Japan, Day 9: Ueno Park

Jan 06 2014

Black and white roof

Black and white roof

I awoke early today, before my alarm went off. my mind full of the events of the week. I had only a few days left in Japan.

I’d spent about 45 minutes the night before looking over my plans for Tokyo. Now that I was spending a full day there (tomorrow), plus half the day after before catching my 5:30pm flight, I had options. I would visit the temple and museum complex at Ueno, the Imperial Palace (now that it would be open), and the fashion districts at Shibuya today and tomorrow. I’d spend my final half-day in Akihabara, buying a few final gifts for myself and friends.

Thanks to my early awakening, I arrived at Kyoto Station at 8:15am, over an hour before my train was scheduled to depart. Huge crowds of school students lined the platforms waiting forlornly for their buses, despite the pouring rain.

Unfortunately, most of the shops hadn’t opened yet, so I contented myself with perusing a book shop. I recognized only a few of the manga and light novel titles.

I then wandered into a nearby miniature grocery store and bought a few snacks and a Pocari Sweat for the train ride. Japan truly is a convenient country.

Then up to the platform to wait for my train. A group of the mentally disabled stood nearby, waiting for a train. I looked around to see how they were treated. Most people ignored them, a few stared, and one guy actually took video of them.

However, when their train came, the local train station attendants leapt into action. One checked the cabin to ensure nobody was getting off. Another laid down a small ramp so the wheelchairs could enter the train easily. It was lovely.

My train came about 10 minutes later, and within minutes it was speeding me towards Tokyo. The train ride was uneventful, though I learned a wonderful fact: while the north side of the train faces Mount Fuji, the south side faces the ocean.

I arrived in Tokyo, hopped on the train to Ueno (which was surprisingly full, despite the early hour; only about 12:30pm), and exited the station to find my hotel.

And I was almost immediately lost. I had written down the hotel’s name and address, and had found its approximate location on one of my printed maps. But I didn’t have step-by-step directions. Thankfully, a large map stood outside Ueno Station, which I approached and oriented myself.

About twenty feet away, a man stood on a car, talking into a microphone attached to loudspeakers on the car. I caught the words “America” and “Nihon” and realized it was a political speech. Apparently, they still do them that way. He had a crowd of about three.

I found out where the hotel was supposed to be, a few blocks away, turned, and started walking. It took me a few minutes, but eventually I turned a corner and there it was. Half a block away from the adult video store. Hmmm.

I entered, hoping the guy at the counter could speak passable English. Turns out he was a black guy from Namibia. Not a problem. I was a bit early for checkin, so I left my bag and headed back outside.

GroundUeno Station sits next to a large park complex that includes several museums and temples. I spent all afternoon there taking pictures of the temples and exploring the museums, which included artifacts from all over East Asia. One pot, for example, is dated to about 10,000 B.C. Wow. Welcome to Asia.

I also threw up in a museum bathroom! Yay for foreign food!

In fact, there’s a story. My stomach was so upset that, when I had my fill of museums and walked around the nearby neighborhoods looking for dinner, I walked right in to a TGI Fridays. I craved normalcy. I ordered a Jack Daniels Burger from a server–who was the only person I talked to during my entire trip who couldn’t speak a word of English–and when it arrived, my stomach practically got on its knees and thanked me. I wolfed it down along with the fries and an iced tea, and my stomach was calm as could be the rest of the night.

I then returned to the hotel to check in. The neighborhood was a bit worrisome, but the hotel lobby was well-furnished. My key came with an eight-inch block of lucite. I got onto the elevator with a hotel staff member who lurched to one side and wheezed the whole way up. We both got off on the same floor, and he turned to me, stared with his good eye, and gargled something in my general direction. I blinked, then he asked where I was going. I showed him my pink block of lucite, and he pointed with his good arm down the hallway. I murmured, “Arigatou,” turned, and saw that he had indeed pointed me to my room.

I entered. It was larger than my room in Kyoto, at least. Though this one had unidentifiable stains on the duvet. And two ads for porn next to the TV. And the window looked out on a giant AC unit that grumbled the whole time I was there.

But you know what? This is part of the adventure. I have only one more full day in Japan. I’m going to make the most of it. Tomorrow: the Imperial Palace and the fashion district.

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