7th August 2019: Dragons & kappa {Japan, summer 2019}

It is by now a tradition to go Ueno [上野] and the National Museum of Nature and Science, Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan [国立科学博物館] to see the summer exhibition this time it was about kyouryuu [恐竜博], “fear dragons” aka dinosaurs – this year the exhibition was called 恐竜博 2019 THE DINOSAUR EXPO 2019. So it was a must-go for me (^o^)/

And then of course I wandered a little around the evolutionary wards of the museum, because of course I did.

I came out and I turned right instead of left, so I walked right into Kaisan-do (Ryo-daishi) [開山堂 (両大師)] (which on google maps appears as Rinnoji. Note to self: explore the area beyond next time over.

Then I crossed above all the railways leading in and out Ueno station.

I continued on until I got to Sogenji [曹源寺] also known as the temple of the kappa, Kappa-dera [かっぱ寺]. There is a legend related to a raincoat maker who was helped by a kappa when he wanted to build a drainage system in the area. There are a lot of kappa in the temple.

They also populate the nearby area, Kappabashihon [かっぱ橋本].

After that, I backtracked back to Ueno and from there I took a train to Ikebukuro [池袋] to do some window shopping. Then I looked at Tokyo Tower [東京タワー] from Roppongi [六本木] before D****e and I had dinner and called it a day.

Walked distance: 13384 steps / 9.57 km

5th September 2018: An uneventful airport ride to an uneventful flight {Japan, summer 2018}

I took early trains to have a lot of time to get to the airport from Ueno [上野], because I did not know how much the wind could have affected transport. Not much, aside from the Ueno lift. I should have known that Takadanobaba lift was not going to work either. And then there was Narita, security, customs, boarding and going home using a slightly different route, but that was it. It was all over again ヾ(TωT ).

13th July 2017: Shinkai (Deep Ocean) {Japan, summer 2017}

I headed off to Ueno Kōen [野公園]. The first thing I did was exchanging my JR Pass. Then I hit the Natural History Museum Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan [国立科学博物館] because I had seen on Tuesday that they were running a temporary exhibition on Deep Ocean. Since last year’s Hunters of the Sea was good, I had decided to check it out.

The exhibition, called Shinkai [深海] ran several parts. The first of them (bioluminescence and Hadal zone) had a bunch of interesting specimens both kept in formol, along with there being big screen showing the creatures in their natural habitat. Of course, Japan, being Japan, was much more fascinated by the screens rather than the actual fish. Some of the most interesting things that they had exhibited included: a giant Antarctic octopus ( Megaleledone setebos), a Pacific footballfish (Himantolophus sagamius, those that have a little light on an antenna on their head), a huge chimera and a lepidion (Lepidion schmidti). However the central pieces of the exhibition were the Pacific sleeper shark (Somniosus pacificus) and the Atlantic giant squid (Architeuthis dux).

Another part focused on geology and ocean floor exploiting, alongside some earthquake research, especially on the Great Tohoku Earthquake. The most interesting part here were the chimneys and the Manganese nodules.

There was a bit on augmented microbiology but that is not that key XD

After I left the exhibition I headed off to Yushima Tenmangu [湯島天満宮], which is associated with plum trees, but none of them were blooming at the time. It also enshrines the Kami of Learning, so I hope it helps with my Japanese.

Afterwards, I took the Ginza line to Shibuya [渋谷] to meet up with B**** for some Starbucks and sushi. Sushi is always good!

11th July 2017: Ueno on the first full day is a thing {Japan, summer 2017}

I headed off to Ueno because I wanted to wander around the zoo. Don’t ask me why, but it was what I felt like doing. First I dropped by the Shinobazunoike Bentendo [不忍池弁天堂] where I got the shuuin and I entered Ueno Zoo through the new Benten gate. The zoo had not changed much, I think, but I saw things I did not remember seeing the first time around. They have moved the petting zoo to something closed, probably to fight off the heat.

I had lunch at the zoo around 1:30 pm, then continued my way towards the upper part of the zoo. There I was observed by a bird of prey and it made me feel like food XD. I stayed at the zoo until 16:30 I did not get to see the baby panda because it is too small to be up and about.

Then I headed off to Shinjuku [新宿] which was a convenient place to meet up with D****e for dinner and an hour of karaoke. I did some shopping as I waited – and for some once, that was not (only) fandom related. I was in Kinokuniya getting myself some Japanese books (because as I passed N4 I have to continue studying). Bummer. We also stopped by a random electronics shop which had a big Yoshiki poster. That’s always nice to see.

