Tokyo Series 1: Japan Tour (上野, 浅草寺, 明治神宮)
In Manila, I sleep at 5 am. When I was in Tokyo, I would see the sun at 4:30 am and would wake up (I TRY! haha) at 9. Then imagine the DIY tour we made for 5-6 destinations per day, which usually ends at around 7pm. It was tiring and overwhelming.
But it was all worth it because I’ve always wanted to explore Japan. I remembered taking Nihonggo/ culture classes and reading Japanese beauty and Philosophy as Art books back in Ateneo – from tea ceremonies, art of incense, Noh, to food and history.
My Tokyo post will be in parts and I will start it off with our tours of their parks, temples, shrines, old cafe’s and museums. It just amazes me how despite tourism, calamities and their busy city life, government and people take their part in preserving and constantly reconstructing these parks and heritage sites.
UENO PARK (上野)
Ueno district is known to house some of the finest cultural places in Tokyo, sitting in the city’s busiest networks. It is a 500,000 square meter-space – don’t worry though as there are lots of outdoor ads and tour guides to help you. I would often see this in my friend’s feeds, minus the Sakura or cherry blossoms, but it was nice to just chill and roam around the city’s first and now-oldest park.
TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM (東京国立博物館)
The maps in the Ueno show that the museum is quite far but it was actually just a 5-10 minute walk from the park. It is said to be the oldest and largest of Japan’s top-level national museums. It is actually a complex with different museums but we only got to visit the Honkan building (the more eastern design).
The pass costs 620 yen and while we only got to tour the Honkan museum, it was a very nice exhibition of Japanese art in 24 rooms! There are English translations and guides as well especially to those taking photos – there are important cultural properties that cannot be photographed – please follow the rules! During our visit, there’s a special exhibition with theme of ‘A Journey to The Land of Immortals: Tresures of Ancient Greece” housed in the first floor.
In the first floor I got really attracted to the ancient pottery and metalworking rooms, especially the latter where products of techniques such as forging and casting were displayed. There’s just so much attention to detail!
There’s also a beautiful garden for viewing.
The second floor has rooms featuring beautiful pieces from the rooms of Art of Tea Ceremony, Attire of the Military Elite, Kabuki and Noh, Arts of daily life, and Fashion in Edo Period. The gallery show how the Japanese people depict beauty as fleeting, dependent of drama and unique in its own history and sophisticated aesthetic.
ANIMITSU MIHASHI (あんみつみはし)
Outside Ueno Park in Taito, there’s this old and famous dessert shop that we went to and I really appreciated the rich and diverse taste in their Animitsu, which is a traditional Japanese dessert with smooth and sweet red bean paste, syrup, peas, small cubes of agar, and assorted fruits.
I ordered the traditional animitusu for 400+Yen , among the other delicious options with matcha, ice cream etc. The ingredients include An ( brown-purplish paste from red beans in Hokkaido), sweet gyushi (soft white chewy cubes made out of Japanese rice), sweet and smoothened red peas from Hokkaido, smooth syrup made from dark brown sugar from Okinawa, cubes of agar jelly (kanten / 寒天) (shaped using the juice from red algae from Izu) and orange Mikan which is a traditional popular fruit.
At first, it looked like a heavy one but it’s probably one of the desserts I really liked because they’re not as sweet as the ones in our country or I’ve used to consume. It’s actually more savoury than sweet (they use savoury ingredients like beans that are sweetened in a traditional technique – see second photo below) which I prefer. There’s just a balance of flavors, and different textures in one which made me really like this one – definitely going back! Except for the Mikan which was a sharp taste against the other earthy tones, I rate this 5/5, especially with the strong yet flavorful green tea that is served upon settling down.
SENSOJI TEMPLE (浅草寺)
Just near Ueno is Asakusa district where Asakusa Kannon Temple is located. It’s my first visit to a Buddhist temple and indeed one of the oldest, colorful and lively temples!
MEIJI SHRINE (明治神宮, Meiji Jingū)
During our 3rd day which was devoted in visiting Shibuya and Harajuku, we went to the Meiji shrine in a large forested area where we had a relaxing time amidst the busy city. It is truly one of those peaceful strolls in Tokyo.Quiet was good.
It is said that the shrine was dedicated to Emperor Meiji, first emperor of Modern Japan, and the Empress Shoken in 1920, eight years after the passing of the emperor and six years after the passing of the empress. (japan-guide.com)
The gate that leads to the main hall is being renovated (failed to take a pic of this so I’m sharing fellow blogger Ana’s but I like how creative they can get!)
At the main shrine /offering hall, we prayed and offered. You can also write your wishes in an ema as you can see above.
Part 2 of Tokyo here.