Feb 16

Japan 2015: Nakamise street, Senso-ji temple, and Ueno Park sakura at half-bloom

Date: 26th March 2015

After spending days outside Tokyo — mostly Kyoto and Himeji — I was back in Japan’s impressive capital city. I was staying in the Asakusa area, popular for being close to many of Tokyo’s attraction — namely Nakamise Street, Sensoji shrine, Asakusa shrine and Sumida River. It’s why I chose to stay in Asakusa and booked myself at the Khaosan Tokyo Laboratory hostel for a few days.

Toshiba Japanese toilet buttons

Toshiba toilets, who would have thought :) It was nice to sit on these on a chilly morning — because the toilet seat would warm up!

Khaosan Tokyo hostel kitchen terrace

I went upstairs to the kitchen to have my breakfast

Khaosan Tokyo hostel kitchen utilities

The kitchen isn’t very big but I didn’t find it very crowded either. It has all the essential appliances.

Khaosan Tokyo Laboratory hostel Japan

I got ready and went downstairs to check out the information the hostel had put up about attractions in Tokyo and how to get to each one.

Asakusa district Tokyo Japan

First attraction on today’s sightseeing list was Senso-ji temple, so I headed out in that direction

Mos Burger Asakusa outlet Tokyo Japan

Good thing there was a Mos Burger outlet nearby :)

I walked towards the end of the road Senso-ji was situated on just to explore the surroundings. There are quite a few banks around, so I got some US dollars exchanged.

Asahi beer building skytree Asakusa Tokyo

Past the bridge over Sumida river is the Asahi Beer Hall (the building with the ‘golden turd’ on top of it)

Senso-ji shrine entrance Tokyo

This is the entrance to Senso-ji Temple, one of the most popular Buddhist shrines in Japan — because it’s the oldest in Tokyo. Therefore, it’s also one of the most popular attractions in the city.

Kaminarimon giant lantern Sensoji-japan

This large lantern is called a Kaminarimon

Nakamise dori shop street Tokyo Japan

Leading up to Senso-ji temple is Nakamise Street, choc full of small shops

Nakamise Dori, as its known in Japanese, has seen many shops come and go since it first came up in the 18th century.

Shops Sensoji Tokyo Japan

Now in the 21st century, much of the shops cater mostly to tourists. So plenty of souvenirs and traditional gifts on sale.

Fried snacks Nakamise street Tokyo

Besides souvenirs and merchandise mostly targeted at tourists, there were plenty of snacks on sale. This was a shop selling all things deep fried.

Cream filled cake machine Japan

This machine made sweet biscuits fresh and yes, you can buy them right away. I tried one, it was alright.

Stuffed toys shop Sensoji Japan

This store sold many stuffed toys, both licensed brands and others

Kabuki masks for sale Tokyo Japan

Kabuki masks, they were quite expensive

Rice crackers Nakamise stall Tokyo

This is a spicy char-grilled rice cracker called Osenbei. I tried one, it was… alright.

Restaurants Nakamise street Tokyo-japan

There are plenty of shops and restaurants behind Nakamise street as well

Nakamise Dori Sensoji Tokyo Japan

At the end of the 200 metre long Nakamise Street is Senso-ji Temple, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple

Sensoji temple panorama Japan

To the left is Asakusa Shrine and the five storey pagoda, and to the right in the distance is the Tokyo Skytree

Sensoji temple Tokyo Japan

I walked up to the main temple hall

Sensoji Buddhist temple Tokyo

Sensoji Temple has seen many renovations over time

Sensoji Buddhist worship Japan

I didn’t enter the worship area, most because photography isn’t permitted inside

Buddhist shrine Sensoji Japan

Plus it’s a Buddhist temple, it’s not like I know the rituals

Sensoji Buddhist temple crowds Tokyo

A view from the steps of Senso-ji main hall

Sensoji buddhist temple burning paper

I’ve always wondered why they burned incense sticks at Buddhist temples. Turns out it’s a belief that if you direct the flow of the smoke in your direction, it bring goodness and true virtue. (Correct me if I’m wrong)

Kaminarimon sensoji Tokyo Japan

Another massive lantern

Carving under lantern kaminarimon Japan

And this is what everyone was trying to photograph under the lantern

Pagoda Sensoji Asakusa Tokyo

Can people enter the pagoda?

Senso-ji tourists panorama Japan

It was time to leave as I had seen enough. I walked to the left side for a bit.

Dancing monkey street performer Japan

Away from the crowds was a spot where this performer was making her monkey dance

Tokyo skytree from Asakusa Japan

Tokyo Sky Tree, the tallest building in Japan. I hoped to go there one of these days. (Shot on my mobile)

Shopping arcade Asakusa Tokyo

I then walked to the left side and found myself in a shopping arcade

Japanese food display Tokyo

I walked past a restaurant. I loved seeing the mock food on display.

Like a lot of things, Japan takes the art of making mock food to perfection! Check out this video of an expert showcasing the craft of making fake food/dishes look absolutely life like!

