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Ueno-kõen

Tokyo Travel Blog

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The Asahi Flame Building - also known as the Golden Turd for obvious reasons

While my friend and erstwhile companion was off hobnobbing (in a journalistic sense), I was free to explore the city. The LP in hand, I climbed on the Ginza line and headed for Asakusa to check out the Sensõ-ji temple. I managed to get totally lost getting out of the station, but as the 'Planet suggested this was the best place in Tokyo to ditch the guidebook, I figured it wouldn't matter much. Being confronted with the Asahi Flame building (AKA The Golden Turd) is a little strange, but sums up the often gaudy yet impressive nature of the city.

I trundled down Nakamise-dõri, watching all the busy shoppers and hawkers with some amusement.

Asakusa
Everything seemed to be on sale here - from used kimonos to strange food on sticks. It was bustling, busy and bewildering. I headed for what I thought was Sensõ-ji, (it wasn't) and proceeded on my odyssey of confusion and being lost.

When I finally stumbled on the temple (ironic that I couldn't find it, it's massive), I was confronted with the gigantic majesty of the Hõzõ-mon treasure house containing two massive Niõ guardian statues that fiercely towered above the mingling tourists. The huge red lantern, and giant sandals on the back were baffling but impressive. Next to the gate was the Five Storied Pagoda, soaring skywards this was a crane-necked experienced of the highest order. I wandered around, snapping happily away.
Frantic shopping around Nakamise-dõri
What was impressive was the scale of the place - and the fact that the whole complex had been lovingly restored following the destruction of World War Two.

I figured that I should get my omikuji or fortune. It seemed the right thing to do. For a mere hundred yen I got to shake an octagonal box until a chopstick complete with number popped out. Only trouble was the number was in kanji, not my strong suit. I stood pondering for some while, until a friendly family of Japanese tourists helped me out. Unfortunately, once I clutched the fortune in my grubby mitts it turned out to be kyõ, or bad luck. Bummer. One of the main pearls of wisdom was "Stop starting a trip." Hmmm. Bit late for that maybe... I promptly tied my fortune to one of the nearby lines so that the wind could disperse the bad ju ju away from me.
Nakamise-dõri


I continued wandering round Asakusa for a while, getting increasingly lost, but in a good way. For some reason, probably linked to stupidity or having the map upside down, it had completely missed the Kaminarimon Gate. I decided to find it. After several detours, over and under the railway lines, through the same mall twice and up (and down) a residential street I finally found it. The area was packed with tourists and the gate itself seemed under-whelming after Sensõ-ji. I decided to cut my losses and head elsewhere.

I jumped back on the metro and took the short trip to Ueno with the aim of exploring the extensive Ueno-kõen park and its associated sights, sounds and scenery.
Heading towards Sensõ-ji


The park was a nice contrast to Asakusa - open spaces, trees and shade were all welcome. I started my meander by looking at some of the statues and temples before following a path lined with red torri gates leading to the Hanazono Shrine.

The procession of torri gates ran steeply down a hill - despite the park being packed I was the only one making the descent.  The walk to the shrine was out of this world - I kept imagining I was stepping into a Hayao Miyazaki film.  The shrine at the bottom was really beautiful and secluded.  I pottered about, paying my respects and examining the kitsune statue.  I think I may have been a little hot and delirious, because I think we had a conversation about something. It may have been trying to trick me, or maybe protect me; I can't remember.

From the shrine I wandered over to the Shinobazu-ike pond, home of the largest concentration of waterlillys I think I've ever (and probably will ever) see.  As terrapins and huge carp wallowed in the shallows and basked on rocks, I tottered towards the Benten-do temple located towards the middle of the lake.  It was pretty, but to be honest I was starting to get templed out.  People swarmed around - it was one of the busiest for devotions that I saw, but I needed some shade and seclusion.

I found a handy tree and flopped down.  Several litres of water later I set off for a final jaunt into the unknown.

My target was the Yanaka Cemetery.  It may seem morbid, but I always think it's interesting to see how different cultures treat their dead.

The Hõzõ-mon (or Treasure House) gate leading to the temple
 The cemetery was quite large, with neat rows of graves separated into plots with tall headstones inscribed with prayers.  It was thoroughly peaceful, respectful and a great experience.  

Retracing my steps turned out to be problematic.  A couple of wrong turns later, the Lonley Planet map held upside down, a useless phone call to my travelling companion ("You realise you're paying huge amounts of money for this call Andy?  Loads and loads and loads... BEEEP!") I decided to pick a direction and keep walking until I found a subway station.  

Thankfully I did.  

