Good Morning and yes I’m still behind in writing these.
Today was almost an undecided day, until I learned that the Imperial Palace Gardens were closed until January 4th….the day we leave. Today, we went to the Zoo!! Ueno is maybe a 20 minute train ride from Ikebukuro, not that it matters as the trains are AWESOME -they are clean, punctual, fast, and the riders are courteous. Not to mention that the park the Zoo is in is directly across from the train station.
We stopped at a restroom before going towards the zoo entrance cuz that’s just how we roll…however, I had forgotten the #1 rule while traveling to a ‘foreign’ country….always bring kleenex with you. Needless to say, I waited another 3 minutes until we came across the Starbucks…cuz Starbucks are EVERYWHERE! This location, however, was extremely awesome. As we walked toward the building, I looked to my right to see a huge open area bordered by Starbucks on one side, little blocks of trees in concrete islands on the other side, the walkway to the Zoo that we were on…and on the other end…a HUGE absolutely gorgeous building (I think it was one of the many art Museums that Tokyo has). Here’s the wikiedia link to the Park area http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ueno_Park
So….I stood in line, cuz it’s Starbucks and there’s always a line, to get our drinks. It was a balmy 50 degrees outside so we sat outside to enjoy our beverages and watch the people go about their activities. There were people walking their dogs -some of which were dressed in the most adorable of doggy fashions. Parents were playing soccer with their children. Some people were just out enjoying the day.
Finally we were done with our drinks and headed toward the Zoo. Right before the Zoo entrance, off to the side, was a little amusement park with some a very cool looking carousel. The other side was a little outdoor restaurant…that had huge3 writing on the roof…advertising…”COFFEE PIZZA”…and damn if I wasn’t full from Starbucks… O.o
We waited in the line to buy tickets, the whole time I kept going over and over in my head what I was going to say…or try to say when purchasing the tickets. This, however, was futile as I soon noticed that I was in the line to buy tickets from the machine…not a real human. Thankfully I have impeccable watching/replicating skills and watched the people in front of me buy their tickets. It was really a no-brainer…besides, there were pictures that helped me.
The first thing we did upon entering the zoo was, aside from finding all the restrooms on the map and start taking pictures, was to get in the line for the Giant Pandas!!! Because Mom has to use her walker, we were – again – treated like royalty and ushered to the very front of the glass where only the workers are allowed to go. It was AWESOME! Pandas in generally don’t do much but sit and eat so I wasn’t really disappointed when that’s all they did. However, OMG…the cute overload! They are so big, fluffy, and look so huggable!!!
Eventually we had to move along and check out the other areas of the Zoo. There were some animals that Monkey really wanted to check out and I wanted to get some pictures of the five story Pagoda. We walked around and looked at so many different kinds of animals. One of my favorites was the female rhinoceros. She was so lively and active! At first we thought she was agitated, the male was in the next area walled but had a ‘door’ that could be opened to let them ‘mingle’. At first she would pace back and forth, but then she changed and started to run while shaking her head around…sort of what horses do. Then she came down to the little pond that was in her area and she started rolling in the mud! I took so many pictures of her. Everyone that was watching was laughing and have a great time just seeing her do what rhinos do. It was great.
We finally decided to move along and check out the other exhibits. The red panda had finally come out so I took some pictures of him/her on our way to the exhibit that Monkey really wanted to see…the squirrels. Yes, a squirrel exhibit. At first, especially at home, I thought that this was the weirdest exhibit ever! Then, after being in Tokyo for only a couple of days, I re-thought it as there were no little critters running around. Even while we were in the Meiji Shrine gardens did I see anything that did not fly. So, yes…squirrels. To Monkey’s dismay, the squirrels were snoozing inside their little homes and we didn’t get any pictures of them. Ueno zoo was really nice. I would compare Ueno to the Madison Zoo. Most of the animal’s homes were indoor/outdoor areas large enough for them to roam about and/or hide. There were even areas that were under construction to improve the animals living conditions.
Finally we left the zoo. Since we hadn’t really eaten anything we decided to go into the Sweet Shop. We came to find out that the shop had been there for at least 100 years. The tea was so refreshing and the Dango that we ordered was OMG delicious (Dango are little dumlings made from rice flour – mochiko usually served on a skewer. Ours, however, were served on a plate – one green tea, one sweet white bean, and one sweet red bean. They were so good…I really need to learn how to make them.
After we were done eating, Monkey and I headed into the Shrine area. Mom couldn’t make it up the stairs – not that there were many of them, only three actually, but the steps were TALL…about two step heights per step. The main shrine was being renovated so we couldn’t go in there to pray. The buildings were old and beautiful and very well taken care of. There was a little area off to the side that was newer. It had been constructed to house a flame from the eternal flame from Hiroshima…just reading the description and being there got me a little teary eyed. And then guilt for my relatives had been there and what we did to that country. (Please no comments about what was done to us first.)
Finally we had to leave and go back to the hotel. It had been another full day almost non-stop walking and Mom need to rest. Of course I chose the wrong direction for the train again, and we were treated to another long view of areas of Tokyo that we we wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Monkey was again, not amused.
Finally back at Ikebukuro we bought food from Tobu, came back to the hotel, ate, and proceeded to pass out.