Taj Mahal Indian restaurant Asakusa Tokyo

As I walked around the shopping arcade, I stumbled upon an Indian restaurant

Indian restaurant buffet Tokyo Japan

They had a buffet for ¥980 (₹560/$8/€7) — 2 types of non-vegetarian gravies, two vegetarian gravies, naan, “saffron” rice (quite bland and coloured using either turmeric or artificial colouring) and a dessert

I wasn’t super keen on eating Indian food again but the thought of freshly-made, hot naan was too good to resist and I sat down for an early lunch. The curries, rice and dessert (lassi with fruit bit in them) was below average at best, so I just had the naans with the chicken curry. At ¥980, I couldn’t complain because it really filled me up and I felt good after some spice entered my body in this chilly weather.

Asakusa subway station platform Tokyo

Post lunch, I decided to leave Asakusa and go to Ueno

Ueno park JR line sign station

I was in Ueno primarily to visit Ueno Park

Ueno park Kesei train station Tokyo

Ueno Park is where you will find the Kesei train station. From here, you can board the high-speed train to Narita Airport

Sakura Ueno park entrance Tokyo

I came to see if the cherry blossoms had fully bloomed. From the outside, it looked promising

Ueno park Tokyo Japan

But as I entered the park, I was a tad disappointed

Ueno park sakura tree yet to blossom

Looks like I have to wait a few more days

Bird nectar cherry blossom flower Japan

But the birds were making the most of the flowers that had blossomed

Ueno park high view Tokyo

Shot this from a higher vantage point

Ueno park sakura half bloom panoram

Still, Ueno Park attracts a lot of tourists

Schoolgirl photographing sakura Japan

People were already in ‘picnic mood’

Prince Komatsu Akihito statue Ueno park

A statue of Prince Komatsu Akihito

Ueno park half bloom sakura season

I was a bit worried that the sakura wouldn’t fully bloom by the time I left Japan

But I would visit Ueno Park again a few days later, and this was the scene:

White sakura Ueno Park


So look forward to that. Next up, I would spend some time at Ueno Zoo, mainly to see the pandas there, before heading to Shibuya in the evening.

Previous posts in this series:

Japan 2015: Himeji Castle, and the unexpected air show

Japan 2015: Kyoto Station, and arriving at Himeji by shinkansen

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Monkey Park in Arashiyama

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Gion Corner Cultural Show

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Kinkaku-ji and Kiyomizu Dera temple

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Fushimi Inari-taisha, and climbing to the mountain top

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Nishiki market and Teramachi

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Nishi & Higashi Honganji, Shijo street, and Gion

Japan 2015: Riding a bullet train for the first time, Tokyo to Kyoto

Japan 2015: Walking around Akihabara and Ginza

Japan 2015: Going to Akihabara, and spending way too much time in Yodobashi Akiba

Japan 2015: Landing in Tokyo… and using a communal bath for the first time

Jan 16

Japan 2015: Nadagiku Shuzo Sake Brewery, leaving Himeji for Tokyo — and my last bullet train ride

Date: 25th March, 2015

After the morning disappointment of visiting Himeji Castle, I decided to explore Himeji city a bit more before leaving for Tokyo. I considered visiting one more attraction, and chose the Nadagiku Shuzo Sake Brewery (sake is a Japanese rice wine). Looking at a map of Himeji city, it didn’t seem that far from the JR station.

Himeji city pavement trees Japan

Loved seeing well designed sidewalks

Traditional dress couple Himeji Japan

And seeing the traditional with the new

JAL office Himeji Japan

I walked past the other side of the JR station, which has some hotels like Tokyo-Inn.com and a Japan Airlines building

Himeji city pavement design Japan

I kept admiring the pavements because all this good planning is a rarity back in India

I tried to locate Nadagiku Shuzo Sake Brewery on Google Maps but I still ended up a bit lost after I followed the route the app showed me.

Continue reading “Japan 2015: Nadagiku Shuzo Sake Brewery, leaving Himeji for Tokyo — and my last bullet train ride” »

Jan 16

Japan 2015: Himeji Castle, and the unexpected air show

Date: 25th March, 2015

I arrived in Himeji city yesterday and I woke up today freezing just as much as I was yesterday night before going to bed. It was bloody cold! I got out of my capsule bed, brushed my teeth in ice cold water and had my breakfast.

Traffic crossing Himeji City Japan

I wanted to finish seeing Himeji Castle as early as possible and leave Himeji city by noon

Himeji directions sign Japan

There were a lot of people heading towards the castle. Himeji Castle is the biggest attraction of this city.

Himeji castle bridge Japan

Himeji Castle is also the biggest castle in Japan

Seating grounds Himeji castle Japan

They had set up chairs on the ground and I saw banners for some sort of event by the Japan Airforce

Walking to Himeji castle Japan

I walked to the ticket counter

Entrance Himeji castle Japan

After paying the 400 yen entrance fee, I entered the castle grounds

Himeji castle map Japan

Himeji Castle is over 400 years old

Himeji Castle main tower Japan

But I was devastated to learn at the ticket counter that the main tower has been under restoration for quite some time and is off limits to visitors!

Continue reading “Japan 2015: Himeji Castle, and the unexpected air show” »

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