Yanaka, Ghibli Museum, Asakusa

Japan – Day 2

Due to our jet lag (again), we were out and about at 5 AM. We took a walk through Ueno Park (pre-cherry blossom) and wandered to Yanaka Cemetery and Yanaka old street. None of the stores were open at that time but it was still neat to walk around and enjoy the peacefulness of the un-awaken city.

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Tokyo was great for just walking around (and getting lost). There are maps at every major intersection. In addition to these tourist maps, there are maps defining the sections and lanes of each area (to help you find addresses). Here is the Wikipedia entry on address in Japan. It is similar to Taiwan’s system.

After grabbing breakfast at the bakery in Nishi-Nippori Station (西日暮里駅), we headed back to Ueno to prepare for the rest of the day.

Our first stop was the Ghibli Museum. I have been watching Ghibli studio movies ever since I was a child: Totoro, Graveyard of the Fireflies, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, Only Yesterday… I was really excited for this! (A little disappointed that I was too old to visit the cat bus.)

We bought our tickets through JTB Toronto. You should get it three months in advance. We had to specify a day but did not have to specify a time (which you have to do if you buy tickets in Japan). The museum was crowded with kids but we still enjoyed our visit. In particular, we enjoyed seeing the original artwork and illustrations of inspirations from books. Part of the admission was a short animation from the studio. The ticket (for the short animation) was in the form a piece of film strip from one of the movies. Neat souvenir from the museum!

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We took the JR to Mitaka station and walked along the Tamagawa Josui “Waterworks” to the museum. It was a beautiful day and a scenic walk. (Directions to Ghibli Museum.)

On the way back to the train station, we passed by the Yamamoto Yūzō Memorial Museum (三鷹市山本有三記念館).

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Yamamoto Yūzō (July 27, 1887 – January 1, 1974) wrote novels and plays. His large European-style house is now a memorial museum (a gorgeous house and lovely garden to visit!). You can wander around the garden for free, to see the house it is 300 Yen per person.

The area around Mitaka Station had a lot of shops. We bought some clementines for snack (fruit in Japan is expensive!). After returning to Ueno area, we rested for a bit before heading to Asakusa.

It did not take us very long to walk there. We headed east on Asakusa-Dori and took one of the streets to go north. Along the way, we noticed that many of the shops on Asakusa-Dori were selling butsudan.

Takoyaki

During the Edo period, Asakusa was a large red light district. Much of the area was destroyed during World War II. The Sensoji temple (the first temple built on the site was Tokyo’s oldest temple) was rebuilt and its popularity continued, evident from the long line to the main building. In front of the temple is Nakamise Shopping Street. If you are looking for souvenirs for friends back home, this is a good place for it.

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We walked around the area for a while. Many of the restaurants in this area seemed like popular hang out places for locals. Unfortunately, I was unable to eat at many of these places as many of the Japanese men were smokers and smoked in these establishments. (I am severely allergic to the smell of cigarette smoke – so much that the centre director at my school purchased 4-5 smoke deodorizers in my classroom.)

We thought it was a neat area to see but not one that you *have to* visit. It depends on what kind of traveler you are. My husband and I are not big fans of crowds and shopping.

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