Friday, April 11, 2008

Day 2 - Sakura! (^_^)/

Our 2nd Day started with great promise and only got better and better. Here's the view from our hotel room in the morning:

The city seems to go on forever...

Our first Train Ride in Tokyo!

We arrived at Ueno Park bright and early (beating out most of the crowds that flooded later):

Here's the reason I came to Tokyo:

We were blessed with showing up on the first day of the full bloom of the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season! The pictures really don't do them justice, but it was truly a highlight of my trip. Gorgeous Sakura everywhere (^_^)v

By this time, we were starving, and decided to get something to eat. Luckily we found one of the best deals on the entire trip in a tiny little Noodle Shop literally underneath the Train Tracks of Ueno Station(!). Tsuruya was open for breakfast, and it was our first encounter with the cool and handy "ticket meals" (inserting coins to buy a meal and handing the cook your ticket to claim it minutes later :).

For a mere 330 Yen (~$3.30 U.S.!), I got a heaping bowl of hot Sansai Soba, nice and soul-warming on that chilly morning. And honestly, that bowl of Soba was easily better than ~90% of the Hot Soba I get in L.A. (really sad). Wonderful, simple hot Soba noodles. FYI: Tsuruya is literally right across the street when you exit Ueno Station (heading towards Ueno Park).

We headed back to Ueno Park to continue our Sakura Hanami (flower viewing) and ran into this:

An OG Takoyaki stand with a Takoyaki master cooking away! (^_^) We had to try it out...

Seriously, THE Best Takoyaki (Octopus Pastry Balls) I've ever had, bar none! Lightly crispy on the outside, airy on the inside with nice, meaty chunks of Octopus. It may sound like hyperbole, but it really is just so much better than anything I've had before in So Cal (not surprising).

We then continued on to visit the Tokyo National Museum (inside Ueno Park):

One of the coolest sinks I've ever seen! The Left Nozzle is Auto-Dispensing Soap; the Right Nozzle is Auto-Dispensing Water; and the bottom of the sink is an Auto-Hand Dryer!

Inside the museum, an ancient manuscript showing the original Kappa?!

We headed back outside to enjoy more of the Sakura. By this time it was a madhouse!

They had some amazing Food Booths / Matsuri-style Booths setup throughout the park with some tasty, simple foods!

Even their manhole covers on the streets are wonderfully detailed!

We ended the afternoon with a stop by AmeYoko, an old-fashioned shopping arcade area right next to Ueno Park. It was interesting to see at first, but soon you realized that this was nothing more than a variation on the American Flea Market (with cheap goods, some cool Japanese treats and Videogame Arcades mixed in):

This was interesting: An RTS-style game driven by moving *cards* around the board (w/ your hands)!

It was almost evening and the start of the most amazing Sushi I've ever had...

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