Japan EN, Travel Blog

Exploring Tokyo – Yanaka Ginza & Ueno Park

4 years ago one of my best friends was studying in Tokyo, Japan. And as we were talking over Skype about how awesome it would be to visit Tokyo, I took a quick look at the air tickets which I was sure would be out of reach for my partner and I. But I was wrong. For March they were at a very reasonable price (we usually pay more to go and see our families in Greece from the UK). So I phoned my partner and told him that I was booking tickets for Japan for 5 days in March (one month away).

And that’s exactly what happened. A month later we were at the airport on our way to Japan for only 5 days. And this is all the amazing things we got to see during our short stay.

We left Saturday at 20:00 and arrived in Tokyo Sunday at 20:00 with a very quick transit throught Beijing. That left us with just enough time to have a quick dinner and then get to sleep so we can be ready for our first day.

Nippori & Yanaka Ginza

I have to say the weather was horrible that day. It was pouring cats and dogs, but we only had 5 full days so we put on our coats and we went to take the metro to Nippori Station.

From Nippori Station we walked toward Yanaka Ginza, a shopping lane in Tokyo’s traditional Yanaka district in Taito ward.

Yanaka Ginza is a miscellany of little stores offering mainly traditional-style Japanese snacks and sweets, trinkets, souvenirs, clothing, and other accessories. So we thought it would be a good opportunity to look for souvenirs. As soon as we entered we were greeted with some matcha tea.

Little fact about Yanaka Ginza : The stairs that lead down to the beginning of the shopping district are called Yuyake Dandan or “Sunset Steps”. That is because the top of those stairs is one of the few remaining spots in central Tokyo that one can enjoy the beautiful sunset on street level.

What surprised me the most was the number of tiny temples in-between homes and shops. There was one every couple of metres easily.

We then passed through Tennoji Temple and Yanaka Cemetery, one of the largest and most famous graveyards in the city.

Little fact about Tennoji: it was founded in 1274 and most of the temple had been destroyed during the civil war of 1868 except for the pagoda and Buddha statue that remained unharmed

Little fact about Yanaka cemetery: it is open to the public but there is a private section of it dedicated to the Tokugawa clan that ruled Japan during the Edo period and the last Shogun (Tokugawa Yoshinobu) is buried there

And our walk brought as to Ueno Park.

Ueno Park

Ueno is a must-visit and very popular touristic attraction. Ueno Park offers a number of things do and see; from a zoo to museums, shrines or just to have a beautiful walk around the cherry trees.

Unfortunately, we where there just before the cherry blossom season so the trees had just started to show their pink blush flowers.

We saw the Nezu Shrine and Toshogu Shrine

And the Kaneiji pagoda

This is the view from the Kyiomizu Kannon Temple at Bentendo Temple

And this little dragon statue is the guardian of the temple.

Ameya-Yokocho Market

Our walk thought Ueno Park naturally brought us to Ameya-Yokocho market or Ameyoko. Ameyoko is a shopping street which chaotic vibe, very popular for its cheap shops, delicious street food and amazing atmosphere.

And as it was long past lunchtime we sat in one of those tiny street food shops for a quick lunch. My best friend ordered us those little buns called yaki-shoronbo that contained soup inside them, it came with instructions on how to eat them. Exactly what we needed to warm up!

Maxell Aqua Park Shinagawa

After having lunch and wandering in the streets of Ameyoko we were wet through the bones and starting to get cold (it hadn’t stopped raining all day). So we decided to take the metro and go to Maxell Aqua Park Shinagawa (formerly Epson Aqua Park) for a nice visit away from the rain.

The diversity in species to see was outstanding and very well organised.

Unfortunately, they also had a dolphin show which I’m against, to be honest, but the rest of the Aqua park was worth it!

To see and enjoy everything you definitely need a whole day there but we had the afternoon. Then it was time to go for dinner and get some rest for the next day where the plan was to visit Mt Fuji!

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