Wednesday, October 24, 2012

[TAITO] Asakusa + Ueno

Asakusa won't even be on my itinerary if my guest house was not located here. First, how and why did I get here? When Air Asia launched their KL – Haneda route, I immediately bought a ticket. How could I resist less than 3,000 pesos for a 7-hour flight? Fast forward to now and I am finally here, but not without problems. The cheap fare apparently comes with free hassles, such as a two-hour delay which meant arriving at Haneda at around half past midnight, with no more trains left running for downtown. Nonetheless, I was amused because it was my first Airbus ride. How huge is that plane! And Haneda is not bad at all, with stations dedicated for laptop users where you can charge your equipment and surf the Internet for free.

Back to Asakusa, it is rather popular for its temple and five-story pagoda. It appears that whenever the residents of Tokyo are in for some trip down memory lane, they tend to go here. The temple complex is bathed in red hues and always teeming with tourists. It is right across the tourist information center which offers a good view of the surrounding area such as the river (cruise available) and the interesting structures on the other side like Sky Tree and that black building with what seems to be a giant golden pepper of some sorts as a design on its façade. You will also see rickshaws here being pulled by humans. I was not able to ask how much a ride would cost. No, thanks. I would rather ride the subway.

The entrance to the temple complex is a large gate guarded by two menacing creatures from Japanese mythology. I do not know if they are deities but I do know that they do look scary. Maybe that is why there are few pickpockets here. A giant red lantern at the entrance is a popular choice for the been-there-done-that photo op. What else? Nakamise market street! The path leading to the temple is lined up with stalls selling anything from chopsticks to food, and of course, souvenirs. I would reserve the shopping after visiting the temple, though.

Once you reach the entrance, there will be another gate with the same setup as the first one: big lantern and two intimidating guards. There are also plenty of white lanterns on wooden stands which make an amazing addition to the already beautiful horizon. Once facing the temple, the five-story pagoda will be to your left and Sky Tree will be to the right. Unleash the inner camwhore in you.

There is also a Koi pond and some mini temples and gardens that can be found within the vicinity. Wander a bit farther from the temple complex and you'll find yourself lost in Asakusa’a alleys which are replete with food establishments and more shops catering to the Japanese culture fan or the cheap bargain hunter. An interesting find for me is the mini amusement park not so hidden in one of the alleys because of the flying houses which are one of the attractions there aside from the mini roller coaster. The weird thing is that it was already around 5 PM and surprise, surprise, the sun begins to go down by then here in Tokyo. Can we talk about the weather first?

When I landed at Haneda, I never really saw the outside world until I surfaced from the underground station of Asakusa. Out in the open, I was greeted with a strong breeze so cold that it just pierces the skin. That explains why every time the door of the subway opened, a cool breeze came in in spite of the car’s air-conditioning system already in full blast. You have to understand that I came straight from Bangkok where the climate was hellish at best. I had no thick clothes with me. All of what was left in my backpack were thin long sleeves meant for sunny weather. Good thing Uniqlo came to save the day. Or better yet, I came to Uniqlo to save my day. Sweater! It helped in keeping me warm, although wearing it along with three layers of clothing underneath still got me cold in some parts of the upper body.

Enough of the weather rant. My first day was really short. I had to catch up on sleep because of the Air Asia booboo. The next day was also short because I was lazy and I had to do the laundry. You just have to take advantage of that sun while it is still up. And so the planned trip to Fuji Kyu was replaced with a day trip to Ueno which was not that bad even though it has been months since I have been itching for roller coaster ride. Bide time and reap the benefits. We will eventually meet, Fuji Kyu. Anyway, Ueno and Asakusa belong to the same ward called Taito. These two neighboring districts are just a few subway stations away from each other. You can even walk if time permits.

Alighting at Ueno station, I immediately went to the park for some obligatory photo and video documentation. Ueno Park is full of activity because there are a lot of establishments inside catering to various audiences. Aside from the usual side shows, there are also around three or four museums there with exhibits on science and history as well as culture. No, I did not visit any of them because I arrived in the afternoon being the lazy pig that I am. I am okay with some dose of culture through museums but I do not like it at all when I do it in a rush. Too time consuming. And so I just took a stroll and enjoyed what I do best: people watching.

There are many students in uniform because there are some high schools located nearby. One of the campuses of the University of Tokyo is also within walking distance, which makes the place a popular hangout of choice for the younger generation. Yes, you will also find old people because it seems that this demographic also frequents parks in general, perhaps to kill time and for some exercise.

There is a temple there and some government protected historical site adorned with stone lanterns that is supposed to be a tribute to the Tokugawa shogunate. Do not quote me on that, I can't even recall if that was indeed the name. You can also find several monuments dedicated to various personalities from Japan’s history, both contemporary and ancient.

What I found amusing were the chili red peppers and some vegetables planted on two plots of land just next to the grand fountain. You are not allowed to pick them or sell them for profit, of course, but imagining someone coming along and bringing a basket with some pots and pans ready to cook some veggie stew is quite hilarious. Perhaps, this is one thing I'll never see in a park in the Philippines. Otherwise, the government will have to do some serious replanting 24/7 to keep up with the demand.

4 creature(s) gave a damn:

Adventure Accountant said...

Hey there! You are here in Japan too! Also staying in a hostel here in Asakusa. Maybe I will bump into you here! :D

ihcahieh said...

@Adventure Accountant - Hi, baka naman pareho tayong nasa Khaosan? Sa Annex ako. Checkin' out this morning. Going to Disneyland then straight to Haneda later tonight. :)

Adventure Accountant said...

Sa Kabuki naman ako.:)Am off to Nikko today then Kyoto tomorrow. Enjoy! Cheers! :)

ihcahieh said...

@Adventure Accountant - will wait for your entry on Nikko. Curious as to what's in there. Bitin Tokyo ko e but I have to accept that I can't see everything naman in a short amount of time. :)

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