28th July 2016: Ueno + VAMPS Replay {Japan, summer 2016}

As the time to leave drew near, I felt a bit sad this morning (T^T). However, I did not let myself be dragged by it, so I forced myself out of the apartment to do things, and these things involved Ueno Kōen [野公園].

First I headed off to Ueno Tōshō-gū [上野東照宮], which I had not found open last year when I was there, because there was a matsuri, or something, I don’t really remember. Then I found out about the two dragons, the ascending dragon and the descending dragon, who come to drink at the pond at night. It is a very nice imaginary. Also, the shrine is really cool. It has a bit of a Chinese style, and is decorated with a gold layer. The inner fence shows animals of the sea and the wind, making it a unique shrine. I really liked it a lot.

The main building of a Shinto shrine, sparkling golden with a dark ceiling

Wooden painted carving of dragons, one going up, one going down

Then I found the Ueno Daibutsu [上野大仏], the Great Buddha Pagoda, which I had missed before – one of the things I love about Ueno is that whenever I go I find something new, yay. Most of the Ueno Daibutsu was melted for metal during WWII.

A giant Buddha face made of metal in a ceremonial pagoda

Gojoten Jinja [五條天神社] is really cool too, but I decided to leave getting its seal for another time. Next time.

A row of torii gates

I walked by Shinobazu no Ike [不忍池], the Pond in Ueno.

A pond covered in water lilly leaves, with some high rises in the background

Finally, I went to the museum of Shitamachi of Customs, Shitamachi Fūzoku Shiryōkan [下町風俗資料館], where they keep some old houses from the years after the great Kanto Earthquake. A bunch (hundreds) of houses were built there to make sure that the population was housed. The museum shows how life was those few first years, and how people lived and organised themselves. There are a few items, houses, photographies and so. The second floor is hands-on, with games and pastimes and so. There was a very nice guide there and she explained a lot of things to me.

Reproduction of pre-industrial wooden houses in Tokyo

Later I went to class (I found another Gyoza Franchise on my way back to the station) and then I skidded out because I had to get to Yoyogi National Stadium, Kokuritsu Yoyogi Kyogijo [国立 代々木 競技場], in Yoyogi [代々木]. I was attending the Sukkiri Superlive in order to see VAMPS one more time before heading off back home. All in all, a very complete day that ended up with a bang – when I should have been studying Japanese to be honest ^^;;

The Yoyogi national stadium, and a screen reading Sukkuri 10th Anniversary Super Live

12th July 2016: 海のハーンター! (Hunters of the Sea) {Japan, summer 2016} {Japan, summer 2016}

First thing in the morning… I slept in because I was beat, but second, I went to pick up my JRPass, really hoping to compensate it since this time it is for 14 days. The JR Pass allows for unlimited travel in most JRLines. I wanted to get it and activate it, but I realised that I felt better activating it the following day to have some more margin after my long trip (more on that another day).

The JRPass lady complimented my Japanese and asked me where I studied Japanese. I think this was the first time someone made small talk with me aside from friends (^ν^). It felt good to be able to do that, especially as I was not feeling too encouraged at school.

Anyway. I was in Ueno [上野] and the Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan [国立科学博物館], Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science, was running the temporal exhibition called ‘Umi no Hunters’ [海のハーンター] (Hunters of the Sea) Would you have doubted me heading there head first? No? Thought so (^_^)☆

So there I went <・ )))><<, and I had a lot of fun. The first part was a small introductory video and a very cool evolution chart of different predatory species in the ocean. The second focuses on ‘predators of the past’, making mentions of the Dunkleosteous (and I was so happy that they had put the huge Dunkan head they’ve got before a light background for good pictures. Then they had a few fossils, including a very curious double-predation one (both fish killed each other in the process and were fossilised that way). I could already peer above me one of the most exciting things of the exhibition, the model of the Megalodon. And boy, it was great. The only problem was that it was hanging from the ceiling with very bad angle to be caught in pictures. I tried. Repeatedly.

Then they had the whole set of teeth, which of course would not belong to the same shark, but one can dream (^◇^;) And yeah, there were other birds and stuff, but Megalodon! And teeth!

Then the exhibition moved onto present day animals. I get the feeling that they just brought together every taxidermy they had lying around that could be related to the sea. Some were much better done than others, truth be told. They divided the stands in the different areas – deep sea, open sea, shallow area.

