Last day of roaming the town

Onto my last day of solo sightseeing… Since I had arranged to be with my family at 5pm, I figured I’d better do something local (to Minami-senju, where I was staying) and headed to Ueno where, if I’m honest, I was mainly hoping for a chance to sunbathe.

Before hitting the park I wanted to check out a market I’d heard about – Ameya Yokocho. Ame means “sweet”, and the market is so called because in the past sweets (mainly made from sweet potatoes) were sold there. During the war alot of American goods were also sold there (mainly ones that were pilfered from the US troops out there), hence the fact that “Ame” stuck (the Japanese love shortening and sticking together English words eg. remote control is “remokon” in Japanese).

The market was in the back streets behind the station, and everything from cheap clothes and shoes to seaweed, fish and homewares were for sale. It was packed with people, all clearly after a bargain. Now that I’ve cashed my travellers cheque, I may have to return… I didn’t actually take any photos, except for the one below because it reminded me (for some bizarre reason) of a certain Mr Lok.

After stopping for some fresh watermelon (no, it wasn’t square) it was onwards to the park. Since it was cloudy I thought I’d do the second best thing and check out the sights. First stop was Kannon Hall, where women who are trying to conceive worship the Kosodate Kannon. When they have a child, they return and leave a doll as an offering. These are then burnt in a ceremony on the 25th September every year – I missed seeing this by a week, sadly.

Nearby was a small shrine (I have to confess I’m not sure what it’s called, as it’s not in my guide book and I can’t find anything about it online) which had an alleyway of red tori leading down to it.

After watching some Chinese wushu artists for a bit, I headed up to another small shrine and sat on some steps to eat the carrots and cherry tomatoes that I had got from the supermarket as I wasn’t hitting my five-a-day target (quelle horreur!). It wasn’t long before I was accosted by an old lady who wittered on to me in Japanese (despite my using my basic language skills to explain that “wakarimasen” – I don’t understand). She pointed at her teeth and chuckled to herself – I guess she was saying what is clearly universal: “why are you eating carrots, are you a rabbit?!” – something I have heard many, many times. This shrine had a cool chilling Buddah face:

Up until this opint, I think I’d say the Kouraken Garden, the Meiji Jingu and the tea houses at the back of the Yasakuni Shrine were the coolest things I’d seen so far. The shrines are amazing, but since they’ve largely been rebuilt after being bombed/burnt down/otherwise destroyed, they’ve lost some of the intangible magic that they would’ve had were they authentic. This is not the case with the Toshugu Shrine, however. This was built in 1627 and is intricately decorated, inside and out, with paintings and gold-leaf. It looks and feels as if it’s not changed at all since then (although a wooden building is unlikely to have survived in it’s entirety for all that time), and has a really calm vibe to it. There are amazing carved fences on each side, surrounded by trees and singing crickets, and a Chinese Gate at the end of the complex.

Do check out the Flickr set here – they are some of my favourite photos so far.

Before I left the park, I went to look at the lake and the odd sight of hundreds of swan shaped peddle boats being navigated aimlessly across the water. Half of the lake was also full of large plants that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the jurassic era (I’m guessing).

By now it was time to head back to the ryokan to grab my bags, and then down to Toyosu to meet the new family – read all about them in the next exciting installment – yay!

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