Tokyo!

We woke to a beautiful blue sky and a crispness in the air that meant you could wear a scarf quite happily – I love this sort of weather!

We had the morning to ourselves and in the afternoon we had a tour to the popular cherry blossom sights around Tokyo.

There are three restaurants to choose from for brekky in our hotel and each of them had massive lines – I tell you what, the Japanese love to queue!

 So, we took ourselves off in search of whatever  Japan had on offer.

Even sampling some of the wares

Pretty happy all ’round!

We also sampled a little bit of Tokyo’s finest sushi…

Then it was time to high-tale it back to our hotel to meet up with our tour guide…… but when we got to the meeting spot and found there was nobody there to meet us we checked the documents again and notice that there was a different meeting spot on the confirmation ticket than there was on the itinerary!  We were meant to be on the other side of Tokyo!!!

We called the tour company, but clearly there was nothing to be done at this late stage of the game, so we got the maps out and headed for the train station.  We were going to do our own cherry blossom tour.

Reaching the train station was easy.  Finding the ticket machine was super easy.  Reading the ticket machine entirely in Japanese and knowing where the hell you were going was not so easy.  Luckily, we only had to stare blankly for about 23 seconds and a very helpful young man stopped and asked if we needed help.  I’m not sure we let him get the full sentence out before jumping with a “Hai Kudasai!”.  He was so patient with us as we faffed in our bag to look for a map to show him where we needed to go, then he organised the tickets and walked us to the train before walking completely in the other direction to continue his own journey.

We made it!  Now to just get off at the right stop.

Really, I wasn’t concerned at all, but Jenny still insisted on counting the stations each time we stopped to make sure.

We had been told by the lovely lady at the front desk (after our tour was trounced) that she had heard on the TV the night before that the blossoms were just starting to appear in Rikujien Gardens, so that was our first stop.

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It was a little unfortunate that all the people in Tokyo had the same idea…..

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The park was originally established in 1704!

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There’s a lake with funny neckless ducks and massive koi that stick their lips out of the water…. they’re either asking to be fed or they’re making passes at the passers by.

Me Jenny just throwing a bit of hop scotch in the mix

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On the other side of the lake we came across a section with a couple of little stalls.  People were naturally lined up, so we just jumped on board not really knowing what we were going to be buying and in turn, eating.

This chap here was stoking some hot coals and the lady was brushing something onto three white round things.  We watched other people eat them and they appeared soft and chewy a bit like mozzarella cheese.  I got my translator at the ready and asked for “two please” – “Ni Kudasai”, then the lady asked me something in Japanese and I just went with the flow and said, “Hai, ichi and ichi” – “Yes, one of each” because I guessed she was asking me which of the two sauces I wanted brushed on my white mystery balls.  I had also watched countless people before us.  Even so, I could tell she was pretty impressed with my language skills.

We tried them and they weren’t that bad, even though we still didn’t know what the hell we were eating.  One was a soy sauce and the other some sort of teriyaki?

I took about 243 photos of the blossoms, but I’ll leave you with this one for now and we can move on with our day…..

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Once we’d had our fill of the blossoms and made it around to the gate, we read up on where the tour would have taken us if we had made it and it turns out that the next stop wasn’t that far away and now that we were legends at buying train tickets and catching the train……. Ueno Park, here we come.

I had read that the Japanese like to meet in this park under the cherry blossoms on the weekends and after work.  They take turns to send a ‘runner’ down the park with a large tarp in order to secure their spot.  They take a picnic and beer or wine and just hang.  It’s a shame the blossoms weren’t out as they all struggled to get close to that one pink tree there on the left.

Some groups were quite civilised with chairs and tables and I saw one group with a miniature bbq.

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Just near the park is a lake and a bridge/walkway that splits the lake in two and is lined with the cherry blossom trees.  The bridge was host to food stalls…. check it out

They totally love food on a stick!

This is the walkway that goes between the two sections of the lake.

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We had to imagine what it was going to look like in a week or two.

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It was about now when both Me Jenny and myself started to feel like we’d had enough for one day and headed back to the hotel.  Easy, we thought, we’ll just retrace our steps and she’ll be apples.

And for a while, we were right.  Right up to the point where we got off the train and had to decide if we wanted to exit through the West Exit or the East Exit.  Generally, I choose to take the left fork in the road if ever there’s a choice.  Not through any intelligent process of elimination, but because Fozzie Bear always takes the left in the fork in the road (The Original Muppet Movie) But even this sound advice didn’t help us.  We stood there for a while and with a 50/50 choice on our hands and no way of knowing where we would end up our either door, we chose the East Exit.

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Then our poor tired legs had to walk for an extra 9 minutes as we circumnavigated the train station and all the road works around it to get to the west side and then we searched madly for something familiar from our morning walk through that same area.  As darkness started to close in on us, the neon light of Shinjuku lit up like the lights of Tokyo do and we found ourselves in more light than we’d had all day!

Eventually we were in familiar territory and breathed a sigh of relief.  Then we ducked into a little restaurant for a giant beer to celebrate.

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