Posts Tagged ‘Ueno’

We woke up early in Beppu and started to get ready to make our way back to Tokyo. We were both not looking forward to the trip, having to wade through the chaos that is Tokyo station. We make our way to the dining hall of the New Matsumi Hotel (where we are staying) to eat breakfast that was included with our stay. Due to sleeping in the day before, we missed breakfast our first morning in Beppu but we made sure not to miss out again.

.. and we are glad that we didn’t, as this is what we were served.

Rice, fish, soup, eggs, soft tofu and then some. Both the green and white pots are for one person.

Rice, fish, soup, eggs, soft tofu and then some. Both the green and white pots are for one person.

After an amazing and exquisite breakfast, we grab our bags and take a cab to Beppu Station. Though the hotel was within a pretty decent walking distance from the train station, the handle of one of our suitcases finally bit the dust. We temporarily fixed it with some duct tape but didn’t want to test its limit before we made it to the Tokyo train station.

We reserved our tickets back to Tokyo the day before, as we didn’t want another incident like our trip to Hiroshima. The trip itself was about 5.5 hours with 2 transfers from Kokura Station and Shin-Osaka Station. We hop on the first train and we are on our way.

The last half of the trip was a bit uncomfortable, as we were upgraded to first class seats to Kokura and Shin-Osaka but we made it to Tokyo unscathed and somewhat rested. After wading through the crowds, we make it to the Ueno train platform to head to our hotel. It was approximately 19:15h and the train was packed! I didn’t remember the trains being this busy when we first landed in Japan, and worried that we wouldn’t be able to get on the train with our luggage. We cram our way on the train and we are off to Ueno. Reading the information that is updated on the train, it turns out that a handful of train lines were shut down due to the typhoon and flooding (watching the news that night, people were stranded over 8 hours at some of the train stations). We seriously dodged a bullet with our arrival to Tokyo.

After we arrive at the Touganeya Hotel, we quickly drop off our things and head back to the sushi place Jason first took me to our first night in Japan. Due to the weather, I was developing a headache and didn’t eat much at dinner. Afterwards, we head to a British Pub for a drink and for some fish and chips. If you told me a year ago that I would be eating bite sized fish and chips with chopstick in a Japanese British Pub I would have told you to fuck off, but it was done. Once that surreal moment passed, we went back to the Pachinko Hall to attempt another round and then wandered back to our hotel to go to bed.

We wake up the next day and catch the train to Tokyo Disneyland. We purchase the “2-Day Passport” so we are able to go to Disney Sea the following day. Upon our arrival, we discover that is the 30th Anniversary of Tokyo Disney and noticed that the park has been decorated for Halloween.

The first time I went to a Disney park was in 1990; I was 6 years old and my family decided that we were going to pack ourselves in a 1988 Ford Taurus and drive to California. Though my memory of the trip is hazy (my mom informed us that we protested going to Knott’s Berry Farm because we thought it was a literal berry farm) but it’s a vacation that I feel quite a bit of nostalgia for. In 2009, my boyfriend at the time and I went to Disneyworld to celebrate his 26th birthday and our “6 year anniversary”. To be quite honest, I had just as much fun at Disney as a 25-year-old woman and I did as a 6-year-old child.

… and I had just as much fun this time around, too.

Yup... I'm just a child stuck in an adult's body

Yup… I’m just a child stuck in an adult’s body

It was quite amazing to see how Japanese people love Disney. And I mean, they LOVE Disney. Everyone in the park was decked out in Disney hoodies, t-shirts, silly hats, (like the one I’m wearing in the photo above), mouse ears, and walked out of the park with bags upon bags of souvenirs.

Since Jason and I “don’t do rides” (him due to extreme motion sickness, and me due to a traumatizing experience on Space Mountain at the age of 6 [and on the Tower of Terror at the age of 25]), we mostly walked around the park and stuck to rides like “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” (which was absolutely amazing!). What I found very interesting was that the “Haunted Mansion” in Tokyo Disneyland is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” themed, which is different than Disneyland and Disneyworld in the States.

Halloween decorations outside of the Haunted Mansion

Halloween decorations outside of the Haunted Mansion

We leave Tokyo Disneyland right before it starts to shut down, and head straight to our hotel to go to bed so we can wake up early the next day for Tokyo DisneySea.

DisneySea opened in 2001 and (as you can guess) has a overall nautical theme for the entire park. They have areas that re-create Venice, Portofino, and the American Northeastern Seaboard from the early 20th century. This park was made more for adults and has some of the more “mature” rides, such as Indiana Jones and the Tower of Terror.

When I first saw this at DisneySea, it gave me terrible flashbacks and immediately made me curse my ex's name.

When I first saw this at DisneySea, it gave me terrible flashbacks and immediately made me curse my ex’s name.