One of the things that surprised me the most was the size of the sea elephant. I have to own up that for a few second I did not know if it was real or just something that someone had put there to troll visitors and I had this urge to pat it to check whether that was real hair, but of course I could not do that. The young women minding the exhibition would have gotten a heart attack or twenty. So I was nice and respectful – and really if I have to get deported from Japan, I think it would not be for patting a giant seal. Nor for stealing one of the Megalodon teeth they had at the exhibition and that I really, really wanted.

The coolest thing, of course, because I am not going to hide that I am horribly biased were the sharks. I was so taken with them that at first I did not realise what was closing the the tour.

I was going to need a bigger camera.

They had a preserved Great White Shark (ホホシロサメ)which you could not see in its great splendour because someone had not thought too well about the tank and the preserving liquid but… Did I mention Great White Shark?? Apparently it was washed ashore dead in 2014 and had taken this long to get it preserved. There was a video explaining about the process (as a matter of fact, there were several videos throughout the exhibition, sorry I got shark-ried away.

After this the plan was to get ramen in Ueno station, but there was a huge line and I did not think I had the time to brave it. However I still had time so I decided to wander around and head off to Ikebukuro [池袋] where, guess what? Got the wrong exit. As always. But made it back to school with plenty of time.

20th August 2015: Still life, moving life {Japan, summer 2015}

As predicted, the 20th dawned rainy and not too inviting, so I headed off to Ueno Park to visit one of the many museums there. I heard that the collection of the Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan [国立科学博物館], Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science had been renewed and I wanted to have a look. In the end, not much had changed, but I still had a fairly good time, because I am a geek like that. There were about three million primary school classes there, though, and a few high school ones, which was a bit annoying – and loud – but nothing too bad.

Some of the wards mix science with mythology and culture, for example the earthquake science area has an ukiyo-e of the god Suzano keeping Namazu, the giant catfish which causes earthquakes, still. As much as the bio area is cool, I think my favourite part of this museum is the fossils collection – which is scattered in different wards in what I assume has some logic but I am yet to find it. I am particularly taken by the Dunkleosteous glass panel, and of course (insert everyone who knows me going ‘duh’ here) the Megalodon teeth.

But kinda a lot of things are cool. Like dinosaur fossils. Which make you giggle when you’ve recently watched Jurassic World. There is a plesiosaur (which, by the way, is not a dinosaur). What is a dinosaur is, of course, the T-rex (#TeamTRex) – completely irrelevant information: it is a cast of Scotty, the largest T-Rex ever found.

After finishing in Ueno and getting into the wrong station – of course, that must happen at least once when I am in Japan, I headed off to Tokyo Skytree [東京スカイツリー] in Sumida [墨田] just because I could.

I did not want to climb it up, but there was something there that had been on my to-see list, Sumida Suizokukan [すみだ水族館], Sumida Aquarium. Apparently there is a tacit agreement among Japanese aquariums so each one has a super cool thing that only they’ve got. So they are like pokemon, you gotta see them all if you wanna catch all the cool things. In this case I was aiming for the giant isopods. But of course, I never say no to sharks, even with annoying kids screwing up the pictures.

And then there was sushi, and that was goooood.

… Maybe I should have titled this post “fish in every form”?

15th August 2014: And then there was shiny {Japan, summer 2014}

I like Ueno Kōen [上野公園], the main park in Ueno [上野] just because I do, and off I went again, maybe for the fourth or sixth time. In Ueno station we had awesome ramen at a franchise called Ichiran where you buy a basic ramen card from a machine, and are then given a card (English version was available) to mark off what you’d like on it and how. It was delicious (The bits that are missing on the picture are pork slices and spiciness level). There are different styles of ramen, and this one is Hakata ramen from the Fukuoka Prefecture.

After that we took a stroll down Ueno and ended up at the Tōkyō Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan [東京国立博物館], Tokyo National Museum, which holds many important pieces of historic art:

Leaving Ueno, I headed towards the Minato [港] ward as there were a few things I wanted to do. One of them was visiting a special corner of Shiba Koen [芝公園], and then I wanted to go to Tokyo Tower [東京タワー].

Within Tokyo Tower I visited Tokyo Tower Suizokukan [東京タワー水族館], the little aquarium at the bottom. It did not host sharks, sadly, but quite a few interesting species, among them catfish, one of them seemed very intent on trying to eat me.

There was also this fun sclupture thingy of scaled Tokyo Tower and Godzilla.

