Japan holiday – day 4 – pandas!

Today was wet from the moment we woke up. Not crazy driving rain just constant rain. Armed with our trusty clear umbrellas we steered a path towards Ueno Park. The park is lovely though a little rough around the edges. Not bad mind you just a bit less manicured than I expected.

Though just in case I was missing a highly manicured garden experience we happened across a bonsai exhibition.

We’d been debating if we should go to Ueno zoo (it is Japan’s oldest zoo and hasn’t always had the most pleasant history). However it does have pandas which are my favourite animals and I’ve never seen real ones so we headed in for a look. The Pandas are the star attraction and close to the front gates. It was just before feeding time when we got there and they were doing some nervous pacing and not looking entirely happy about the rain. When we saw them after they had some food and the rain had eased they seemed much happier.

Waiting for some food in the rain

The zoo itself has many good animal displays and while some are a bit old they do seem to be trying to upgrade as many of them as possible and some of the animals were away visiting other zoos while their homes were being renovated.

This gorilla was making a nest out of the straw and keeping out of the rain

With yesterday (day 3 of the trip) being the day of FAIL when it came to food I was dreading a repeat of the endless wandering. Luckily we found a D.I.Y bento place at Ueno station where I put together a yummy bento of vegies, some rice and what I thought was tofu but turned out to be like tofu but different in texture. It was nice enough and definitely not meat so it was all ok. All over Japan you can find places to get good takeaway food but there is a distinct lack of chairs to sit on! We couldn’t find anywhere to sit in the station and finally found a quiet corner to sit on the floor and have some food. A lovely security guard came and moved us to what we had thought was a cafe but it is possible that it was some kind of fancy waiting room that just happened to have a coffee shop in it. If anyone knows where all the chairs are I’d be keen to find out.

In Harajuku we took a walk into the park and to the big shrine. In the rain it was quiet and so peaceful.

As we walked around and took shelter under an awning a wedding party went past in traditional dress. They looked stunning. There were even umbrellas and shoes for the guests to use to avoid getting wet.

Back near the station in Harajuku there were lines and lines of kids waiting to get into something at the stadium. Lots of the kids had the same tshirts on and we think it was a music concert. It was fun to see a few dressed up as their favourite manga characters.

To escape the rain we took a look around Laforet. It is a large almost shopping centre style store in Harajuku filled with lots of tiny fashion stores. I was excited to see the Miss Jane Marple store was still there. Yes that Miss Marple. Love that even an old lady from St Mary Mead is a fashion icon here.

The day was getting on so we thought we’d take a look at Shinjuku and hopefully get some dinner there too. I’d marked the Kinokuniya book store as a place I wanted to go. The store directory has no english text so I asked at the counter where the sewing books where? With a quizzical look I was told what floor to find them on and that they’d be in Japanese. I said that the language was no worries. Am sure the poor shop assistant was confused as to why I had to ask what floor to go to but wanted to buy books written in Japanese. Thankfully I can read patterns so as long as I can see the pictures I can make the garments.

I left their pattern book section much depleted and The Englishman found a wonderful book on cooking with green tea that is just stunning and had to come back with us.

Food was at a fantastically tiny place that you buy a ticket from the vending machine at the front door and hand the ticket to the chef and eat standing up at the counter. I had rice with a tempura green vegetable (am not sure what the green was. It tasted somewhere between parsley and celery leaf but the leaf itself was not a shape I know) and tempura pumpkin. Yummy and cheap at 350 yen.

Back at the hotel we used what must be the worst clothes drier in the world to end up with very damp clothes despite being in the dryer for more than 90 minutes. Some strands of rope across the room and a makeshift washing line was in place to get everything dry. Then time for sleep before tomorrow’s adventures.


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