JAPAN 2015: Day 1 - Ueno Park. “Hana Yori Dango”.

After a short rest in this episode, I prepared myself for a day (more like less than half) out in Tokyo. What I wanted to do first, was of course, to see the blooming sakuras. To be honest, I didn't have an itinerary but I had a few places in mind. So I selected one based on gut feeling (and how much I like the sound of the name) and decided to head to Ueno Park.

Before I bombard you with pictures of flowers, you will first meet my little friend whom I met during my walk to the train station:

This little short-legged bugger is shooo cutee! I later noticed that most dogs in Japan are all shorties.

April 7th, 1PM - Ueno Park (上野公園), Tokyo.

Statue of Saigō Takamori walking his dog. I don't know who he is but his name is pretty badass.

And then, of course, sakura. Sakuras everywhere. There are so many different variations and this is just one of them.

More sakuras in action:

Ueno park is one of the most popular places for Hanami parties, where people have group picnics under the cherry trees. I don't know about you but picnics have never appealed to me, but seeing the Japanese do it makes me feel like having my own Hanami party as well.

Check out the infographics below and let me know if you'd like to join me :p

Image source

The picnic food is one of the biggest motivator. Who needs sandwiches when you can have all the above!! (✿◠‿◠)

In Ueno park, here is the popular spot for Hanami parties. There's one happening as we speak (bottom left in the picture) and you can see that there are allocated lanes on the left and right for people to lay down their mats. There are bins too for rubbish disposal.

More pictures of Ueno park:

I had no idea this was here but I stumbled upon it anyway, the Ueno Great Buddha (Daibutsu).

The full statue was destroyed in a quake back then and only the face of the Daibutsu was preserved.

Got orange trees some more one ok!

And suddenly, I'm in Fushimi Inari Shrine.

No, not really. It's actually the Gojoten Jinja. The "red gates" are called torii, and these are just some of the many torii that you will find in Japan. Torii marks the entrance to a sacred space (usually a shrine of sort - in this case, it's the Gojoten Jinja). I will be heading to Fushimi Inari (the mother of all torii) but only later into my trip.

The five-storied pagoda, Kan'ei-ji, was also within the park's vicinity.

April 7th, 3PM - Shinobazu Pond (不忍池), Tokyo.
After several strolls in the park, I decided to head down to Shinobazu Pond (不忍池 Shinobazu no Ike), which is actually a pond still within the Ueno park.

Some very pink blooms.

Part of the Shinobazu pond, and yes that is a real bird.

This pond is a natural one, though it has been modified several times in the past.

This part of the pond is actually called the Lotus Pond. In summer, the lotus plants will completely cover the surface. I can only imagine what a sight that would be.

Actually no, there's Google Image.

More pictures of the various sakura blooms.

Not sure what these are so I can't caption them.

Anyway! I spent some time wandering around the pond area and there was also a mini food street. I was keeping an eye out on this one delicacy called the dango (団子). It's that "colorful fishball stick" emoji that we have on our phone:

Dango is a Japanese dumpling and sweet made from mochiko (rice flour), related to mochi. I was looking forward to dango ever since I came across this saying of "Hana yori dango” (花より団子, literally, “dumplings rather than flowers”), which actually means a preference for practical things rather than aesthetics.

So yes, I was walking along the food street when, lo and behold,


Got myself a sakura flavored one! So I stopped at the roadside to enjoy my stick of sakura dango. The weather was still chilly and the dango was freshly roasted, it was bliss!

With some warmth in my stomach, I was then ready to explore the next place. The following destination.. There was no following destination for Day 1 because the initial plan was to just explore Ueno park (thought I should go easy on my first day). Well well, since I had some energy and curiosity left for the remaining day, I did some last minute Google research to help me decide.

Next up: An impromptu location and spending the night in Tokyo.

Day 0.5 - Getting There. And Tsukiji.
Day 1 - Ueno Park. “Hana Yori Dango”.
Day 1 - Sensoji. And an Adventure at Night.
Day 2 - All Things Ghibli (Museum).
What to do when you lose your JR Pass.
[SHORTS]: My First Airbnb Experience.
Day 4 - Hello Kyoto! (Intro).
Day 4 - Eastern and Downtown Kyoto.
Day 5 - Ryoanji and Kinkakuji.
Day 5 - Arashiyama and HORSE SASHIMI?
Day 6 - Fushimi Inari-taisha and Nishiki Market.
Day 7 - Gotta Catch 'Em All in Osaka (Pokemon Center) and Mint Bureau's Nighttime Sakuras.
Day 8 - Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.
Day 9 - Universal Studios Japan.
Day 10 - Osaka Castle, Den Den Town, Dotonbori.
Day 11 - 10 Days Japan Itinerary (Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka).


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