There was an earthquake in the middle of the night last night. It woke me up, and the shaking felt very strange. It was only a mild one, but was very disorientating in the middle of the night. It also woke my mind up so I couldn’t get back to sleep for ages. Then I woke up again at 6am when the alarm of the person in the apartment above me went off. So I felt half dead when I got out of bed. I’d also pressed one too many buttons on the airconditioner control again, and couldn’t work out how to make it do hot air again instead of cold. So no heater for me this morning.
I spent a few minutes writing a list of things I wanted to do whilst I was in Tokyo, and I’ve accumulated a lot of mini lists in random places, as well as piles of brochures and art exhibition postcards. Then I made a little calendar and penciled in the dates, so that I wouldn’t forget anything. Feeling all motivated and organised I got up and ready to go out in record time.
I decided to attempt walking to Ueno, which is 4 stops away from me, if I start at Tabata. I figured it wouldn’t take too long, because it wasn’t much further than the cemetery I walked to the other day. Outside it was sunny and warn, but incredibly windy. Within minutes, my hair had turned into a tangled bird nest, and I felt like one of those people in videos about Antarctic blizzards. It took me about an hour to reach Ueno station, which wasn’t that bad. I think of it as training for my hike next month. Eep!
I walked through Ueno park to get to the station, passing about five thousand people headed (I thought) to the zoo. The park is probably really pretty in spring and autumn, but today it was pretty grey and brown. But you could see the feint tinge of pink spreading through the trees- sakura getting ready to sprout. I saw my first sakura flower today- one tiny limb on a tree had begun to sprout the delicate pink petals.
Today I noticed that Ueno has a lot of panda-themed things around. Last week when I was there, I saw a panda-shaped bus with a panda face and panda ears on every seat. Today I saw lots of panda-themed food and hats. Below is a menu serving panda buns, bento, and cookies, and below that is some kind of panda rice cake.
As I passed through the park, someone dressed in a panda suit handed me a packet of tissues. The tissues, however, were advertising fire safety, and had nothing whatsoever to do with pandas. I was very disappointed.
I made my way over to Ameyoko, which is a bunch of streets that are jam packed full of semi-permanent market stalls. There is everything from watches, bags, shoes and jackets to little food stalls and a fresh seafood market. And also enough people to populate an entire suburb. I wanted to return here to buy a bag to take hiking in April, and to capture some photos of the seafood vendors (as well as some of the stranger goods on sale.)
By the way, the image of the octopus above hasn’t been overly saturated. It was actually that colour!
I hunted for a bag for a while, also checking out some incredibly cheap shoes. I stopped in a 100 yen shop to buy batteries, as well as a cheap bento and bento bag, so that I can make my lunch to take some places in Tokyo, if I choose to. Before long, I felt like devouring food, so I headed to a cheap kaiten zushi store that I knew was popular in the area. For my mother, kaiten zushi is the sushi that goes around on a conveyor belt. I had to que outside, and then inside, for about 20 minutes, but it was so worth it! This was the first time I’ve eaten sushi on this trip, and I wasn’t disappointed. The sushi was so fresh and delicious, and cheap too! All plates were only 126 yen each, and contained two nigiri.
The chefs stood in the middle, and made different sushi upon request, as well as random things to put on the over-crowded conveyor belt. I made myself some green tea, then watched the perfectly sculpted dishes go by. I ate 3 plates of salmon nigiri and one of tuna. I would have tried many kinds, except the salmon was that good that I just kept asking the chef to make more. He did make some to put on the conveyor belt too, but it was always snapped up before it got around to my end. May I just repeat- it was soo good!
Next, I headed back through the market to a place that sold green tea and softcream (soft serve ice cream.) I had a sudden craving for matcha ice cream, and this was perfect. I got a mix of vanilla and green tea, which I ate inside the store in a special area. The store owners also gave me a complimentary cup of green tea, which was perfect after the cold ice cream.
The next stop was the department store next to the market, because I wanted to visit a store called Loft. It is one of my favourite stores in Japan, and sells all kinds of things, but I especially like the stationary and bento goods. But today I had to pick up a birthday card for my grandad. I’d been looking for one for a few days, but couldn’t find them anywhere. Loft did not disappoint.
I looked around the other levels of the department store, then went back to the market and bought a bag for my hiking trip. I asked the girl at the register if I could get a discount (you’re allowed to do that at this market), and she said she was sorry, bout she couldn’t give me any discounts on this particular bag. She then proceeded to give me 200 yen off. It was almost 4, so I thought I’d better head back towards Nippori. But on the way, I passed a stall selling nuts and snacks, where the stall owner asked me where I as from. We then had this long conversation about what I was doing in Japan, and how he is best friends with Jackie Chan. A random woman on the street joined in our conversation. He insisted on taking a photo of me in the street.
I gave him one of the crappy clip on koalas that I carry for such an occasion, and he was delighted by it. So much so, that he asked me to wait whilst he collected a handful of little snack for me to take with me ‘on my journeys.’ What a nice guy. He also gave me his business card and said to drop by the store anytime.
Crossing back through Ueno park was like trying to swim against a current. I think the zoo had just closed, because thousands of people were heading to the station, in the opposite direction to me. The wind had picked up again too, and it was beginning to get cold. I spotted this guy and his overenthusiastic dog as I crossed the main square. Sorry about the quality, it’s cropped from a wide shot, which is as close as I could get with my 14-42 lens. I thought the pair of them looked hilarious.
It didn’t take me as long to walk home as it did to walk to Ueno. On the way I stopped at the 100yen Lawson store to pick up some supplies. I was glad to get home because I was absolutely freezing, and walking with my giant bag in a bag was hard in the wind. I had to try my best not to accidentally bash people in the face when the wind picked up and swung my bags around wildly.
For dinner I made a Korean-Japanese fusion fired rice, with the leftover bibimbap, and some fresh carrot, mushrooms and spinach. And lots of garlic. I didn’t have high hopes for it, but it was really good. I also ate some cereal and a mini banana that I’d bought earlier. Then I had to resist the temptation of finishing the rest of the mochi ice cream, because I’d already had a huge ice cream today and really didn’t need anymore.