Archive for the ‘Taito’ Category

tokyo: a stroll from yanaka to ueno   4 comments

Saturday, June 24: I can never resist a walk that’s all mapped out, a route just begging to be followed.  Today, I set out to explore a neighborhood I missed when I went to the Ueno area of Tokyo soon after I arrived in Japan.   The City Walk comes straight from the pages of Lonely Planet Japan: ‘Strolling Yanaka,”  and I opt to do it in reverse from the way it’s laid out in the book.

I start by going to Sendagi Station and looking for Yanaka Ginza, a mid-20th century shopping street. It’s easy to find; I simply follow the crowds. Soon, I’m walking under the archway at the street entrance.

Yanaka Ginza

At 175 meters long and 5-6 meters wide, the street is packed with 70 shops (Go Tokyo: Yanaka Ginza Shopping District).

Though compact, the district is chock-full of restaurants and shops selling yukata, souvenirs, flowers, fans, Hello Kitty paraphernalia, fruits and vegetables, flip-flops, baskets, pillows, housewares, and anything else a person could want.  Jovial folks snack and drink beer while sitting on overturned milk crates.  It’s quite a festive atmosphere.

shops in Yanaka Ginza

Yukata in Yanaka

Yanaka Ginza

produce for sale in Yanaka

produce in Yanaka

Yanaka Ginza

straw sandals

menus in Yanaka

Yanaka archway

bicycles in Yanaka

cute shop with bicycle in Yanaka

Yanaka Ginza

Yanaka Ginza

shop in Yanaka

At one point along the street, I find a small hole-in-the-wall that sells okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients.  I haven’t yet tried one yet, because I’ve read that most of them contain squid, which I despise. I type into my Google translate app on my phone: “Can I get one without squid?” and show it to the shopkeeper.  He shakes his head no, so I move on.  Instead, I stop at a little bakery that sells slices of pizza and get one to carry with me.  I munch on it as I walk down the road, even though I know it’s considered rude to eat while walking in Japan.  I have no choice, however, as all the milk crates are occupied. 🙂

Yanaka Ginza

exotic merchandise in Yanaka

At the far end of the street, I climb the Yuyake Dande, literally “Sunset Stairs,” until I approach Nippori Station.

Yuyake Dande, literally the “Sunset Stairs”

baskets for sale

shopfront in Yanaka

I take a sharp right at the train tracks and walk along them until I reach the entrance to Yanaka-reien, or Yanaka Cemetery. Here, the paths are well-manicured and wide, presenting a good trail for a tranquil stroll. The grave of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Edo period, is located within the cemetery, according to Japan-guide.com.

Yanaka-reien

According to Lonely Planet Japan, Yanaka-reien is “one of Tokyo’s most atmospheric and prestigious cemeteries.”

Yanaka-reien

gate at Yanaka-reien

small shrine at Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

Yanaka-reien

hydrangea in the temple area of Yanaka

I continue on my walk toward Ueno Park, taking several detours to visit some of the temples in the Yanaka area.  It’s hot and humid today, so I’m sticky with sweat and my mouth is dry.  Thank goodness for all the vending machines on street corners. I buy one of my favorite flavored waters and continue walking, dipping into the various temples along the way.

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

Yanaka temples

hydrangeas in Yanaka

temple area of Yanaka

After leaving the temple area, I cross over Kototoi-dori and continue my walk through neighborhoods on Sakura-dori until I reach Ueno Park.

pink house on the way to Ueno

I pass by the Tokyo National Museum thinking that if I have time while I’m in Japan, I really ought to visit the museum.  I also walk past Rinnoji Temple, also known as Rinno-ji Ryodaishi-do, a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Ueno Park Tokyo; it was originally a part of the cathedral of Kaneiji Temple and was called Kaizan-do or Jigen-do, according to GoJapanGo.com.

Rinno-ji

Within minutes I’m on an overpass looking down on the extensive rail tracks converging on Ueno Station.   My goal is to get to Ueno Station and find a tapas restaurant my friend Graham has told me about.  I don’t know the name of the restaurant, so I put “tapas restaurant” into Yelp and find one called Vinuls. The app says it’s near Ueno Station, which is where Graham said it was.  I then put the name into Google Maps and let the app lead me to the restaurant.

Ueno Station

I find Vinuls Spanish Bar & Restaurant right outside Ueno Station.  It is so easy!  It’s hot, so I sit inside at the bar and order a glass of cold wine and two small plates, one with prawns and one with tomatoes topped with garlic and olive oil.

Vinul’s

Vinul’s

Vinul’s

My young Japanese waiter, who is attending high school in Tokyo, tells me in perfect English that he lived for a long while in Barcelona and so also speaks fluent Spanish.  He’s friendly and confident; I find when I encounter Japanese people with a command of English, they seem very confident; whereas those with little English ability are very shy in the face of a foreigner.

tapas at Vinul’s

Vinul’s

After enjoying my wine and tapas, I walk across the street to Uniqlo, a discount fashion store much like Zara or H&M.  This is only a small branch of the store, but the clerk tells me they have a big store at the end of the adjacent shopping street, Ameya-yokocho.  Purely by accident, I thus find one of Tokyo’s popular open-air markets. This market got its start as a black market after WWII, when American goods were sold here.

Ameya-yokocho

These days, the market is crammed with vendors selling fresh seafood and produce, Hawaiian shirts, jeans and camouflage clothing.  There are also small restaurants and watch shops.

