Leaving behind a snowy wonderland in Toyama, Tokyo greeted us with open arms of warm sun and crisp breezes. After a midnight bus ride through the Japanese mountain ranges we arrived, slightly groggy but with giddy excitement. Fearing the imminent death of my phone low on power, we braved the crowded basement of a McDonalds. Amidst the travellers asleep on their suitcases and the late night adventurers changing clothes in the bathroom for work, we stealthily snagged at a much coveted power outlet and recharged over orange juice and greasy hash browns.
After dropping off our bags at our hostel we took a leisurely walk to Ueno Park, marvelling out the stillness of the morning. Tokyo, despite it’s reputation as a city of epic energy was unexpectedly tranquil in the morning. Our path led us through the Taito district, which is home to countless industrial kitchen suppliers.
Before entering the park’s interior we stopped at C’s Cafe where we enjoyed some truly mouthwatering sandwiches, mine with herbed salmon and Ebany’s with copious amounts of gooey cheese.
Ueno Park was bustling (given that it was a long weekend) and we marvelled at the sheer size and quantity of museums in the park. If you so chose, I’m sure this sprawling cultural hub would provide several days of enjoyment, at least.
To our Ueno Zoo was currently home to two giant pandas, Ueno and Shinshin, who were being treated like the celebrities they are with a pretty sizeable crowd. Pandas are by far the strangest creatures I have ever seen, their plump bodies covered in fluffy white and black fur, casually munching on vegetation lain at their feet. In a way it really was like seeing a celebrity, in the sense that I was seeing something in the flesh that I had previously only seen in pictures or video. I half expected their furry arms to reach up and lift their heads of their bodies, revealing an animatronic interior or sweaty mascot worker. In the Panda (and Christmas) spirit, we snapped a quick picture with a pretty adorable backdrop. This led to a day of strolling through the zoo- enjoying the beautiful grounds.
Intent on making the most of the day, we spent a leisurely afternoon enjoying Ueno Park, taking in the sculptures and Monet exhibit at the Western Art Museum. This was another reminder of how English-friendly Tokyo is, as there were explanations in English throughout the exhibits. Perhaps it was the break from my daily grind (oh, I’ve become so cliché) or the change in weather. Tokyo felt at once peaceful, with its quiet streets and sunlight filtering overhead, and ripe yet with opportunity for adventure from the density of people and events in your immediate surroundings.