The Ueno area is known or its large, beautiful park. It has some of the most beautiful green areas and temples in Tokyo city (better, I thought, than the Imperial Palace).
But outside of cherry blossom, and in the cold days of winter, what is there to do? Toshogu shrine and Kiyomuzi Kannon are years round gems. The zoo is nearby. And don’t forget the sunsets; the rays of a gorgeous golden hour sunset were bathing the temples in orange to set up some stunning photos.
On one of the boulevards of pretty Ueno park, we were stopped by a Japanese student. He was practicing caricatures, and wanted to draw us. It sounded pretty cool, so we sat on the edge of the walking track.
Perched on a tiny camp chair, he furiously scribbled, looked up, coloured some more. Passers-by slowed to observe his progress, and nodded in approval.
Twenty minutes later, he produced our caricatures. I came out hook-nosed and lantern-jawed, with sleepy, seductive eyes and a confident grin. Cindy’s fair features had been flattened out into a sharp box-shaped face, with bright and mischievous anime eyes and a librarian’s glasses.
It didn’t hit the mark exactly, but the picture was really well-done. We even got to keep the finished result! As we walked away, another couple sat down for their caricature treatment.
(If anyone knows that guy, i’d love to show him my drawing of him! He’s Japanese, and was in Ueno park sometime in December 2016).
Down the hill from Kiyomizu Kannon temple, a lake opened up before us, with Benten-do standing proud on its idyllic island location, at the end of a long walkway over the water. Beyond, a squadron of swan boats bobbed in the waters. The park usually bursts into bloom in cherry blossom season, but we were here in winter, giving the park a cold beauty as the skeletal trees swayed in the breeze.
Passing through to the other side of Ueno park, we entered a whole new side of Tokyo. The skyscrapers were gone, and before us was an old suburb of wooden buildings and temples with huge tiled roofs. At the entrance to a temple, a tiny old lady began telling us a story in Japanese, and we smiled and tried to reply in English.
We offered her a hand down the stairs, whilst she continued her untranslatable tale. There was a pious feeling in the air here, with temples seemingly as numerous as houses, and with each temple was a cemetary. We had a look at a few; solemn, peaceful places cluttered with tall pillared tombstones. Behind many tombstones were long wooden paddles, arranged by the monks from the temple and engraved with prayers.
The houses and shops here must have survived the bombing during the war, judging from their ancient appearance. Most had etched wooden signs and a burned-wood effect on their facades. In the fading sun, we wandered downhill in search of a subway station to take us home.
We were drawn into a few souvenir shops and admired wall hangings, incense holders, chopstick sets and pottery with cute animals. Ueno was a very nice day out, away from the hustle of the big city lights of such a sprawling metropolis.