Strolling around the massive and crowded Ueno Park during the cherry blossom time is an extraordinary experience. The Japanese indulge in something they call ‘hanami’ which dictates that they have a picnic under the blooming trees. In order to help them, generous types sell packaged food and bright blue tarpaulins at the entrance to the park.
After wandering around most of the park we concluded that there appears to be two types of hanami. First, the more comfortable where the big family groups cluster on their neatly laid out tarps, spread out over the bare earth, their shoes placed perfectly at the edges. It’s all very civilised and is pictured above. It’s also somewhat crowded as each group jostles for the best position under the best tree and avoids being trodden on by the gathering storm of bystanders wishing to snap away at the best tree under which they are sitting.
Secondly, and in my opinion so uncomfortable as to not be an option at all, there are those that sit on the edge of the asphalt path facing green plastic strips and roped in between bins that are not in use as bins but as posts to delineate the spaces for picnickers.
I can only assume that this second lot were too late in arriving at the park to get a decent spot. Still, if I was going to arrive too late I reckon I’d settle for eating beneath a photo of a cherry tree in full blossom in my house in preference over the discomfort of the path.
Speaking of discomfort, I’m pleased to announce that absolutely none was experienced as a result of testing out the astounding toilets in Tokyo.
Quite the opposite, in fact. I’d go so far as to say I’m going to miss the butt rinse, the heated seat and the automatic lid lifter. The Japanese might have some strange ideas about noise but they have, easily, the BEST toilets in the world.
I should explain what I mean by ‘noise.’ I think they are afraid of silence in Tokyo. The noise is constant. If it’s not the theme tune to Astro Boy blaring out from a train station, it’s announcements in the park about not lighting gas fires. It’s no wonder that the majority of people are zoning out of the world and focusing on their smartphones. One wonders what they did beforehand. You can’t get away from some form of electronic noise. Mind you, they insist on telling you to switch your phone to silent and not to make phone calls on the public transport because it may disturb the fellow passengers…as opposed to the constant announcements.
Still, it quickly fades into the background and we just moved through it. At least the train announcements are in English as well as Japanese. That makes it considerably easier to navigate the city, something we have done quite comprehensively in our short stopover visit. In fact we managed to completely circumnavigate the JR Yamanote Line (the green one on the map) today.
The two other things of great import that happened today were
- We accidentally had Chinese for lunch. The trouble is, our western eyes have great difficulty discerning the difference between the characters. Still, it was delicious.
- We were sitting outside Starbucks when a rather odd chap walked away from the chair he’d been sitting on, leaving his back pack behind. We thought perhaps he was going to the bin (no) then the toilet (no) but he just kept wobbling away. We decided the bag presented a problem. We packed up and moved to the other side of the park half expecting an explosion at any moment. There was none. It was very odd. We would have told an official but there weren’t any even though the loudspeakers insisted on telling us there were.
Eventually, having seen as much as we could (including two amazing temples) and smelled all manner of odours (the bridge of food stalls was very dense and aromatic), we headed back to the train, to the airport then onto the plane for Sydney.
To be completely honest, I think I’ve fallen a little bit in love with Japan (and not just the bum hosing toilets) and am really looking forward to our ten days to come. As a taster and example of how to get around, this stopover has been priceless.