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02/05/2007: "Trip to Ueno Park and Ameyoko Market" mood: bored

This past weekend a majority of the student body left for school sanctioned trips to either Hakone or Sapporo. Since I'm a "lifer" (term for us matriculated students rather then the one-semester study abroads), I don't have gobs of cash to be able to waste $400 for a two day outing. I had no other particularly exciting events going on besides playing the new Zelda, so I thought I'd put together an outing that'd cost me $0.

My 3-month train pass happens to travel through Ueno, where a famous park and market existed, so I figured I might as well try some traditional sight-seeing.

So Saturday early afternoon I hopped a train to Ueno Park. As stated in my previous post, Ueno is famous for it's cultural and historic value. The largest attraction to Ueno is Ueno-Koen (Ueno Park). Inside this HUGE park you can find a zoo, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Art Museum, 3 large ponds, temples, statues, and many other noteablely interesting locals.

My first stop is a temple by the name of Kiyo-Mizu. This temple was erected in honor of Senju, a 1000-armed god...or something. I didn't really understand the monks explanation very well. Point is, it was pretty to look at.

This is the very front of the temple. It is against the rules to take pictures inside temples so this is as close as I was able to get. That large rope hanging has some significance, but the exact reason eludes me at this time (If I paid more attention in my Japanese Culture class I'd have a better answer for you).

This picture came with an interesting story. At the end of the Edo period and entering the Meiji Restoration in Japan's history mid-19th century, the Samurai class fought against the quickly westernizing/industrializing Japanese imperial forces. The new emperor Meiji was opening up Japan to the rest of the world to help advance the country as a world superpower and many of the Samurai felt this would threaten the existence of the Japanese culture. This picture depicts the deciding battle which took place in Ueno July, 4th 1868. If that was a little too scholarly for you, go rent The Last Samurai to get an idea of that general period of history.

And this is the shrine to remember the Samurai who died in the Battle of Ueno.

Not too far away (maybe 50 ft...ish), another statue of Saigo Takamori, the leader against the Samurai resistance, has a statue. I guess he really liked his dog cause it made it with him to immortality.

There are also countless numbers of strays that live inside Ueno Park. They are fed by passer byers and regular visitors so they are very friendly and come up to people to be pet. These two were hanging out on a blanket a person left for them. I'm fond of cats so it was kind of cool to see a fleet of felines wander through the area like a gang.

A cool entrance to another temple area. Those red things are called torii and signify a Shinto shrine. You walk through a long series of these tori and eventually exit into an Edo era styled mini-town as seen below.

This is a popular character in Shinto Mythology. It is an Inari fox which in mythology was pure white and a messenger of the god of fertility and rice. In the couple days following I asked several Japanese people why he was wearing a red bib but noone knew. Today I learned that the bib is like a good luck charm to keep away evil spirits.

It is also a custom to get a fortune at the shrine. If it's a good fortune, you have to fold it up and tie it on a tree, or that rope thing, to make it come true. Here is a pic of a young couple doing just that. Yea I was spying on them, voyeurism is fun...anyway

Sakura viewing is a popular pastime in Tokyo around spring. You can see some are already starting to bloom in this area. Japanese people LOVE those pink flowers. The majority of the people in this area were guys taking pictures of sakura blosoms.

Next, is something that choked me up a little bit. Also near the temple area there was a memorial to the people who died in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Below is a picture explaining it a bit more indepthly. Please click on the picture to see a bigger version.

If you're too lazy to read that passage (cause you're a heartless jerk), it in short says this flame has been burning since the day of the bombings. A man went to his uncles house to see if he was still alive to only find rubble from the atomic bomb. Among the debris, this fire was burning and the man encased the flame and protected it. He kept it alive for years until it was taken to Tokyo as a symbol of abolishing atomic weapons. Walking up close to the flame, being but a few feet from it, really touched me deeply. The idea, that before me was a flame that still burns from when we dropped the bombs in WW2, brang the reality of the situation to be much more real. As an American, with all the pride I have in my nationality, I couldn't help but feel some shame for my country at that time. After a time of reflection, I walked on to another part of the park.

Ueno Park has 3 large ponds that are a main rest stop for ducks who are migrating. When I was there, the waters seemed more of a sea of mallards rather than a body of water. This walkway separates two of the pond and leads out of the park and back into the city.

As night began to fall over the city, I left the park and headed towards the famous Ameyoko market.

On the way there, I saw a pet store. 2 trips ago I remember being appalled at the prices of pets. Low and behold, they were still expensive as shit. If you're too lazy to do the price conversion (which you probably are), that cat costs around $1,100. I found this particularly amusing considering all of a half-mile away you can go steal a stray for free.

Here is the entrance to the famed Ameyoko Market.

These pictures don't really do the market's size justice. It is rather expansive and takes an entire area out of the city. Ameyoko is one of the most famous bazaars in all of Asia. In the morning, it's a very lively fish market. The fisherman who sell here also have developed a very unique style of speech. It's really impossible to explain well, just imagine a very unusual tone and accent. I first visited this market on my first trip to Japan with my brother Devon.

Yea, that is a whole..full-sized red tentacle for sell crazy (about $30). This market is a Shmorgusboard of visual candy. Jewelry, clothing, arcades, and more are found in this labrinth styled market.

Nighttime in Ueno while I walk back through the park towards the train station.

I thought I'd end with this final image. At night, Ueno Park lights up with many different displays. This one of circus bears was one of many interesting light displays in Ueno Park.


Replies: 5 Comments

Friday, February 9th
> That's one thing I I've always wanted to do, visit ares of cultural significance. Those Japanese Temples are just the kind of places I'd go to and observe.

Tuesday, February 6th
wow, for some reason all your pictures look really "artistic", very nice. they look a lot cooler then the pictures you usually take in the states, not sure if it's all the japanese people and surroundings because people in the states are not as nice on the eyes.

ps: your cell phone sucks because it looks like a razr and we all know people with razrs are gay, though it has the same features as my cell minus the dictionary

spring [e-mail]
Tuesday, February 6th
i wishhhhhh i was there, it woulda been an ADVENTURE.

Monday, February 5th
Thats amazing that he found a flam that was still burnning.

Devon DeLapp [homepage]
Monday, February 5th
The sakura are blossoming here in LA, too. They're pretty, but I don't get the Japanese fascination.