One blissful air-conditioned ride later I collapsed into my hotel room.  End adventure.  For now...

 

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The Asahi Flame Building - also kn…
The Asahi Flame Building - also k…
Asakusa
Asakusa
Frantic shopping around Nakamise-d…
Frantic shopping around Nakamise-…
Nakamise-dõri
Nakamise-dõri
Heading towards Sensõ-ji
Heading towards Sensõ-ji
The Hõzõ-mon (or Treasure House)…
The Hõzõ-mon (or Treasure House…
The Five Story Pagoda - the second…
The Five Story Pagoda - the secon…
One of the Niõ statues that guard…
One of the Niõ statues that guar…
The giant red lantern
The giant red lantern
The other Niõ statue - its a pit…
The other Niõ statue - it's a pi…
Looking up at the Five Story Pagoda
Looking up at the Five Story Pagoda
The back of the Hõzõ-mon gate - …
The back of the Hõzõ-mon gate -…
Statues outside the Pagoda
Statues outside the Pagoda
Statues outside the Pagoda
Statues outside the Pagoda
Tourists purifying themselves with…
Tourists purifying themselves wit…
One of the ceiling paintings in Se…
One of the ceiling paintings in S…
This pic didnt some out as well a…
This pic didn't some out as well …
Looking towards the enshrined stat…
Looking towards the enshrined sta…
Many carp!
Many carp!
The waterfall in the temple grounds
The waterfall in the temple grounds
An incense cauldron.  The smell wa…
An incense cauldron. The smell w…
A shrine next to the temple.
A shrine next to the temple.
The majesty of the Five Story Pago…
The majesty of the Five Story Pag…
Dont know what this is - but it w…
Don't know what this is - but it …
Nakamise-dõri
Nakamise-dõri
Looking across the the temple grou…
Looking across the the temple gro…
My omikuji or fortune.  Sadly, ky…
My omikuji or fortune. Sadly, ky…
Detail from my bad fortune.  One o…
Detail from my bad fortune. One …
The Asakusa-jinja Shintõ shrine -…
The Asakusa-jinja Shintõ shrine …
Some statues in the grounds
Some statues in the grounds
Another statue
Another statue
More statues than you can shake a …
More statues than you can shake a…
Attack of the giant wall-climbing …
Attack of the giant wall-climbing…
The railway running above the stre…
The railway running above the str…
The panda bus!  I really wanted to…
The panda bus! I really wanted t…
A petrol station.  I was fascinate…
A petrol station. I was fascinat…
A pretty residential street somewh…
A pretty residential street somew…
A house, for some reason...
A house, for some reason...
The Kaminarimon (Thunder) Gate.  T…
The Kaminarimon (Thunder) Gate. …
Detail of one of the guardians - R…
Detail of one of the guardians - …
Statue of Saigõ Takamori
Statue of Saigõ Takamori
View of the Ueno area from the park
View of the Ueno area from the park
The tomb site of the Shogi-tai sol…
The tomb site of the Shogi-tai so…
Purification fountain outside the …
Purification fountain outside the…
Detail of the ceremonial gong you …
Detail of the ceremonial gong you…
View of the temple through the tre…
View of the temple through the tr…
Entrance to Hanzono Inari shrine
Entrance to Hanzono Inari shrine
The many red torii gates that lead…
The many red torii gates that lea…
Hanazono Inari shrine
Hanazono Inari shrine
Detail of kitsune fox statues
Detail of kitsune fox statues
Looking at the Gojo Tenjinsha shri…
Looking at the Gojo Tenjinsha shr…
Looking from the purification foun…
Looking from the purification fou…
The water lilies at the Shinobazu-…
The water lilies at the Shinobazu…
The Benten-do temple on the island…
The Benten-do temple on the islan…
A terrapin chilling out
A terrapin chilling out
Terrapin and BIG carp
Terrapin and BIG carp
The back of the Benten-do temple
The back of the Benten-do temple
Leading into the Benten-do temple
Leading into the Benten-do temple
Me, hot and tired whilst getting l…
Me, hot and tired whilst getting …
The Yanaka Cemetery
The Yanaka Cemetery
Graves in the Yanaka Cemetery - it…
Graves in the Yanaka Cemetery - i…
Yanaka cemetery
Yanaka cemetery
Detail of a grave in the Yanaka Ce…
Detail of a grave in the Yanaka C…
Yanaka Cemetery
Yanaka Cemetery
A fountain I found somewhere whils…
A fountain I found somewhere whil…
Ginza at night
Ginza at night
Ginza at night
Ginza at night
Tokyo
photo by: maka77