Posts Tagged ‘Ueno Park’

My flight to Tokyo went without hitch. I sat next to a German woman, Jana, at the back of the plane. We talked a lot on the way over. It turned out that we were staying in the same area of the city, so we got a train together, too, and made vague plans to meet – haven’t heard from her so far. I’ll see her on Sunday, anyway, as we’re on the same flight back to Incheon.

I had planned to couchsurf while I was here, but left it very late to find a host. As a back-up I printed out maps and addresses for a couple of hostels. One of them was in Asakusa, near to where Jana and her friend were staying. I got off the train at Asakusa Station and found the place readily enough. Only then it turned out to be more expensive than I was expecting – ¥3,500 (£28) for one night in a capsule (the hostels website said they had cheaper dorm beds, but it didn’t seem that way when I got there).

The receptionist gave me directions to an internet place, where I had to become a member in order to use the internet. I found another hostel not far away and went there instead. The Khaosan Tokyo Annex is cheap (¥2,000 – £16 – per bed per night), friendly and has reasonable facilities – free wifi, kitchens with free tea and coffee; the beds are quite well sized, too, although the pillows are just a big piece of foam in a slip.

Last night I spent some time walking around the area near Asakusa Station, taking some photos of the Buddhist and Shinto temples, Senso-ji and Asakusa-jinja. Then I had dinner at a quick and cheap curry place. You can design your meal to suit your needs: you can choose the amount of rice and the spiciness of the sauce. I got an egg salad and a chicken curry with 400 grammes of rice and level 3 spiciness (out of 10). It was pretty simple, but quite tasty, and the spice level was pleasantly hot (I wonder what the higher levels are like).

This morning, I got up at nine o’clock, ate my trail mix and hard tack for breakfast along with some of the aforementioned free coffee. Then I headed out to hire a bicycle for the day. The bike rental place was pointed out to me by the nice Japanese guy who was working in the hostel last night when I checked in. It’s in a tunnel running parallel to the river at Asakusa Station. However, when I got there, the old man at the counter turned a Japanese sign on the counter round to show the English side – no bikes available. He put his hands together in apology.

I decided to walk to Ueno Park – two or three kilometres away. The weather has been strange compared to Korea. It’s been quite warm and today the sky is veiled in pale overcast. I’m walking around in a T-shirt (and possibly some other items of clothing) and still sweating a lot. Ueno Park was quite pleasant, but nothing special. There is a lake divided into three or more parts by causeways and at the centre is Benten-do, a temple dedicated to a Buddhist goddess of the arts (not to a boy with an alien wristwatch). Part of the lake is full of aquatic plants with big umbrella leaves, part is clear and has pedalos. There are lots of ducks, seagulls and carp. At one point I, and a bunch of other people, watched as a terrapin fought in vain to drag itself on to a platform; people threw bread to the ducks and the fish.

As I write this I’m having a coffee and a bite to eat in a Starbucks, listening to Rammstein’s magnificent Liebe Ist Für Alle Da. I’m trying not to spend too much, but the familiarity of the coffee shop is quite comforting. I plan to take the subway down to central Tokyo to check out the Imperial Palace and gardens.

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