Ameya-yokocho

I’m surprised at these small markets to find so many Hawaiian shirts being sold.  I think they are so passé, but I find many Japanese young men, and even young women, wearing them.  Even some of my students wear them to class.

Hawaiian shirts at Ameya-yokocho

seafood at Ameya-yokocho

Ameya-yokocho

fresh seafood at Ameya-yokocho

seafood for sale at Ameya-yokocho

produce at Ameya-yokocho

produce at Ameya-yokocho

At the end of the shopping street, I see the huge Uniqlo store across a major intersection, so I wait until the traffic passes and cross over.

Tokyo taxi

At Uniqlo, I get in a bit of trouble buying a couple of shirts, although they’re not very expensive, about $15 each. However, right after leaving Vinuls, I also stopped into another more expensive shop and bought two other tops.  I won’ t say how much those cost. 🙂

One thing I can say about Japan is that it’s a very consumer-driven society, and as a person who has a weakness for shopping, I have a hard time resisting the enticing goods for sale! 🙂

Total steps today: 15,754 (6.68 miles)

temples & shrines on kotodoi-dori {walking tour 9: part 3}   8 comments

Sunday, April 2:  Continuing further northwest through Ueno Park, I come to the Ikeda Mansion Gate, at gate that once stood before the residence of the Ikeda Lords of Inabe (Tottori) in the Marunouchi district of the city and was relocated here in 1954.   The elaborate gate has two guardhouses with Chinese-style roofs.

Ikeda Mansion Gate

My goal is continue following the walk as long as I can, and as long as my feet will carry me.  Little do I know how far it is to the next stop, past the International Library of Children’s Literature (there are SO MANY MUSEUMS in Ueno Park!!) to Kan’ei-ji Temple, built in 1625 by the priest Tenkai Sojo to serve the ruling Tokugawa clan.

Kan’ei-ji Temple

Kan’ei-ji originally functioned as a prayer hall to protect the Ki-mon (“Demon’s Gate”) of Edo Castle, but later it became the temple in which the Tokugawa family held Buddhist services. At its peak, the temple housed 68 buildings of various sizes. Most of these, however, were destroyed by fire in subsequent civil wars. An enormous image of the Buddha was destroyed by the great Kanto earthquake that hit Tokyo in 1923; only the Yakushi image  of the Buddha of Health remains enshrined today.  As a hibutsu (hidden image), it is never shown (Into Japan: The Official Guide: Ken’ei-ji Temple).

The former Kan’ei-ji Temple, a 5-story pagoda, sat at the right hand side of the approach to Tosho-gu Shrine. It is currently located inside Ueno Zoo.  I didn’t have the time or the interest to visit the zoo today.

Once a great complex, Kan’ei-ji used to occupy the entire heights north and east of Shinobazu Pond and the plains where Ueno Station now stands. It had immense wealth, power and prestige. Of the 15 Tokugawa shoguns, six are buried here. (Wikipedia: Kan’ei-ji)

At Kan’ei-ji Temple

Copper bell at Kan’ei-ji Temple

In the 1600s, the shoguns showed great interest in Confucian doctrines, leading to the founding of the Confucian Academy on the temple grounds.

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Luckily, it’s not crowded at this out-of-the-way temple, so I’m able to take a few close-up shots of the cherry blossoms.

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Sakura at Kan’ei-ji Temple

Kan’ei-ji Temple

As I leave Kan’ei-ji, I turn right until I come to Kototoi-dori.  Opposite is the Jomyo-in Temple, built in 1666 as one of 36 residences for priests of Kan’ei-ji.  The Hondo (Main Hall) is a square concrete unit, not very attractive.  The draw here are the Jizo images; Jizo is the Buddhist deity protecting children, the dead, pregnant women, and travelers. In the mid-19th century, the abbot vowed to erect within the grounds 84,000 Jizo images.  He didn’t succeed, but the count is now beyond 20,000.

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

Jomyo-in Temple

By now, it’s getting late and I’m exhausted.  I guess I should have started this walk at 6 a.m. this morning.  I don’t have time to do the rest of the walk before it gets dark or before my legs give out, so I make my way down Kototoi-dori Road back toward the metro stop.  I stop into a couple of small shrines along the way, little jewels hidden along a busy road.

a little shrine by the road

This one has a cute dog, who sits quietly as I walk on the grounds.  He seems like a friendly fellow.

the dog protector

Another shrine sits further back off the road.  It’s quite pretty.  The light is fading fast though, so I don’t linger too long.

another shrine

shrine

pretty shrine

lantern in an oasis

umbrellas & elephants

a warrior

Finally, I return to Shinobazu-dori and, alas, I’m happy to see the Nezu metro station, one stop further along the Chiyoda line from where I disembarked earlier today.  Entering the metro here will save me quite a walk.  I’m happy to sit down on the train, at least until I reach the Rapid Express Odakyu Line.  On that train, I have to stand on a packed train for 26 minutes until I reach Machida.

The problem with the book Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City is that no distances or times are given.  I think this walk was overly ambitious for one day.  I could have taken one whole day to visit EACH of the museums in the Tokyo National Museum Complex, plus the Ueno Zoo, Tokyo University and about five more museums, gardens and shrines.  I believe Ueno Park and its museums could be a week-long journey!

Total steps: 15,357 (6.51 miles).

%d bloggers like this: