So, day 4 was a bit different to the 3 that preceded it… Day 4 was a day we didn’t really have too much planned, so we just took it easy, and did a few bits and bobs. It was a nice change of pace from the crazy amount of stuff we’d managed to fit into our first few 24-hours in Tokyo. So, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear, this post shouldn’t be too long…
I feel like all my posts regarding this trip start the same “It was a pretty lazy morning….”, and shock horror, this one is no different. We decided to venture somewhere else for breakfast (only next door to our trusty bakery), and it wasn’t worth it. We ended up making a pit-stop at Tom Tom’s anyway before heading over to the other side of the bridge. We’d managed to finish up the disposable camera we’d bought and decided to try and get it developed before we moved onto Seoul. So, before getting on the metro we went back to the little shop on the corner we’d bought it from and swapped it for our pick-up slip.
We travelled the few short stops along our trusty Ginza line and came up into the (cold) sunshine of Ueno. We headed straight for the park as this seemed to be the main area we’d heard and read about at this metro stop. As we stepped into the park we were met by a crowd that had formed around a pretty sharply dressed man in a suit. We joined the horde of people and watched as the man put on one hell of a performance. He wasn’t a juggler, he wasn’t a singer, and he wasn’t a street magician. I’m not sure what you’d call him, just a performer I guess. He had a speaker and a suitcase, but that was about it.
The poor guy was sweating buckets as he had picked the only spot in sunlight, but, he did a hell of a good job. He set the speaker up, and using a toy car, dolls, paper props and much more, he performed a play (that worked with the music and speech of the recording) of a car chase and crash etc… Unfortunately, I don’t remember the full details, I wish I’d recorded it honestly, but it was really good. He even got a dad out of the audience to join in, and his performance was just as good, we couldn’t believe he was a random bloke and not part of it! Kyle gave him some change as he finished up and we headed further into the park, pleasantly surprised by how our day had started. Because it was winter, the area was pretty dull with yellow/brown grass, bare trees and not much else, but we walked around for a bit anyways taking it in and enjoying another taste of nature in this crazy built up city.
We found a cute little temple which you had to walk along a path leading into the lake/pond and it was lined with food vendors and statues. The temple was called Shinobazunoike Bentendo, and although small, it was pretty nice, colourful and interesting!
My favourite part around this little area though, was down to the left of the temple, a bunch of old Japanese men and women were sat on one of the stone tables just eating food and watching people go buy. There were loads of little sparrows fluttering about and if you went up to the seating area, one of the old men would come and give you a palm full of rice or a ball of dough for you to feed the birds with! How lovely is that!! We jumped at the opportunity and Kyle went first, hand full of rice, arm in the air, pretty soon he had a small flock of birds at his hand. I stood to the side and tried to get some shots of the birds, and Kyle offering up the food. We then swapped over, passing the baton (rice) and switching places, Kyle with the camera, me with the birds. It took a while for the birds to warm to me, and pretty soon my arm was starting to ache. The old man came to give me more rice, and even some dough to try and entice the little buggers… sure enough, they came to feed just like they had done with Kyle and the others. It was a nice little surprise experience, and so sweet of the old guys to just sit there and help bring the opportunity to tourists like ourselves!
One thing I have realised, learnt, came to terms with and accepted over this trip was that I’m infuriatingly clumsy and awkward… Kyle (and probably anyone who has ever met me) will back me up here. (Honestly, I’m sure Kyle wanted to, and had to stop himself, snapping at me a few times, and I don’t blame the boy!) There were many MANY examples of this over the time we spent in Tokyo and Seoul, and one of them occurred here, while we were peacefully and beautifully feeding the birds next to a temple on a lake… During this pretty special and silent experience, Kyle having teeny birds feeing out of his hand, fluttering up, perching on his fingers, and flying away, temple behind us, lake in front… I somehow manage to fling my lens cap from my pocket and send it crashing to the ground making a hell of a racket as it rolled around to a stop on the path… Birds flew away in terror everywhere, Kyle span around to shoot daggers at me, mortified, while I awkwardly and embarrassingly got to my knees to retrieve my plastic cover… I swear, I always knew I was slightly clumsy, and tried to deny the fact I’m pretty darn awkward, but after this trip, I cannot turn my back on this realisation any longer. It’s a fact, a pretty solid one too. I’m probably the most physically awkward person I know, be it on buses, in crowds, or in relaxing bird feeding experiences… Anyway, I’ve come to terms with it and embraced it a bit now, and surprisingly, I feel pretty good about it!
So, after I’d caused a scene and we’d got our fill of bird feeding, we decided to tick something else off Kyle’s Never been on holiday list, and something that would pass the time on what had turned out to be a pretty sunny and warm (ish) day… we rented a pedalo! One huge section of the lake/pond had been cut off and there were row boats, swan shaped boats and pedalo’s bobbing about in it. We chose to rent one for half an hour and off we went! We peddled, sat, chilled, chatted, took photos, floated about and just generally enjoyed the 30 minutes we had before we parked up back at the docks.
After our lovely little pedalo experience, we came across signs for Ueno Park Zoo, we decided to head for the entrance and see what the prices were like. On the way we walked past an old guy who had set up a little chair on the side of the path and was playing some music while his pal sang along with him. (From what I can remember, they were singing in English.) We sat there for a little while, enjoying the sun, the park, and the unexpected, but greatly appreciated musical number, while a cat strolled on by… It was all very pleasant indeed! Anyway, we got to the zoo entrance and the fee was pretty minimal, and again, Kyle couldn’t remember the last time he went to a zoo, so we decided to head in.
