Whiskeyjack (Level 19)

"I'd like to supersize a death with a Coke" - Matthew Good, 21st Century Living. I still love that line.
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Taken in Kyoto on April 3rd of this year near Kodai-ji.  The clips are all of various dance troupes performing Yosakoi dances ( Wikipedia sums it up better than I can). I'm sorry that these clips are all rather short, but I was worried about draining my camera's battery and filling up my memory card, since I had left my backup SD card in the hotel room. The picture is understandably  a little shakey also, since I didn't have a proper  tripod, and was trying to watch the performances myself, and not stare at the tiny version in the LCD screen of my camera. I hope you enjoy these. 


   
   
   
   
   
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I have enough figures on pre-order online that I don't need anymore coming in for the foreseeable future.. I always though this figure looked awesome, but the price tag scared me away.. Unfortunately Tomopop's review pushed me over the edge.
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After Asakusa my next closest bunch of touristy goodness was Ueno Park, only a few subway stops away. Ueno's a huge public park with a few interesting sights to be had. But the real reason to be there at the beginning of April was for the hanami. Ueno may not sport the best arrangement or selection of cherry trees, but in terms of the sheer number of people it can contain, little can top it.

Most of these photos are from the first day I was in Tokyo, which was cold and drizzly, and the following day, which was super sunny. However because my hotel was in Asakusa which isn't on the blessed Yamanote line I would pass through Ueno on the way home every night in Tokyo, and usually would spend half an hour to an hour just walking in the park with a beer and something deep-fried on a skewer watching the Japanese get their party on underneath the cherry blossoms.


The View from the South end of Ueno Park
The View from the South end of Ueno Park

And turning 180 degrees this is what greets you

Cherry Tree at the South end of Ueno Park
Cherry Tree at the South end of Ueno Park


Bordering the park on the south west is Shinobazu Pond. You can rent incredibly dorky looking paddle boats there. I passed on that experience. Can't find any good pictures of them either.
 
Shinobazu Pond
Shinobazu Pond

Between the crows, pidgeons, ducks, the koi in the lake, herons.. there's a good chunk of wildlife here.
Not pictured.. a Japanese couple were feeding the pigeons and one landed in the woman's hand to eat. Then another pigeon landed on top of that one and started to eat as well. Sadly couldn't get my camera out in time for the pigeon totem pole.

Shinobazu  wildlife
Shinobazu wildlife

  Smack in the middle of the lake is a temple dedicated to Benzaiten, goddess of a whole lot of different things including music. The temple had a few huge stone biwa (a Japanese lute) outside it.

Benten-do
Benten-do

 As you probably know.. there's not a lot of open space in Tokyo.. so wherever some pops up.. if there's people.. there'll be vendor stalls. Lots and lots of vendor stalls. And lots of tasty food!
 
Vendor  Stalls at Shinobazu
Vendor Stalls at Shinobazu
Eventually I got to the park itself.

early  hanami celebrations
early hanami celebrations

On the right you can see the cordoned off area where even this early in the morning, on a weekday.. people had already hunkered in to claim their tarp space for some quality hanami time.

And maybe here is when it really sunk in just how great cherry trees were.

Sakura tunnel
Sakura tunnel

Even the manhole covers like cherry trees!

Sakura-themed  manhole
Sakura-themed manhole

Walk with me for a bit.

Ueno Park
Ueno Park


Ueno Park
Ueno Park


Ueno Park  Cherry Trees
Ueno Park Cherry Trees


Ueno Park  Cherry Trees
Ueno Park Cherry Trees


Ueno Park  Cherry Trees
Ueno Park Cherry Trees


The park also has a Tōshō-gū, a shrine dedicated to the former shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The one in Ueno was under restoration.. but I got to see the mother of all Tōshō-gū a few days later in Nikkō.
 

Entrance  to Ueno's Tosho-gu
Entrance to Ueno's Tosho-gu

There's also a zoo in the park.. but they don't have Panda bears anymore so I didn't go.. and the gate's not particularly interesting to look at. At the north end of Ueno Park it opens up into a huge paved area, and at the other end of that expanse is the Tokyo National Museum.

