A Travellerspoint blog

May 2015


Ueno Park

sunny 78 °F

For our last day in Japan, we decided to head to the Ueno Park area of Tokyo - very popular, home of the Japanese National Museum, and a great place for all to spend an afternoon.

After getting off the train we made a short detour to one of the classic markets of Tokyo - Ameyoko. The name ameyayokocho comes from the shops in the area which sold United States army goods just after World War II, in which 'ame' is the short form of 'America'. However in present day it is referred to simply as ameyoko . The market is home to over one hundred and eighty one shops, which sell products ranging from fresh food and fish to clothing and time pieces.

We then headed into the Ueno Park. The park was established in 1873 on lands formerly belonging to the temple of Kan'ei-ji. Amongst the country's first public parks, it was founded following the western example as part of the borrowing and assimilation of international practices that characterizes the early Meiji period. The home of a number of major museums, Ueno Park is also celebrated in spring for its cherry blossoms and hanami. In recent times the park and its attractions have drawn over ten million visitors a year, making it Japan's most popular city park.

Our first museum was the Shitamache Museum. Shitamachi, term translatable as Low City, is the unofficial name given to the Tokyo flatlands, that is the area of Tokyo going from Taitō to Chiyoda and Chuō. The Shitamachi got its name from the fact that it's the physically low part of the city next to, and particularly east of, the Sumida River. Although not necessarily poor, it was inhabited by Edo's lower classes, including craftsmen, fishermen, sailors and merchants. The museum features replicas of life in that city.

Our final stop of the trip was the Tokyo National Museum, established in 1872, the oldest Japanese national museum, and the largest art museum in Japan. The museum collects, houses, and preserves a comprehensive collection of art works and archaeological objects of Asia, focusing on Japan. The museum holds over 110,000 objects, which includes 87 Japanese National Treasure holdings and 610 Important Cultural Property holdings.

Our trip to Japan is eye opening in many ways. Middle school children travel to and from school, and museums on their own, on the subway system, protected and nurtured by the general population. There is a supreme work ethic - you find work and do it to your best. 97% of the recent college graduates had a job within a couple of weeks. It is clean - there was absolutely no trash on any of the rail lines...period. The Japanese are polite and friendly. For them it is an honor to be of service. They respect one another and their elders....so much for the US to learn... And they know how to live with millions and millions of countrymen...very, very happily.

Posted by rpickett 02:28 Archived in Japan Tagged ueno park Comments (0)



semi-overcast 80 °F

Our first stop - a must for anyone visiting Tokyo - is the Akihabara Electric District. Akihabara gained the nickname Akihabara Electric Town shortly after World War II for being a major shopping center for household electronic goods and the post-war black market. Nowadays, Akihabara is considered by many to be an cultural center and a shopping district for video games, animation, manga, and computer goods. Icons from popular animation and manga are displayed prominently on the shops in the area, and numerous maid cafés are found throughout the district.

It was then off to the Space Needle of Tokyo - Sky Tree - the tallest tower in the world measuring in at 634 meters. We went up to the 350 meter level. We were not sure what to expect, but it was fantastic and very popular.

Our last stop was the Senso-ji Shrine in the middle of Tokyo - perhaps one of the most visited shrines in Japan. The temple is dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon (Avalokiteśvara). According to legend, a statue of the Kannon was found in the Sumida River in 628 by two fishermen, the brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari. The chief of their village, Hajino Nakamoto, recognized the sanctity of the statue and enshrined it by remodeling his own house into a small temple in Asakusa so that the villagers could worship Kannon. The first temple was founded in 645 CE, which makes it the oldest temple in Tokyo.

Our last day tomorrow. It has been a wonderful trip so far!

Posted by rpickett 02:55 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (0)


Tokyo - Odaiba Island

sunny 80 °F

Today we ventured to Odaiba Island - on the other side of Tokyo from where we were staying, not far from Tokyo Disneyland. My traveling companion has never visited there during his time living in Japan. Odaiba is a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay, across the Rainbow Bridge from central Tokyo. It was initially built for defensive purposes in the 1850s, dramatically expanded during the late 20th century as a seaport district, and has developed since the 1990s as a major commercial, residential and leisure area. The island has some remarkable architecture.


Our first stop was the Tokyo Big Site - Japan's largest exhibition-oriented convention center. It's a remarkable building!

We then wandered down a lovely promenade to our next stop - the Toyota Showroom, featuring current and concept vehicles in the Toyota inventory. (We decided to skip the Ferris wheel!)


We then headed for our final stop - Miraikan - The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation . Although not that robust in comparison the Smithsonian level of museums, it did spark the interest of the many Japanese high school students that were visiting.



It was then back on two trains to our hotel, where we watched a beautiful sunset from our 25th floor hotel room.

Posted by rpickett 02:29 Archived in Japan Tagged island odaiba Comments (0)


Tokyo - Suma Wrestling

sunny 80 °F

Today was a special day as we had booked a tour to the 11th day of the May Suma Wrestling Championships. We saw all of the top tier wrestlers.

However, we started the day with a subway trip to the Sony Building to view the four floors of Sony's electronics. You could certainly purchase, but I resisted. Really didn't need anything!


We then met up with our Tour Leader Miki, who would guide us through the afternoon's Suma wrestling event. It was a labor of love for her. She is a big fan, and had been going to meets since she was a child when her grandfather would take her!

The entrance of the wrestlers and the two Grand Champions:

The current Grand Champion - Hakudo from Mongolia is the last match of the day. He wins!

And the final traditional Bow Ceremony.

It was a totally unique and special event celebrating 2000 years, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

Posted by rpickett 06:08 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo - wrestling suma Comments (0)


Kyoto to Tokyo

semi-overcast 80 °F

Most Americans think Grand Central Station or Penn Station in New York are impressive. They don't even compare to Kyoto Station. It's 11 stories tall - seven escalators to get to the top and handles millions and millions of folks per year on dozens of train lines.

A typical Japanese breakfast is not for the Western faint of heart - lots of pickled veggies, rice and miso. Luckily, our buffet in the morning offered much Western fare. The Japanese seem to mix and match. The older generation with more traditional food and the younger tend to mix.

My new favorite meat for breakfast are meat dumplings - they are absolutely wonderful! I wish Oscar Meyer would come out with some!

We relocated to Tokyo today on the Shinkansen - a wonderful tripl Our New hotel is next to the Shinjaku train station and offers some of the best views of Tokyo. We are on the 25th floor. It's very highly rated on Tripadvisor - a 'travelers choice'! When we got there, I was unsure of where we ended up. Thought it might have been New York!

Tomorrow's highlight is an afternoon of Sumo Wrestling! Should be neat!!!

Posted by rpickett 02:42 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo kyoto to Comments (0)

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