Last Friday we planned on heading into Tokyo to further investigate the wonders of China Town. I checked to see how long it would take to get there by train: two hours and twenty minutes. Bummer. We weren’t much for riding the train that long…so I started poking around for other ideas.
Amid the plethora of places to go and things to do, one option rose steadily to the surface: a trip to the famous Ueno Zoo. I love zoos. Fortunately (and amazingly!) I realized that Ueno was a mere hour and fifteen minutes by train.
Ueno is a district in Tokyo that is positively brimming with things to do and see. There are at least four museums, performance centers, the oldest-and most famous-zoo in Japan, parks, gardens, restaurants…So much culture to be absorbed in one place! It instantly became one of my favorite places to be. (If you don’t know this about me, I LOVE museums and zoos. I also fully admit to being a gigantic nerd-and I embrace it every chance I get.)
When we got to the park, I felt like I was walking through a time machine back to when I was a little girl…every year my Grandpa White and Grandma Maria would take me and my siblings to the zoo. We would have treats and walk around looking at the animals all day before going to Dairy Queen or Old Country Buffet. My favorite part about those trips was the Sparky the Seal show. I was in little kid heaven.
Alas, there was no Sparky the Seal in Ueno Zoo. But! There was Shinshin and Riri. Two giant pandas. So. Cute.
I pranced around the zoo in a state of utter delight. It was an absolutely marvelous day. The sun was shining and it was warm. The zoo is so old and big it really felt like you were walking around in a jungle of South America or on a safari in Africa. Our surroundings were lush and beautiful.
The elephants were eating lunch. The tiger was running around trying to catch teasing little birds. The gorilla family was playing with the baby gorilla. (It was soooo cute!) The toucans were looking at us inquisitively. The giant pandas were taking a nap.
We had already spent several hours at the zoo and only seen half of it. Because it was so cheap to enter the zoo (only ¥600, about $7) we decided to save the other half of the zoo for another day.
Earlier, when we were walking into the zoo, we passed by one of the many museums in Ueno Park, the Tokyo National Museum of WesternArt. My nerd radar went off immediately. There were big signs posted outside the museum proclaiming an amazing special exhibition on Rembrandt.
I love Rembrandt.
So off to the museum we went. It cost ¥1500 to enter, and was definitely worth it. The exhibition focused primarily on the etchings from Rembrandt vast oeuvre of works, especially pointing out his use of chiaroscuro. The etchings-and handful of paintings-were stunning. So much detail. Karl and I were both very impressed.
We would have like to purchase a print to hang up in our apartment, but alas, our favorite one was not for sale. Zannen. (Too bad!)
By this time, dinnertime was fast approaching. We stopped to have a cappuccino at a café before heading back towards Ikebukuro to find something to eat.
The more we explore Tokyo, the more we like it. One reason is that you can find decent Mexican food there! We stumbled across a Mexican restaurant in Ikebukuro…how could we resist? Once we saw that they served Negro Modelo beer, there was no question. In we went.
The food was incredible-save the fajita platter (the “steak” was 98% fat-gross!)-and we ate a lot of it.
We caught a special “TJ Liner” train back to Ogawa Machi and were home in an hour. Another successful and fun day exploring Japan complete.
More Tokyo adventuring coming soon…