First shrine/temple visits in Japan to celebrate the New Year is called Hatsumode. The locals visit and offer prayers, draw their luck with omikuji (fortune-telling paper strips), or wish for good luck by writing hopes and desires in a wooden charm called ema.
Ueno has become my travel getaway during my short stays in Tokyo this year. The night life in Ueno is quiet and relaxing compared to its neighboring districts – Asakusa and Akihabara, where tourists flock to see the Senso-ji Temple and the Anime haven.
While Asakusa and Akihabara is famous for their own charms, Ueno exhibits numerous temples, shrines, museums and zoo. The famous Ueno Park, a spacious public park is just a few meters away from the Ueno Station.
Hydrangeas bloom during summer in Japan, it can be commonly seen in parks and in the temple gardens. If the spring season has the cherry blossom tree, hydrangeas captivates the locals and tourists alike during summer.
After a few minutes of walk through the south of the park, I came across the Tokyo National Museum, some tourists are taking a tour with their guide even in this kind of weather.
The drizzle gave me a hard time to take photos of the Museum, with an umbrella, a camera and a bottle of cider I must say that the struggle is real. I gave up taking another shot after my umbrella failed to resist the gust of the wind and I wasn’t able to control my grasp anymore.
After capturing this photo of the gate leading to the Kaneiji Temple, I quickly walked away when I heard someone said “dare desu ka?” or something along the line after the shutter of my camera clicked. I thought the caretakers near the gate were bothered by the sound.
If ever you are planning on visiting Ueno Park, I’d recommend you wearing your most comfy shoes because walking around the park requires a great amount of vitality. With all the attractions the park can offer to you, I bet spending time with every spot will consume your energy.
As for me, I hadn’t have enough rest from the hotel after visiting Asakusa and my body is slowly giving up on me and because I had the nerve to continue my adventure to Akihabara (I walked all the way to Akiba because I’m afraid I’d get lost riding trains), I almost didn’t want to come back to the hotel thinking about the distance between Akiba and Ueno (I promise I’ll ride the train next time!).
Ameya yokocho is a shopping street filled with various items – foods, clothing, footwear, gadgets. Imported products can also be bought here, you just have to ask the locals about the exact location because the stalls are underground. Yay for the tax-free shops!
Tip: Always bring your passport (tourist passport, that is) for every time you purchase in tax-free shops, you will be exempted from paying the tax.
During my first visit in Ueno, I didn’t realize that there is a Tokyo University nearby, I’m glad I was able to visit Japan’s most prestigious university on my third visit in Tokyo with my friend!
After walking for about 30 mins from the Ueno Station ( I didn’t realize it was so far that me and my friend almost dragged our feet just to reach this famous Todai) we arrived in one of the branches of Tokyo University located in Bunkyo-ku, just a few meters away from the station.
We would not be able to arrive in Tokyo University map without the internet + gps locator app! However the scorching heat of the sun didn’t meet our travel expectations, if only we can grab a taxi to reach our destination (we’re very frugal with spending our money orz). It took us about 3-4 stops in convenience stores before arriving here. But it’s all worth it!
I have to say that I felt safe and comfortable with my travels while in Tokyo, considering that I walk alone at night when I get back to the hotel. Whenever I go to Tokyo, Ueno will be the first place that I consider staying in. Ueno will always have a special place in my heart.
Thanks to my father’s work, the Tokyo trip has become possible! Who says traveling alone isn’t fun? I get to spend my own time doing whatever I want. The pressure of complying a companion’s needs during the travel is gone. Yay!
The amount of endurance sitting in the bus for seven straight hours is almost unbearable due to the fact that I am not a fan of sleeping while in transit. I just happen to have the habit of looking outside the window, appreciating the beauty of Japan.
While Japan is not a foreign land anymore as I was able to visit the country for several short times, it still took a lot of courage to take a step outside alone because of the intimidating structures surrounding the hotel I stayed in (the difference between the urban and rural life is greatly evident as I arrived in Tokyo). It is my first time unaccompanied in Japan and with the capacity of my Japanese vocabulary and the complexity of the train lines, it is impossible to travel without feeling uneasy.
After a lot of contemplation and planning for my first destination, I headed to Asakusa. Famous for its Buddhist Temple as one of its main attraction, Asakusa boasts a myriad of sightseeing spots earning a crowd of tourists everywhere.
On this gloomy weather, it is a little disappointing to see the Skytree covered with clouds, but it didn’t stop the flock of tourists from taking selfies with the landmarks.
The Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate leading the path to Nakamise-dori and Senso-ji Temple.
The Nakamise Shopping street offers a wide range of souvenirs from food delicacies to the traditional Japanese garments. I didn’t buy anything and now I’m regretting it *cries*. If you happen to pass by here, take a look at every shop, taste all the foods and make sure to not have second thoughts of buying what you want!
Don’t miss the yukata/kimono experience when you visit asakusa! You can find some cheap rental shops near the temple. While you walk around wearing the traditional Japanese clothes, some tourists might ask for a picture with you!
Before proceeding to the Senso-ji Temple, a huge earthenware sits in the middle of the path. The smoke emitting from the incense burner is believed for purifying one’s body. It is a must try when visiting the Senso-ji temple.
Senso-ji Temple – Tokyo’s oldest temple. Wasn’t able to see the pagoda though because it is under maintenance during my visit.
Couldn’t read kanji and missed my chance to draw a paper fortune ><.
Another thing not to miss out in Asakusa – the Pulled Rickshaw!
This traditional transportation attracts a lot of tourists, it can be found in Kyoto and Tokyo. Most rickshaw pullers are entertainers, actors, athletes and considered pulling rickshaws as their side jobs, some are part-timer students and some have interest in cultural exchanges which explains why they are very friendly and can speak a handful of English. The puller will tour the passengers on their chosen route (price varies depending on the course).
After visiting Asakusa, I walked all the way back to the hotel for some rest and resumed my venture towards Ueno.