Even though we didn’t ride many of the attractions at DisneySea, we still had fun and made a day of it.

Being silly outside of Toy Story Mania

Being silly outside of Toy Story Mania

Being silly at Triton's Kingdom (it's not a ride, but I just really wanted my picture on this prop).

Being silly at Triton’s Kingdom (it’s not a ride, but I just really wanted my picture on this prop).

DisneySea ended up closing about 4 hours earlier than usual and they gave us an option to return to Disneyland for an extra 2000 yen per person, but after all the walking around we did that day and the day before we just wanted to go back to our hotel and NOT do any more walking.

On our way back to the hotel, we were trying to figure out our dinner plans and decided that we would go for sukiyaki. After a bit of research, I found a sukiyaki place in the district we were staying at. We hop on the train and make our way over to Imahan in Ueno.

We get to the restaurant and immediately realize that we are extremely underdressed for the place. The prices on the website were a bit pricey but we didn’t really think anything of as we knew they were serving some quality Wagyu beef. I don’t think the staff knew what to do with us either; Jason dressed in shorts, an athletic shirt, wearing crocs and a baseball cap while I was dressed in Under Armour t-shirt and yoga-style pants, a hoodie, sneakers with my hair a mess and my nail polish half chipped off my nails.

Though we looked like a train wreck compared to the rest of the patrons, they didn’t seat is where we weren’t visible to the rest of the public (which we joked that they might do) and the service they provided us wasn’t hindered at all.

We ordered the “OGI Sukiyaki Set”, which was a 5-course sukiyaki meal and we upgraded to the “top quality beef”. Dinner was well over $120 per person but after planning to splurge over $300 per person at Sukiyabashi Jiro (which is a 3-michelin star sushi restaurant) but not being able to secure a reservation prior to us arriving to Japan (they book a month in advance and reservations were booked for the entire month of October on September 2nd), we decided we could spoil ourselves with some sukiyaki.

… worth… every… penny.

After an extraordinary dinner, we hop on the train and head back to our hotel to sleep.

Today was a very uneventful day. After about 12 hours of sleep, we slowly get ready for the day and then realize that we had no set plans. We talked about going to see the Buddha at Kamakura, or going to the Ueno Zoo but after all the walking that we’ve done over the last 2 days.. no, lemme take that back… after all the walking we’ve done this entire trip, we took the train to Shinjuku to eat lunch and did some window shopping til dinner time.

One crazy spectacle was the craft store in Shinjuku; a friend of mine from work asked me if I could bring her back a specific craft tool from Japan. I couldn’t find any stores that may have carried in the other cities we visited, so I looked on Google and found a couple places in Shinjuku. Once we found an arts and crafts store that carried this tool, we started looking.

… I have never seen so many people in an arts and crafts store in my life. Even Jason was pretty amazed to see the volume of people and the size of the store.

We couldn’t find this tool for the life of us. We searched, asked some guy working at the store (but he had no idea what we were talking about) and looked some more. After about 40 minutes we were about to give up when we finally found another employee to help us. Once Jason shows her the translation in Japanese and a photo, she walks us 2 feet from where we were standing and pointed it out.

I don’t know if we were pissed that after walking around the store 5 times we missed it or if we were relieved that the search was finally over, but I’ve never been so happy to leave an arts and craft store before.

We hop on the train back to Ueno, hit up a yakiniku place for dinner and then head back to the hotel. Jason is now sleeping after watching “Monty Python and the Meaning of Life” and here I am writing this blog and looking up random things on the internet.

Things I Have Learned During My Trip Thus Far
1. Japanese bakeries are going to be the death of me.

2. I really love Disney. Hell, I think everyone who grew up with Disney loves Disney.

3. I wondered while buying items in Tokyo Disneyland if I was buying them because it’s a “collector’s item”, or that was my excuse for being a big kid buying shit that I have outgrown years ago?

4. I don’t like Tokyo as much as I liked Osaka. Maybe it’s because Tokyo is so big but Osaka seems like a city that I would go back to over Tokyo.

5. It still amazes me the sheer level of love for Disney that Japanese people have.

Next Blog Post: Last day in Tokyo and Japan


Currently writing this on our way to Osaka. There is no wifi on this train that I can see so I will be uploading this post when we arrive to our hotel.

So far, I haven’t really been able to enjoy my trip to its fullest extent but it’s just the beginning. 

After spending over 16 hours in airports and on planes, we finally arrive to the Narita airport in Japan. Uncomfortable and sleep deprived, we go through immigration where they photograph your face and take your fingerprints upon arrival. Jason warned me about this before we left Edmonton. Reading up on it, it’s to monitor for terrorism; however, it has sparked a huge debate on whether or not it is a human rights issue. 