I climbed up the main observatory (well, did not climb, took the elevator) to watch the sunset, grab a bite to eat and take lots of pictures. You should appreciate Mount Fuji Fuji-san [富士山] with its summer cap in one of them. Once the sun is down, Tokyo Tower is lit, inside, and out.

I love Tokyo Tower, and going up to the observatory always makes my Tokyo trips feel more complete! I got myself an omamori and a model I have to build, if I eventually find it in the luggage chaos!

2nd July 2013: Yet more Odaiba, and Ueno Zoo {Japan, summer 2013}

Once more I headed out to Odaiba [お台場], this time to try and get tickets to the VAMPS Tabata Event and buy the single. The whole idea was that if you bought a CD you got entered into a lottery for a ticket to attend the Tanabata Event the following day. If you bought the three versions of the CD, you also got a poster. They were expecting a huge crowd, but it turned out that crowds of fans on a weekday morning… It was all a bit chaotic because… there were two few people. One can expect staff to get overwhelmed, but this was totally… underwhelming for them, and they did not know what to do about it.

I finally managed to get tickets to ensure my and my friend D****e after the third or fourth round. Once that was successfully taken care of, I went to Fuji TV to get myself some Galileo merch, just because I could, and rode back downtown Tokyo to do one of those things I would ever like to do if I had some time to spare – Ueno Zoo, Ueno Dobutsu Koen [上野動物園].

The iconic image of Ueno Zoo is any of their Giant Pandas. Here’s one getting stuffed:

Panda play-eating bamboo

A secretary bird, which made me remember an old movie and greatly amused me:

Secretary bird, a bird similar to a stork with crazy feathers - like a Native American hairdress - on its head

And a friendly and bored Hokkaido bear which came to say hello at the glass:

A Hokkaido bear prowling its enclosure. It could use with some enrichment.

Aside from the animals (I’ll spare you more pics, though I have an amazing close-up of the polar bear), Ueno zoo holds the pagoda of the former Kan-eiji Temple:

Five-story pagoda in reddish-brown wood

After the zoo was closed, I headed for Shibuya [渋谷] where we had scheduled a meeting at the Hachiko Memorial Statue (one of those things you should do in Tokyo at least once), the Chūkenhachikō-zō [忠犬ハチ公像].

Statue of a sitting akita dog

Meeting successfully achieved, dinner was acquired in a goats cafe, Sakuragaoka Cafe. Then the goats got dinner too.

Two goats, one white and one tan, behind a fence, being fed straw by a person with a cup in their hands

21st June 2013: Ueno and Ebisu {Japan, summer 2013}

As last year, 2013 visiting started on Ueno Kōen [上野公園], as it is an easy-enough place to reach and has a few museums that offer indoors entertainment. It was raining cats and dogs, which should have made me cranky. Nevertheless I was paroling around with this stupid grin on my face as the general tourists bitched about weather XD

You might remember Hanazono Inari Jinja [花園稲荷神社] from last year:

Unfortunately the Sakurazukamori was nowhere to be found again – although I have to admit that the atmosphere changes quite a bit in the rain. Thus, I headed into the Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan [国立科学博物館], Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science, after being thoroughly confused by the Japanese arrow system once again.

The museum has two buildings, and an impressive collection of preserved animals, along with a very cool evolutionary tree, a collection of dinosaur fossils, an exhibition on human evolution and some repeated casts that they hope really hard nobody notices.

The animal life exhibition gave me a glimpse of how biased I can actually be, as I rather felt like “monkey, cat, human… FISHY =D”. Most of my pictures are sea-life related XD

Like ever other Science Museum there was Foucault pendulum hidden in a corner:

And the last exhibition was about methods of science, units, and had an amazing periodic table with samples. Whomever designed the exhibition deserves a lot of kudos.

Later I headed to Ebisu [恵比寿] where D****e and I were meeting with some of her Japanese friends for drink and food. All in good fun. It was raining when I checked out Ebisu Garden Place [恵比寿ガーデンプレイスタワー], so I could sympathise with MatsuJun’s mysery XD”

4th July 2012: Multitasking Day {Japan, summer 2012}

4th of July is the USA’s Independence Day, and Gackt’s brithday and Akanishi Jin’s birthday and Massu’s birthday, so I renamed it multitasking day.