North end of  Ueno Park
North end of Ueno Park

 
The Tokyo  National Museum
The Tokyo National Museum

Right near Ueno Park is the Ameyoko, a shopping arcade. Crowded with all sorts of stuff for sale.

Ameyoko  Shopping Arcade
Ameyoko Shopping Arcade

Maybe I was just tired.. but I found it hilarious that it's actually brighter in there at night than when I was there during the day.

Ameyoko at night
Ameyoko at night

 And I'm done talking. Here's Ueno at night.

The View from the South end of Ueno Park at  Night
The View from the South end of Ueno Park at Night


Ueno Park at  Night
Ueno Park at Night


Ueno Park at  Night
Ueno Park at Night


Shinobazu  Pond at Night
Shinobazu Pond at Night


Vendor Stalls near Benten-do at Night
Vendor Stalls near Benten-do at Night


Ueno Park at  Night
Ueno Park at Night


Ueno Park at  Night
Ueno Park at Night


Christmas lights? in Ueno Park at Night
Christmas lights? in Ueno Park at Night



A final postscript.. that afternoon also featured my first food failure. In my defense it was cold and had started to rain and this was the first place I saw that I knew I could order food without any hassle.


Food Failure :(
Food Failure :(
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Back to trying to post these chronologically after my  previous entry took place a week into my vacation. 
My hotel was located a few minutes away from the Asakusa subway station, so my first hand-on experience with Japan outside of the airport and trains was here. It did not disappoint. Asakusa is centered around the Sensō-ji, a large Buddhist temple. The approach leading up to it was great.
 
The Kaminari-mon ("thunder gate") is right at one of the major streets running through Asakusa, and even at 10am on a drizzly and cold Monday morning, was bustling with Japanese tourists all taking photos of the same stuff I was. I was worried that I would stand out like some gawking gaijin tourist.. but not here. I never really saw too many foreign tourists in my travels. More in Kyoto, but only at the really big stops like Kinkakugi where the parking lot was full of tour buses. But I'm getting ahead of myself!
 
Raijin and Fujin stand on either side of the gate. They get around a lot.
Kaminari-mon
Kaminari-mon

Passing through the arch leads straight to Nakamise-dōri, which had more Japanese tourist-trap paraphernalia than anywhere else I encountered on my travels.

Nakamise Dori
Nakamise Dori

Sprouting off from Nakamise are a series of covered shopping arcades with some great stores and restaurants. I need to plug one store in there - Trunks-ya. They sell a wide variety of boxer shorts with amusing Japanese motifs and those split-toed socks whose name escapes me at the moment with a wide selection of silly images on them. The owner was an exceptionally friendly guy too.
 
Trunks-ya lucky cat boxers
Trunks-ya lucky cat boxers

  After getting through the crowds in Nakamise, you come across a much grander gate than Kaminari - Hōzō-mon ("Treasure House Gate")
 
Hozo-mon
Hozo-mon

Passing Through the Hozo-mon
Passing Through the Hozo-mon

And to the left, a wonderfully restored five-story pagoda (picture taken at night because it looked even cooler lit-up) . Maybe it was just re-built. I'm not certain. Japan has a lot of earthquakes and devastating fires in its history.
 
Asakusa's Five-Story Pagoda
Asakusa's Five-Story Pagoda
 
And that just leaves Sensō-ji itself.. which while the inside was beautiful, and the monks there were actually conducting a service of some sort.. the outside.. well...
 
Senso-ji.. under restoration
Senso-ji.. under restoration
Yep.. my first big grand photo opportunity.. under restoration (a theme that would continue sporadically throughout my time in Japan)  
Inside Senso-ji
Inside Senso-ji
 
 
Asakusa at Sunset
Asakusa at Sunset

Next time.. Ueno Park (probably), maybe Harajuku.
*edit- fixed link to previous post. Didn't post that one to the forums since I didn't think it was as interesting. Maybe I'll do that later.
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