Ameya Yokocho (Ameya Arcade) was once the site of the largest postwar black market and still holds true to its roots, even if the goods are now legit. This open air market is full of Japanese housewives and others haggling over fish and produce, as well as fruit and vegetable sellers and clothing vendors. This arcade is well-known for its bargain deals on New Year’s Eve.
Ueno-Koen (Ueno Park)
Ueno Park is Tokyo’s oldest park. Today it’s famous for the many museums found on its grounds, especially the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum for Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Science Museum. There are also numerous shrines and temples found in Ueno Park and it is most popular during the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Kiyomizu Kannon Temple
Kiyomizu Kannondo was originally built in 1631 as part of Kaneiji Temple. Its design, including a wooden balcony extending from the hillside, was inspired by Kiyomizudera in Kyoto. The temple is home to an image of Kosodate Kannon, the goddess of conception, and is particularly popular among women hoping to have children. During Ningyokuyo, those wishing to conceive a child leave a doll here for the Senju Kannon (the 1,000-armed Buddhist goddess of mercy), and the accumulated dolls are burnt ceremoniously every September 25th.
These grounds are devoted to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The shrine is all black lacquered-work and gold leaf. Miraculously, the entire structure has survived all of Tokyo’s many disasters, making it one of the few surviving early Edo structures. There’s a good view of a 17th century, five-story pagoda Kanei-ji, that‘s now stranded inside Ueno Zoo.
Equestrian statue of Prince Komatsu Akihito
Ueno Park is also home to Ueno Zoo, Japan’s first zoological garden, established in 1882. The zoo is home to 2,600 animals, from 464 species including the Sumatran tiger and the gorilla which head the list of the zoo’s population. Ueno has more species on exhibition than any other zoo in Japan. Other animals found here include zebras, Japanese macaques, red-crowned cranes, white-tailed eagles and king penguins, along with goats, sheep, pigs, ostriches, and rabbits.
In its long history, Ueno Zoo has received numerous animals from abroad. In 1972, the first giant pandas arrived from China to Ueno Zoo. They have been cooperating with Beijing Zoo (China), San Diego Zoo (US), and Chapultepec Zoo (Mexico) for conservation and breeding of wild giant pandas. After Ling Ling’s (the zoo’s previous panda) death in 2008, Ri Ri and Shin Shin arrived at the zoo in 2011. These two pandas are on a $950,000 per year lease from China and are the biggest attraction.
The Five-storied Pagoda and the tea ceremony house give the zoo a Japanese touch. The pagoda was built in 1631, rebuilt after destruction by fire, and in 1958 the owner, Kan’ei-ji temple, gave the pagoda to Tokyo Metropolitan Government, who assigned its management to Ueno Zoo. The tea ceremony house was built to entertain Shoguns in 17th century, and it stills stands as a historic structure in the zoo ground.
Tokyo National Museum
“Snakes and Serpents” Performance
In honor of celebrating the New Year, there was a special exhibit that was held outside of the Tokyo National Museum for only two days, called Snakes and Serpents. These performances are what I think are called kagura. Kagura is music and dance dedicated to the Gods of Shinto. We were able to see Shishimai dance performances (lion dance), Taiko (Japanese drum) performances, and Kamikiri -Silhouette Cutting performances.
As there are so many museums in Japan and just in the Ueno area alone, we chose to let this be the one museum that we would visit during our stay in Tokyo. And boy am I glad that we did choose this one! It held many fascinating and interesting artifacts, almost making it an overwhelming experience by the time we finished! We’ve included some interesting artifacts or some of our favorites that we saw to limit the amount of pictures posted.
Honkan: Japanese Gallery
There are two floors in this building, each covering a lot of history! A general overview of the items include the beginning of Japanese art, the rise of Buddhism, a national treasure gallery, zen and ink painting, attire of the military elite, folding screens, Japanese swords, painting and calligraphy, and Noh & Kabuki (theater). Again these are only a sliver of the items that we saw- there were way to many pictures to post on this blog!
Heiseikan: Japanese Archaeology
This gallery displays archaeological materials to present the culture and history of Japan from the Paleolithic period 40,000 years ago, when people began living in the Japanese archipelago to the Edo period (1603-1868). The gallery is divided into two types: an overview of Japanese history and thematic displays based on topics characteristic to each historical period. The main objects on display include: stone tools used in daily life from the Paleolithic period, highly-ornamented Jomon pottery and dogu clay figurines from the Yayoi period, and objects buried in kofun burial mounds from the Kofun period, such as mirrors, accessories, arms and armor, and equestrian equipment. From Japan’s period of recorded history there are also examples of ceramics that illustrate Japanese culture under a society based on the ritsuryo code of law, a court noble society, and a warrior class society, as well as objects related to Buddhism including tiles, cinerary urns, and objects from sutra mounds.
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!