The day started with getting on the public transport and into the Yamanote Line towards Ueno Kōen [上野公園], Ueno Park, obviously in the Ueno [上野] area. In case anyone has missed this, I am a big CLAMP fan, and the Tokyo Babylon / X arch has a very important plot device in Ueno Park – it is the place where the Sakurazukamori can be found.

The Sakurazukamori is a cursed sakura (cherry) tree which grows on the human blood the Sakurazuka mystic assassin clan feeds them, the blood of their victims. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the Sakurazukamori, but I was creepily amused to notice how many crows there were in the area. However with that many people around, I think Seishirou would have trouble hiding his kills in there XD I was wandering around for about an hour and a half.

A path in the middle of a park. Bright green trees close over it

Thus started my torii obsesion, looking at the entrance of Hanazono Inari Jinja [花園稲荷神社]. Torii [鳥居] are symbolic gates that separate holy grounds in Shinto – they are made out of stone or wood, in this case they tend to be painted bright orange or vermillion. They usually have two columns and two horizontal boards on top, the upper one is a bit curved upwards, and there is a plaque showing the name of the shrine. They sometimes have some writing on the back of the columns.

The entrance of a shrine, with a row of torii heading down some stairs

There are a lot of Museums in Ueno Park, and I chose the Tōkyō Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan [東京国立博物館], Tokyo National Museum, for a visit when the heat became too much. Yesterday it was supposed to thunderstorm, so I decided to go walk the park first and go to the Museum if / when it rained. In the end I went into the Museum when it did not rain XD. It was a tadbit too hot to wander around…

The Tokyo National Museum of Art is focused on Japanese culture and art (there’s a Western Museum of Art not that far away, also in Ueno) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art in the next corner.

The entrance of the National Museum of Art, a light grey building with a brick roof

I am not going to bluff and tell you how I appreciated the sliding doors art of the china art. I did, but let me be honest. The katana collections are the ones that made me flail:

A katana

After I was done with the Museum I needed to hunt down some food. I had two options, stay in Ueno and give a try to the Metropolitan or go somewhere else. In the end I decided to head off to the station, get food there and get into the Yamanote line [山手線] again until Hamamatsuchō [浜松町] where I sat on a park to eat my onigiri and get some rest. After that, I visited the San’en-zan Zōjō-ji [三縁山増上寺] Chief Temple of Jodo-Buddhist, which kind of was in my way.

A vermillion Buddhist temple which you need to access going up the stairs. A few people come and go

A wooden Buddhist temple building

Very, very pretty. But the actual reason I was in the area was the metallic structure you can guess to the right in the first picture. This is the area where Tokyo Tower [東京タワー]. Insert a huge fangirl squeal here. Aloud. just after coming out the station, when the tower was barely visible against the sky. Of course, however, I could not stay away XD.

As I mentioned before, there was supposed to be bad weather, so originally I did not have plans to climb it up yesterday but… I did anyway because there was good weather. I had decided to only go up to the main observatory (150 m high), but in the end I found myself asking for the special observatory combo ticket, which lets you go to the special observatory 250 m high (total height of tower is 333 m).

A view of Tokyo Tower from the ground. It is not a good picture, a bit burnt, but it shows the whole tower from afar

Tokyo Tower - a picture from the base upwards

Lots of CLAMP manga have important stuff happening in Tokyo Tower: in Tokyo Babylon, Subaru banishes a restless spirit, in X Kamui and Fuuma fight there as it is one of the Tokyo kekkai, in Clamp Gakuen Noboru wants to celebrate his birthday party there and in Magic Knight Rayearth, the three main characters meet there. Though let me tell you, I don’t know how three classrooms fit in here so they see each other when Emmeraude calls upon them:

A view of the observatory of Tokyo Tower

Yes, I took pictures inside the observatory, I took pictures from the view too, of course. Note Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge, another of the kekkai.

Tokyo buildings from above, with a huge park in the foreground

Tokyo highrises

Tokyo Bay inlet and buildings around it

I even looked down

A glass floor shows the view of the streets below and Tokyo Tower structure underneath.

The day ended with a quick visit to Ebisu [ヱビス] Place (where MatsuJun gets stood up in Hana Yori Dango), a quick once-over Shibuya, katsukare for dinner and then falling kinda dead.

A square. A covered gallery is int he background

I made friends with a Shiba Inu who wanted petting and totally pwned jet lag. I also was misled into trying a horribly ocha (tea) drink that Tackey promoted on TV, which was… horrid. Lesson learnt. We don’t trust Tackey on drinks…

A bottle of tea soda