Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tokyo 2013 Trip Highlights: Day 3 Pt 1 - Ueno Park, National Museum, Ippudo Ramen, and Ameyoko

Today was a pretty cold day with highs around 4 degrees.  There was a cold wind, snow flurries and rain, so it was a good day to see the National Museum in the morning.  Had breakfast at McDonalds today.  It was an interesting assortment of people seated inside.  You had workers that were waiting to start their day, I think some homeless people, a couple of laid off salarymen who would look for work, and many students.  A hot, filling breakfast is a great way to start a day like this. We took the Yamanote Line down to Ueno and headed west to Ueno Park.  At the station, you should buy some food from a convenience store if you are going to spend a long time at the museum as they have a crowded cafe (not a cafeteria) and no other food can be cheaply bought.
Ueno Station
The National Museum is a big museum with plenty to see on the base ticket without seeing any special exhibits (unless it is something you want to see of course).  I particularly like the archeology section as I have an interest in stone and bronze age cultures - the age of legends in many cultures.  Even Miyazaki uses the Ainu people who are stone / bronze age in his movie Princess Mononoke.  The Yayoi and then Jomon eras with the Dogu and Haniwa are of particular interest to me.

See my post on the Dogu and Haniwa here.

National Museum
The museum was celebrating their 140th anniversary year when we visited and we got these nifty Dogu keychains as freebies - score!  For the archeology, the pottery artificts are what interest me the most as the designs are so beautiful.  They range from the intricately adorned Dogu to the simplistic Haniwa figures.  The pottery designs can also be very organic and alien looking.  Love it all!  The regular galleries show you the highlights of Japanese art from painted scrolls, samurai weaponry and armour, ceramics, silk kimonos to Edo woodblock prints and more.  There is a great deal to see.  The gift shop is in the
Very Famous Little Dogu - look at the bug eyes!
Dancing Haniwa From Burial Mounds
Jomun Warrior
Samurai Armour
Ukiyo-e prints from Hiroshige, Hokusai
After a decent amount of time in the museum we headed for a walk south to find the Ippudo Ramen in Ueno. Ippudo is another famous ramen chain and ramen would be a perfect lunch on a day like this.  We walked on south out of Ueno Park, past Ameyoko, and found the shop without any difficulty (thank you Google maps!).
Front of Ippudo
Lunch Special With Rice and Gyoza
Ippudo Interior
Another Tonkotsu with ground meat in a sweet / savoury sauce.
The restaurant was fairly spacious with large tables that would be shared by many people when crowded.  The staff were friendly again and they had English menus.  Our tonkotsu ramen that we ordered were delicious.  Fortified, we headed back north to explore Ameyoko Market and the wind had fortunately died down by then.
South End of Ameyoko District (not the market proper)
Ameyoko Market is a street market with booths, storefronts, and a covered mall-like section that runs under the Yamanote train tracks.  It is a very cool area to look around in for all types of goods ranging from food to clothes to cosmetics.  You can find some bargain prices here and many of the shop keepers are local residents.  Vendors call out their wares or try to get your attention with bluster and loud calls.  This was a candy market or something then became a black market for awhile after WWII that has developed into a big neighbourhood market place that even sells seafood.  There are also a pile of restaurants and little food kiosks that line the streets.  Apparently a good place to get cheap eats but we never had the chance to try it.

Ameyoko Market
Under the Yamanote Line
Under the Yamanote Line
Fresh Fish

The Iconic Middle of the Market
Main Market Street that runs along the track.
After walking north out of the market we were about to cross the street when we noticed this ramen shop under the tracks.  It had a short video running about their ramen and this big bowl of noodle automata that had these levitating chopsticks picking up noodles over and over again.  Entertaining.
Mechanized Noodle Bowl to the left.
We crossed the street back into Ueno Station to catch the Yamanote Line down to Akihabara - Electric Town and Otaku Geekfest.

Continue onto Part 2.

View the Tokyo Travelogues Master Page here.

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