Tokyo Craze Webcomic Guide 06 - Ueno Park, National Museum, Museum of Natural History
Day 3: Thursday - Museum Day In Tokyo
October 29, 2009
Egg McMuffin breakfast at the McDonalds as it was really good.
Took the Yamomote Line to Ueno. It was a coolish morning, but not cold. The air was soft and you could tell if was humid, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Here was the first place I saw some of the Tokyo Homeless. They were hanging out in the park near the National Science Museum and sleeping in the shrubs near the lake there. They didn’t occupy the benches, but stayed in the background. Smell of urine in the park in the odd place.
Went walking in the park. They were setting up for some craft show. Visited 2 shrines. Kiomizu Kannon Do and Bensen Do on the Lake. Went to the Shitamachi Museum. Very nice little museum. Do explore the original house that has been moved inside the museum with its under floor storage.
Went to the science museum. Lots of School kids. The new hall is great, the old hall is kind of hit and miss and with old fashioned displays. Excellent exhibits overall. The 360 degree theater was very cool and I watched a show about the earth. The sea exhibit with sharks and sunfish was also very interesting. Dinosaur exhibit was good. There were exhibits on computers with old mainframes and everything (as my career is computer related this was pretty cool stuff to me).
Went to the National Museum and skipped the Emperor's Exhibit of Art which was on. This temporary exhibit showing treasures of the royal family had HUGE lines and you also had to pay more. There was lots to see without a visit to the exhibit.
The museum is mammoth. Just saw the Japanese Arts and the bronze age archeology section with the famous dancing Haniwa. Should have brought more of a lunch from a convenience store as there is no food on the premises except for some very crowded and lined up restaurants and cafes. BRING Food. There are drink vending machines in the museum near the gift shop and on the grounds though. All I had was a rice ball which helped.
Love the Jomon clay pottery, especially the dancing Haniwa figures that used to be guardians around burial mounds. Saw a nice mix of samurai swords and stone age pottery. Some of the bronze age pottery of the time is fascinating as they look absolutely alien.
Down to Ginza. Wandered around the International Forum. Very cool building. Lots and lots of glass and it is in this neat narrow leaf shape from an overhead view.
Went down along the west side of the Yamamote line tracks, paralleling Ginza, to get toToho Studios where there is this bronze statue of Godzilla. There are all these little stall and yakitori places under the tracks.
Crossed over to Ginza near the Fujiya Building there. Found a Yotsunoya for beef rice bowl. Was a Japanese homeless guy eating in there too with blue eyes. I was eating a late lunch and quite hungry.
Saw lots of Ginza, the Mitsukosi, Seibu, Fujiya building, Sony Building, Sanrio Giftgate. Lots of staff in these stores, there seems to be staff everywhere by North American standards. Even had the Hello Kitty store pushing souvenir photos of you with a Hello Kitty statue. The Hello Kitty store was fairly big, had lots of stuff, but nothing too unusual.
Went to Ito-ya for pens and got set of these Frixion pens where a friction eraser will completely fade the ink due to the heat generated. Paper staplers were not so good. One of them I had seen for sale over here. Many beautiful origami papers to buy.
Saw lights come on at Dusk. Very pretty with lots of neon, especially near the tops of buildings. Lots of animated signs, and buildings that even change color.
Took subway to Shimbashi from Ginza. Really long walk underground. Turns out that Shimbasi connects underground to Shiodome. Walked to the center after getting lost and I swear it is faster to walk south from Ginza to get there instead of training it.
Shiodome is a neat place. Massive office towers. Very sci-fi-ish. Saw the cool modular apartment building. Got wrong directions from a guard who was very helpful, but he had the old location of the Pokemon Center. I actually made a mistake coming to Shiodome, and should have taken the Yamamote Line down to Hamamatsucho where the center can be seen from the train platform. However, seeing the Shiodome was good as I knew I would want to visit again. I followed the directions I had downloaded from the internet instead and went for a 40 minute walk south in the dark to the center. Never was really lost as I was paralleling the track again. It was an ordeal as I had blisters on my feet from walking around. My walking shoes which were not new just were not up to it. Went with a compass. Saw lots of more normal streets and it was nice. Grabbed some riceballs and a drink from a konbini on the way down.
Pokemon Center was fun. Lots of goods. There were items for kids and adults. If you have lots of children to buy things for, this is a good place. You can buy Pokemon gashapon, t-shirts, fridge magnets, socks, hats, stuffed animals – some of which are not available or hard to find elsewhere, video games, keychains, jewelry, games, plastic figures, candy, even themed instant noodles. I was glad I made the trip anyhow and bought a fair bit of stuff here. They play the pokemon tune over and over again until you go mad. Dum da da dum da da dee dum (repeat until closing).
Headed back to the hotel with lots of stuff to drop off and a brief rest. Went back out to take night photos of Shinjuku. Like many districts in Tokyo, it looks different between night and day as all of the buildings light up. There are also many, many people on the street until 10 PM at the earliest. The concentration of people increases the closer you get to the major spots or the train station.
It was a pretty late dinner at about 9 PM. I stopped out for conveyor belt sushi at a really cheap place (started at 100 yen) that was in my Tokyo Guidebook. The stuff wasn’t the best, but it was decent and filling and I was off again pretty quick. I will try a better one next time. These restaurants are pretty neat as you get as seat and the sushi is plated on small dishes that pass right by you on a conveyor belt that runs around the restaurant. There are usually two levels to the conveyor belt and the types are sushi are priced based on the color of the dish. You have a little guide by your seat and pour your own green tea. There are cups and cutlery (chopsticks) right by your seat. You put powdered tea in your cup and there is a hot water spigot right next to you to fill the cup.
I’m on a pretty grueling schedule, but having a great time as I have read and seen so much about Tokyo and am getting a chance to experience it on the surface. Digging deeper, the city has got to have great nuances and many more cultural aspects to explore, especially if you’re with people who live there. As it was, a week was very short just to explore the surface. I love architecture and dense urban spaces to explore, so it was just wonderful when you mix this with Japanese pop culture and wonderful food. I didn’t have Kaiseki or anything like that, but I wanted to just see what more regular food was like from convenience food to low key restaurant meals. Fancy dining is something that is best with companionship anyhow.
I wandered around Shinjuku Station and down to the Golden Gai and the main drag with all of the street signs that was featured in “Lost in Translation” when Bill Murray first arrives in Tokyo. Very colorful locations. The biggest concentrations of colorful buildings are around Studio Alta (with the big TV on the building) and on the main street. The cities are not quiet around here and there is music and announcements being broadcast into the street.
After photos I was pretty beat, but stopped at a magazine vendor in Shinjuku Station to buy a Hello Kitty limited edition magazine with a collectable purse for my sister. Magazines in Japan have lots of “freebies” bundled with them. Sometimes you do pay a little more for the magazine, but I really like this concept as it isn’t just something you read. The value-add is fun!
Crashed at the hotel after cleaning up.