In and Around Asakusa and Ueno

Our morning saw us sleep in a bit before the rush of the day.  We headed to Starbucks for breakfast (close, easy) and found that, aside from a few drinks, everything was different…food included a wide variety of pastries like matcha and plum bread (similar to pumpkin bread in the States).  Many of the drinks include some form of tea…really interesting.

With our “home” fix in we hit the streets and headed to the temple grounds around Asakusa.  The number of people out for the day was enormous.  A sea of people walking around this place.  Once inside the temple grounds, the crowds thin out, and you can walk, relatively easily, through the temple grounds.

Natascha spied the tower overlooking Asakusa and all of Tokyo, and we decided to walk.  Seeing the tower from the temple, it really looks like a 5 to 10 minute walk.  Not so.  It took us a solid 45 minutes (with a stop for water) walking directly to the building below.IMG_1413

The Skytree tower is tall (they claim to be the tallest observation tower in the world) and you can take an elevator 350 M or 450M up to an observation deck (with shops and restaurants).  The view of Tokyo and the Kanto plain is amazing.  You can see all the way to the Kanto mountains and, on a good day, Mt. Fuji.

From the lookout deck, Skytree (Tokyo) Tower
From the lookout deck, Skytree (Tokyo) Tower

The haze was situated on the plain and sadly, the views to the far south not great.  However, we saw all of Tokyo from the tower and it is worth the experience….on this very crowded day, we waited about 1 hour for a elevator ride using the express service….it’s a bit more in $$ but otherwise one has to wait for 3 to 4 hours for a ride up.  Not appealing on this hot day (89F; 100% humidity).

From the tower we headed back to Asakusa for lunch (by subway this time).  Negotiating the subway system in Tokyo takes some doing.  Be on your toes, read the signs well (they ARE easy to read) and make sure you are going in the direction you want to go.  Thankfully, since I spent time in Tokyo in 2008, the signage is much better (for us)  and includes English in most cases.

In Asakusa we found a place that served katsu (chopped, fried chicken and pork) for Natascha.  You can get many different kinds of items, but this restaurant served primarily chicken in all of its forms….legs, cartledge and the more typical grilled, fried, and marinated.  The restaurant had seats for maybe 12 people…the cook was the owner and you

Natty enjoying the lunch crowd of 3.
Natty enjoying the lunch crowd of 3.
Interior of the restaurant.
Interior of the restaurant.

were within a few feet of his kitchen, watching the whole thing.

After a long lunch (because of the heat), we made our way to Ueno park.  The short train ride (15 minutes) on the Ginza line drops you off at the base of the park; we walked up to find an exhibition on Bhutan!

Bhutan in Japan!
Bhutan in Japan!

What?!  We had to go in.  In the exhibition, the curators included historical garments and thangkhas, as well as a wide variety of woven goods including clothing, blankets, etc.  The videos of the people really struck us as we saw the places and maybe even some of the people we just left!  How cool!

Painting of Taktsang.
Painting of Taktsang.

The heat finally got to us, and we all decided it was time to head back to the hotel.  The quick subway ride to Asakusa and then into the swarm of humanity (sometimes pushing your way past folks) onto the quiet street we called our temporary home.

We have one more full day in Tokyo before our return flight on Tuesday PM.  Our plan is to visit Shibuya in the height of evening and finish our trip with a wonderful meal in that spot.

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