Markets and temples and noodles, oh my!

Yet another eventful day has come to a close, and my feet are certainly happy for it. I awoke this morning feeling a little indecisive about how I wanted to spend my Sunday, but eager to explore and sightsee before my schedule becomes busy with classes and homework. After some deliberation, I decided upon “Ameyoko” (Short for Ameya-Yokochō, which translates to “candy store alley”). This popular walking market is located right next Ueno Station – one of the major train stations in Tokyo – so it was relatively easy to get there. It is also nearby Ueno Park, which is host to an array of temples, ponds, cherry trees, fountains, museums, an amusement park, and Tokyo’s largest zoo. So obviously that was on my list too.

I arrived at Ueno Station around 11am, which was the time recommended by several online sources since apparently the area can get quite crowded during weekend afternoons. As per usual, my misguided sense of direction got me headed down the wrong street, and I was dismayed to find the area fairly empty and barren.

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I roamed up and down several streets, thinking that I must have come too early, and eventually decided to head to the park instead and try the market again later. However, while retracing my steps, I was happy to stumble across the entrance gates, just a few streets parallel from where I had started.

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I was relieved to find that Ameyoko had the hustle and bustle that I had been looking for, with vendors selling everything from fresh fish to knockoff clothing to Hello Kitty hair-removal products. I snaked my way along the crowded streets, enjoying pineapple on a stick, a savoury pancake with a friend egg in the middle, and green tea soft-serve (which might just be a new personal favourite).

I also found a lovely little temple, wedged in between two food stalls.

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I went in to take a look around, and found a little stand selling “prayer plaques” – wooden boards upon which you write any wishes or prayers you want answered, and then tie to a large rack. Mine is hidden in there somewhere…

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Around 12:30 I was starting to get a little bit weary of the jostling crowd, so I decided to make my escape and head over to the park for some fresh air. It was a street over from the market, and to my slight disappointment, still quite busy with both locals and tourists.

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I made my way over towards a large pond located at one end of the park, which I had heard was the location of several temples, as well as a pedal boat rental. The temple area was a little bizarre, as it was lined with food vendors selling items which seemed more appropriate for a carnival.

But after I cleared this section, the crowd thinned considerably, and I was able to enjoy the fresh air and stroll along the picturesque waters.

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Although the cherry blossoms are not quite in full bloom yet, there were several trees ahead of schedule, which drew crowds of eager photographers.

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I’m not ashamed to say I got a little caught up in the excitement too, because, well, the cherry blossoms really are quite something.

After touring around the entire lake, and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, I decided to go in search of a large fountain supposedly in the centre of the park. Sadly the fountain was turned off, and it happened to be located in the same area where all the museum and zoo entrances are. So, as I once again found myself battling through crowds, I decided it was about time to head out. On my way back to the train station, I noticed an interesting little restaurant, with helpful English signs. What really caught my attention (other than the cheap prices) was the substantial variety of vegetarian options available, so I figured I’d have a bowl of noodles before heading home.

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Basically, you go into the restaurant and place your order vending-machine style by entering your money and pressing a button for the meal you want. The machine produces a ticket which you hand to the cooks at the counter. They serve up the requested dish within minutes, and you can then sit at the bar along the wall, or stand at some small tables.

I ordered soba noodles with vegetable tempura on top, which only cost ¥400, and was absolutely delicious. I found myself eagerly slurping up the hot noodles and broth, right along with all the other customers in the shop.

With tired feet and a full belly, I headed home to relax and recuperate. Nothing planned yet for tomorrow, but I’m sure I’ll think of something to do…

 

 

 

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