From the map, it seemed like they had quite a big selection of animals, and we definitely saw a big mixture! As far as zoo’s go, there wasn’t anything special to say about this one. Don’t get me wrong, there were a load of cool animals, but also a lot of sad animals…
We had a pit stop for some food (a giant sausage and more ice cream for Kyle), and then before the zoo started to close up we made our way to the most popular exhibit…the pandas!
Can you believe it, I’ve lived in China for about a year and a half now, and I’ve never seen a panda… I go to Japan for a few days and I see one! Oh well, I guess it doesn’t make a difference where I saw them, as long as I have seen them… We got a lot of photos of the various animals, and a selfie or two with the big black and white (lazy, stupid) bears, and decided it was time to head out before the whole park shut for good. We’d been wandering around the zoo for a good few hours so we’d missed our chance to explore a lot of the park unfortunately. But we headed through, seeing a little more of it, and went to a different metro station to continue on for the evening.
Instead of heading to a different area of Tokyo, we made our way back home (Asukasa metro) and had a bit of a chill and a nap at the hostel. On the way in we’d picked up some Japanese instant noodle type things and some snacks. We were starting to realise we were burning through our money pretty damn quick, what with all the metro rides, café stops, entrance fees etc…. so thought it best to have at least one meal in the hostel. After a rest we sat in the communal area and made our noodles. They’re much more efficient and fancy than our pot noodles let me tell you! We washed them down with a bevvy or two and sat around chatting about what to do next…
Roppongi. We chose to go and explore “a district in Tokyo that is well known as the city’s most popular nightlife district among foreigners”… could we find anything? COULD WE F*CK. We walked around for aagggesss, going down “main roads”, side streets, checking directions on our phones, we tried everything. We tried so bloody hard to find anything. We did come across a British Pie/Fish and Chip Shop place that, if we hadn’t have just eaten, would have gone down nicely! Above this place, there were signs for a number of different bars and clubs. Tokyo being Tokyo, one building can hold a lot of different businesses and shops etc. so we tried to get to these bars via the lift. It looked pretty dodgy, but by this point we were willing to try anything… We went up and down in the lift, stopping at all the floors which said there was a bar there, but, we either couldn’t find them or they looked way too seedy for us… so back onto the streets we went. At 10.15pm, we gave up. It just wasn’t happening, we were getting cold, and we had no idea what time the metro stopped running.
The area itself was actually pretty cool. There were some really odd buildings, ranging from nice traditional red brick townhouses, to tall weird standalone high rises, and even some really French Boutique shops. We passed a lot of these random buildings on the way back to the metro, but as we walked in the underground tunnels trying to find the ticket machines, we realised we’d somehow managed to not only get to a different metro stop, but we were on a completely different line, and as you may or may not know, Tokyo is known for its confusing, and sometimes infuriating multitude of metro lines. Take a look at the metro map…
Now, there are quite a few different lines correct? That can sometimes be confusing enough. We’d managed to get used to the letter and number system (which is a lot easier than trying to read and remember the full names of the stations), but something we still weren’t 100% confident in, was the different type of lines. It’s not like good old Guangzhou, Shanghai, or even London, where the metro is owned and operated by one company. No. In Tokyo, to make things even more fun (confusing) there are multiple companies/owners of the many metro lines. So, if you changed lines, you might actually be going onto a different type of line, so you’d need a completely separate ticket. I don’t know if this is coming across as confusing, or like I’m making a big fuss over nothing. But, trust me, it made things more complicated than they needed to be, and, as I’d mentioned before, we’d been pretty good at navigating the Tokyo metro so far, but this really did throw us off a little. Where was good old Ginza line when you needed it?!
We eventually got back to our neck-of-the-woods and went in search of some food. I was tempted with the little Kebab guy on the corner, but Kyle spotted a Japanese place where you order from a box on the wall (kind of like a jukebox) and then hand your ticket stub to the guy in the kitchen. There were two American girls in there and we got chatting to them about the Gacha’s (egg/ball things that you get a toy in) for a while. By the time we left the Kebab guy had shut up shop and we made our way over the bridge heading for home after what had turned out to be a pretty disappointing night.
While we were waiting to cross the road (can’t go until there is a green 11!) a lady came running down the street towards us. She wasn’t dressed for running, so she wasn’t out for a late night jog… She also kept looking behind her and checking over her shoulder, it was proper weird… She then slumped onto some steps to catch her breath, but again, kept looking around and checking down the street. We started to get a bit freaked out and concerned, because we couldn’t tell if she was in danger, drunk, crazy or just our for some fun. We really wanted to help, but weren’t sure how to do so. I mean, the odds of her being able to speak English enough to convey what was wrong were pretty slim. Another girl who was also crossing the road stopped just as we had. We could tell she wanted to help too, but just as she started to cross the road and go to her aid, the first lady just picked up and started to run again… Very, very weird. It felt like something out of a horror movie. Lone lady, running down a deserted dark street, only lit up by a few sparsely places street lights. Out of breath but still running, checking over her shoulder to see what was coming in the shadows behind… We half expected to see an axe wielding man strolling down behind her, or a horde of zombies to burst out of a side street and limp on after her. But, thankfully, none of the above happened, and we went to bed not knowing what had happened to her, or what her night had in store…