on October 29, 2006
Where can you find street performers, shrines and a zoo all in one place? We stumbled upon Ueno Park after our trip to Asakusa. Our good friend, Sheri, had suggested that we take a trip up to Ueno, located on the north side of the Yamanote Line, in northern Tokyo. She highly recommended that we see Shinobazu Pond, the lotus pond at Ueno Park.Sadly, our timing did not coincide with lotus season but the park still provided a respite from the bustling Tokyo streets. While Hama Rikyu Gardens oozed tranquility, Ueno Park catered to families and a wider range of interests. Tokyo opened Ueno Park in 1873 as the city’s first public park space. As we made our way toward Shinobazu Pond, we encountered a few street performers. The most interesting one made no sound, other than a stereo at his feet. Dressed entirely in black, this street performer hid his face under a black hood. His performance seemed to entrance those around us and rewarded him with much applause. His performance reminded me of modern dance blended with mime. We did not feel that it was anything spectacular, but then again, we had just completed a whirlwind tour of Tsukiji Fish Market, Hama Rikyu Gardens, Sumidagawa River and Asakusa, which is a tough act to follow.We arrived at Shinobazu Pond and the Temple of Benten. The temple celebrated the goddess of Benten and sits in the center of the pond on an island. Green lotus leaves surrounded the island, covering almost all of the water in the pond. We could only imagine the stunning beauty of this area during the peak blooming season. Plant after plant floated lazily in the water.Unfortunately, the Toshogu Shrine, honoring Tokugawa Ieyasu, was closed for renovations. When open, the shrine charges a small admission fee of approximately ¥200. I would have liked to have visited the shrine as Tokugawa Ieyasu plays a critical part in Japanese history as the head of the Tokugawa Shogunate.At the farthest point in the park, the Ueno Zoo houses the country’s pandas on loan from China. While curious about the zoo, my husband and I chose not to visit as most of the animals live in cages. We feared that the sight of animals caged in small spaces would be too depressing as we are more accustomed to enclosures such as those at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, the Ueno Zoo serves as a popular family destination. It opened in 1882 and now features over 464 species. At the time we visited, admission cost approximately ¥600 for adults and ¥200 for children.Despite all of the offerings of the park, the true headliners are the floral displays. During spring, the cherry blossoms will overwhelm even the most jaded visitor. Plan your trip accordingly. Budding photographers will relish the opportunity to photograph stunning landscapes and flowers.
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