We wade our way through the crowds, picked up our luggage, and Jason was kind enough to find me an area where I could smoke just outside the building so I could feel a bit more human. Afterwards, we registered our JR Rail passes and head towards the train station.

This is the part of the trip that I really could have done without. Not that the train stations are horrible, but after being so tired and crabby the last thing I really wanted to do is drag my luggage, oddly heavy purse and carry-on through an extremely crowded train station while feeling very lost and displaced. I am lucky that Jason has a lot of patience and handles stressful situations like a pro, or I am sure we would have gotten into an argument over something so minor, and he would be teling the Tokyo police how I “accidentally” fell off the platform in front of a moving train (of course, after he grabs the money and DSLR camera out of my backpack).

We board our train and head toward Tokyo station, which is about 45 minutes away. Jason immediately orders a coffee and a snack for the trip, and we kick back and enjoy the scenery. After another clusterfuck at Tokyo station, we board the Yamanote line and head towards the Ueno district where our hotel is located. 


Jason booked a night at the Marutani Hotel, which is about a 10-minute walk from the Ueno train station. It is a very modest hotel with a public bath in the basement. We check in, select a type of breakfast we want for the following day (options are “Japanese” or “American”), and head to our room to drop off our bags and to unwind. After kicking back for about an hour, we head out to eat dinner after I ran a personal errand.

He takes me to this little sushi restaurant about a 5 minute walk from our hotel; it’s a cute little 12 seater that circles around a bar with a conveyer belt of sushi. I immediately notice that they are charging 126 yen for 2 pieces of sushi, and quickly realize it is less than $1.50 Canadian per plate.


Between the 2 of us, we devour twenty-two 2-piece plates.


I wouldn’t say it was the absolute best sushi ever but definitely better than a lot of sushi places in Edmonton (and cheaper than establishments like Tokyo Express). After our slightly embarrassing carnage/display of our awesome mass sushi eating skills, we walk around for a bit and, after much of my pleading, go into a Pachinko place.

There is not a lot of gambling in Japan so they have these Pachinko machines you insert money, play a game, and your payout is in metal balls which can be cashed in for prizes (or paid out at a lesser rate from what I understand). Jason gives me 1000 yen and we insert the money to play.

… this where our confusion begins.

We don’t know how to play the game. Since neither of us can read Japanese we couldn’t read the instructions, and it wasn’t obvious how to play just by looking at the game. We hit a couple random buttons but nothing happened. We hit a few more buttons but accidentally entered into a menu to adjust the volume. After a weird combination of hitting buttons and turning a lever, the machine starts flashing lights and a bunch of random metal balls pour out. We do this a couple more times and more metal balls start spitting out of the machine. Excited, but still extremely confused, we play until we run out of credits. Looking at our winnings (which was over 100 metal balls), we were puzzled with what to do with them. Rather than trying to find an attendant or someone to explain what we were supposed to do, Jason gave our winnings to a random lady sitting at a machine, who had no metal balls. As we were leaving the Pachinko place she turns to us smiling, bowing her head ever so slightly and waves goodbye. I would like to think we made her night.

We head back to our hotel and make our way to the basement to use the public bath. Since they are not co-ed, we agree to meet in about an hour. The public bath was, again, small and modest with a bath, 4 shower vanities, as well as 2 makeup vanities with blow dryers, lotion, and q-tips. After washing my hair and soaking in the bath for about 20 minutes, I get up to blow dry my hair and to meet Jason in the basement lobby. After our time in the public bath we discover how tired we actually are and retire for the night. (Photo courtesy of Google Image Search)


Things I Have Learned on This Trip Thus Far
1. I should have learned how to say “I do not speak Japanese” in Japanese; every person I have ran into assumes that I am (damn these Asian genes) and speaks to me in Japanese while in return I give them an awkward and confused smile. Because of this, I make Jason do all the talking and ordering, seeing as he knows Japanese phrases to get us by on our trip (that, and I would like to assume they will know the extent of our lack of Japanese when they see a white guy doing all the talking while the Asian girl sits back silently). 

2. The hotel rooms are very tiny. I mean, VERY tiny.

3. I could not imagine coming to Japan without staying at a hotel with a public bath. After our adventures in the train stations, carrying our bags for a couple hours and the flight itself, it was nice to be able to relax in the baths (especially when there is no one else there but just yourself). 

4. There are drink vending machines everywhere. I am starting to get addicted to the milk teas. I hope that they are low in fat and sugar content, or I am definitely gaining a few pounds from drinking.

5. It is fucking humid here and 20 minutes after I flat iron my hair and use hair products, my hair goes from silky and beautiful to OMG WTF.

… that’s my “Japan hates my hair” face. 

Well, that is all for this entry. Will update in a couple days once we get settled in Osaka and start exploring. Hoping to check out Spa World, Osaka Aquarium, and day trips to Kyoto and Kobe if time and money allow.