Japan travel · Travel

Japan travel- Tokyo’s Ueno district

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When I was in Tokyo, I stayed in a hotel in the middle of two historic districts. To the east was Asakusa, and to the west was Ueno. Its main attraction is Ueno Park, a giant park in which the National Museum, Tokyo Zoo and several other museums are located as well as quite a few temples and shrines, including one dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the great Japanese shogun who helped unify the country in the 17th century.

The park was actually built on the site of a major battle in 1868 when shogunate samurais (Shogitai) tried unsuccessfully to resist the new Meiji government, and the tomb of Shogitai warriors still lies inside the park. There is a large lotus pond at the south end, Shinobazu Pond, that looks out onto office buildings, providing a stark contrast. The photo at the top of this post is of Saigo Takamori, who was a samurai commander who led an imperial army in an earlier uprising (when the battle in Ueno happened) but then rebelled against the government in 1877 and died under mysterious circumstances in the climatic battle. According to Wikipedia, the plot in The Last Samurai, the Tom Cruise samurai movie, was based on his rebellion. I have to admit though that when I visited the park, mainly to go to the national museum, I was unaware of all this history and it was only after I stumbled onto all these sights like the Shogitai tomb and the samurai statue that I learned about it.

The Tokyo National Museum stands at the north end of the park and is divided into several buildings housing Japanese history, art, and Asian artifacts. While the Japanese section was good, with Japanese samurai armor and swords being a personal highlight, the most interesting section was the Asian building which featured Chinese, Korean, SE Asian and even South Asian exhibits, as well an Egyptian mummy.

Ueno train station is nearby, and if you saw the first Wolverine movie, it was featured during a chase scene. Opposite the park is a shopping area called Ameyayokocho, a busy shopping area wedged into a bunch of alleys. The “Ame” in its name stands for America, as it was a black market for American goods after World War II. At night, its numerous pachinko (a popular Japanese pinball-like game) parlors really light up the area.
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Shrine to Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Japan’s greatest shoguns
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Ameyayokocho

 

Shinobazu pond, below
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Tokyo National Museum
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Another of the museum buildings
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Wooden statues of the “twelve heavenly generals.” They look more devilish than heavenly to me.
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Samurai sword (above) and armor (below)
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Buddha found near Peshawar, Pakistan from the 2nd-3rd century. The lean figure looks much different from the chubby, bald Buddhas you usually find in China and SE Asia.
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Seen in the Wolverine movie!

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9 thoughts on “Japan travel- Tokyo’s Ueno district

    1. Thanks, hope you keep on visiting. It was a pleasant surprise for me while watching the movie to realize I was at one of those places in it. Did you see the movie too?

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  1. Lovely lotus photos, and I like the random Egyptian mummy in the National Museum collection. What’s a museum without at least one looted Egyptian item… :o)

    PS Just finishing the Fat Years – when I got back to the States, my local library had a copy. Not having any experience with China, I’m surprised at how familiar much of the societal aspects feel just from tracking your blog over the past couple of years.

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    1. I’m glad you liked them, Bobbi. The Egyptian mummy was really interesting; it was my first. It’s true, because I just came back from a trip to Europe and almost every history museum I went to as well as the Louvre had an Egyptian section.

      That’s really good you got a hold of Fat Years. I’m flattered. I mean sometimes I know I sound cynical about China but I’m not exaggerating or making things up. That book captured modern China very well and it was written a few years back!

      I trust things are going well back in the US.

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      1. Thanks… new, mostly interesting job here. KC has been in Myanmar for 2 weeks on his first MSF assignment. Glad to hear you’ve been back on the road…will look forward to some photos.

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