw did everything skillfully and left everyone laughing with happiness and clapping in amazement.
From the street fair, I walked towards the pond and found the early blossoming of the water lilies. The pond was filled with them ready to blossom, and the density of the lily pads made the whole lake look like a field. My hotel room actually had one of the best views overlooking this beautiful scenery.
All in all, the park was an incredible journey through culture and I definitely enjoyed it. It doesn’t cost too much money, and I think it’s worth spending a full day there.
~See Lemons go museum hunting

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Random Observation/Comment #56: There seems to be much less time to write since being a tourist takes so much work and effort. It’s also nice to learn more about other people instead of typing on my laptop like an antisocial during long ferry rides… wait a minute.
We are 9. I would grow much closer with all of these people (including myself) in the next two weeks. Bits of information about our personal lives would be revealed when relating to the travel spots and random observations. Conversations would jump from hobbies and careers to goals and aspirations. Every peek into someone’s outlook let me review my own. Though my plans are broad, each brain offers years of experiences of which I could have never found through my own observations. In many cases, I cannot begin to empathize with these stories, but I try my best to imagine my life in their shoes. I’m surprised how many doors can be closed, yet how content one can be without any more choices. I think most of them have already walked through their door. There’s really no reason to look back and work out these other possibilities that never were and never will be.
My observations started as generalizations in a categorization or hash, but this little conversational tool is shortly replaced by specified questions to unique topics. Every detail stuck in my mind and absorbed into a sponge of interest. I’d often squeeze out information to make connections about their lives. Sometimes this person’s representation does not form in its entirety without the full story, so my words slowly pry the lid. I hope I did not seem too curious or even suspiciously cautious about seeming too curious. I tried to hide my shifty eyes.
I’m about 6 days behind on entries so the initial impressions of the tour have already been replaced by my secondary or lasting impressions. I’ll try my best to capture the range of emotions I first felt when joining.
I’m partly optimistic with a chance of paranoia. My mind is open to new ideas and it is quite flexible, but small actions cause premature conclusions and stereotypes. In fact, I began this tour feeling that the cost of the trip was not worth our experiences. The numbers did all the talking – first and last day were free days; about $2300 for the tour; about $500 for the 21 day rail-pass; $200 for the tour guide before the tour even started; about 24 hours spent just for traveling on boats, trains, and buses; probably $500 for meals and other expenses. I was expecting royalty meals and set tour-bus itineraries for that price. Others doing the math would have probably felt the same shafting draft.
One quick glance at the itinerary and an irrational conclusion could have cost me one of the most fun tours I’ve ever been on. Each remote island destination would have been completely impossible to plan or survive without a guide for the logistics and translations. The places I’ve seen have only been experienced by the privileged, and I see that it was worth every penny. The set tour-bus thing would have been filled with elderly people and constantly stopping at these off-the-road tourist shops so the tour could make money on the side with their connections. This Intrepid tour, however, felt much more lively and robust. It was basically a backpacking adventure with a group of friends, which would beat any set tour-bus any day of the year.
Yuka, our tour guide, has been open to all questions and fed my every curiosity. Although all detailed plans were not completely revealed to my comfort, I learned to trust her. Our short time together is one that I will remember. A small obsession with cats; a beautiful karaoke voice reaching notes I didn’t think were possible (perfect for Japanese songs and Blondie :P); a blend of an Aussie accent that keeps me completely captivated; a passion (maybe not an understatement) towards drinking beer; a playful attitude towards life – all of these little quirks I’ve used to shape her unique and kawaii aura. Many observations and conclusions dive deeper and can borderline as psychoanalysis, so I’ll just keep those to myself . I’ve probably done this for everyone in the group.
R.J. was the first person I met from the tour. His blue hair and Gundam Seed Destiny tattoo made a very interesting first impression. He is a 19-year-old who is as lost as all 19-year-olds are lost these days. I saw a lot of myself in his personality, but it made me wonder when I grew out of his phase. It’s a phase of recklessness and dependency, but I’m not too concerned because it will pass for him as it passed for me. His trip reminded me of when I went to Hong Kong by myself after high school; a blind obsession towards a girl and a lack of reality and responsibility drilled into my brain. In no way is this phase avoidable, but it’s interesting to observe his actions and see those gears turn. My mind does not think the same way anymore, but I could imagine his chain of thought. Driven by the textbook principles of psychology with “right and wrong” judgments; R.J. has only reached the 2nd stage. He’s got a head on his shoulders and good intentions, so I think he’ll be fine.
Chris and Melani: the sisters from Melbourne. Chris is wise with stories that she just itches to share. It is special when these moments arise, for they usually spark a series of questions in my mind. In no way have her stories revealed the hardships or joys of her life, but yet her presence remains calm and serene. Melanie is a great daughter and a wonderful person. She probably makes as many observations and connections as I do, but keeps most of them to herself for a sly smirk or offset stare of thought. I’ve caught every witty remark and they could not have been made without completely understanding the subject and situation. I expect this much from a fellow engineer. Her gaze and smile in my direction hints nervousness or admiration. Conversations with her could last for days and hours, but I’ve often let them drift silently. My actions remain passive; perhaps if our circumstances were just a little different. I’m seeing more and more that I protect myself from others for their sake rather than mine.
Amanda is very interesting. She’s quite noice :P. I feel as though her perspective had changed quite a view times during the trip. She seems to need a lot of her own time to just soak, but also gets these urges to follow different group activities. There are many frustrations unsaid, but her eyes and ears just seem to be open for the next cultural shock.
Helen gave me a dose of that Sharon personality. I am not obsessed with her, as I am with Sharon, but it’s a level of straight forwardness that I missed when I was surrounded by Japanese flexi-straws (stop saying “Yes” even though I’m wrong). She is quite clever with witty remarks about interesting observations during dinner conversations. More than most, she wants to make the most of this vacation as a memorable experience before starting her new career. It’s like she’s engrained with many stereotypes of each culture that she’s looking to confirm or deny through her experiences. She is a very strong person that has seen much that does not require repeating. Even though conversations of this matter were not shared, there is a part of her presence that gives such an impression. It has all been put aside to follow her new goal though: See the world and live the life.
Isabel and Sebastian were the only couple in this tour. Their cuddliness made me smile and wish for something similar. I can tell they’re very much in love with each others’ personalities and they were meant to be together. The little jokes and even matching snort-laugh reminded me of a connection. “That’s my girl” is always followed by an indescribable chill of happiness for finding an embodiment for simple amazing-ness. Everything fits like a puzzle piece as they celebrate a start of another phase in their life. This trip seems like their final hurrah as love-birds before the turning point propelled careers or raising children. To their next phase in life, one of which I envy and cannot wait to start: Kanpai.
Although it has only been two weeks, I feel as though everyone has become more than just travel companions: they have all become my friends to lend and receive a helping hand. Domo arigato (Mr. Roboto). All the best in your future travels and I hope our paths pass again.
~See Lemons Part of a Temporary Family

photo by: dyron_888