Tokyo Blond Is Not Porn

Tokyo Blond is not a porn blog, about hair or even, as one pithy friend remarked, a micro beer or late 1980s glam metal band ("Dude, I just saw Skid Row and Tokyo Blond opened and played a killer set").

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my experiences in Tokyo - poignantly, visually, irreverently - for fun.

Anybody can tag along...that is if I like you. This blog will endeavor to be entertaining and honest and frequent enough to keep those following interested including me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

But I Don't Want to Go to the Zoo

Every week I plan an excursion for Russell and I in Tokyo.  Last weekend it was Ueno park, one of the largest parks in Tokyo.  The plan was to take the train to the park, walk around the expansive pond, check out a couple of shrines, have lunch and finally, see the granddaddy of them all, the Tokyo National Museum.  So then how did we end up at the zoo?

I don't really like zoos.  They depress me.  Oh, I get it.  Bring a bunch of rare and exotic animals to one place under the guise of "conservation" so that people who never travel can see animals from different continents.  Uh huh.  Yeah it's neat.  But it still makes me sad.  Somehow however, in our twenty odd years of knowing each other,  Russell didn't know this.  It's nice to know he's still discovering me.

It only took us one train to get to Ueno park.  The park was big and green and filled with people and street vendors selling meat on a stick, rice balls, and that oh so Japanese favorite....chocolate covered bananas.  What?  

We were immediately taken by the gigantic pond blanketed in lily pads. It must be spectacular when the lilies are in bloom.  The pond was so congested with the pads you could barely see the water.  While were were admiring the foliage an old Japanese man pulled up next to us on his bicycle and asked us if were were tourists.  I thought, is this a trick question?  Russell wondered what he was selling.  He wasn't selling anything.  He said he was amazed to see us.  Ever since the earthquake he hadn't seen any American tourists.  We explained we lived in Tokyo and had been here during the earthquake.  He was even more surprised by that.  He said so and ambled off into the throng with a grin, a cigarette, and story to tell his sake buddies.

Can you imagine how this place sounds at night? ribbit x 1000

There was a little farmers market going on so we meandered through that.  Besides perfect fruit and vegetables, they were also promoting the opening of the new Tokyo tower, aka, Tokyo Sky Tree, the tallest artificial structure in Japan. Apparently this is a big deal and they have mascots to prove it.  There were several of them walking around the park drawing a crowd.  They looked like gigantic versions of the phone charms all the Japanese have dangling from their G4s.

Look, Russell made a new friend.
No...we cannot take it home.

Perfect asparagus and look, 
it comes in purple and green.

We stopped to check out the statue of Takamori Saigo, a disenchanted samurai from the 1800s, dubbed the last true samurai, who led a revolt against the Meiji regime.   His story is the basis for the American movie, "the Last Samurai."  Funny, he doesn't look like Ken Watanabe.  Course it doesn't say that, or anything about his dog on those plaques.  I had to look all this up on wikipedia.  Wikipedia doesn't say anything about his dog either.  Geez.   Believe it or not he's wearing hunting attire, so maybe that's his hunting dog.  More recently he's known for defeating Gen. Douglas McArthur who thought the statue should be torn down due to its ties to nationalism.  But the Japanese relented so Takamori and his little dog stayed.

This is Kiyomizu-do Kannon Temple, a temple where women who want to get pregnant go to pray for fertility.  From the looks of the pregnant woman at the top of the stairs, it works.  Let's just say we didn't linger here.  

Look there's a band.  
And they were good too.

They had a croquet lawn in the park with a bunch of seniors wearing numbers and wielding mallets ferociously.  The women were just as competitive.

It was already 12:30 by the time we got to the park, so after we toured the shrines we decided to head off to a restaurant recommended to us that specializes in grilled eel and has been around for 260 years.  260 years!! That's as old as America!!!!   The name of the restaurant is Izu'ei and it's located next to the KFC (go figure) right across the street from the park.  There was a line so it must be good.  It was one of those Japanese restaurants where you have to take your shoes off.  I always feel better when we're the only gaijin.  It makes us feel like locals.  The eels were great!  Apparently it's the charcoal that makes the difference.  We're not talking Kingsford here.  The Japanese take their charcoal very seriously.  Izu'ei's charcoal is made in the mountains where, according to legend, the best charcoal comes from.  I bought it.

My view of the restaurant from sunken seats.

The restaurant placemat had this little picture on it.
Why isn't that guy wearing pants?

After lunch we walked back through the park on our way to the museum.  Somehow we ended up on the wrong side of the park from the museum, which was the whole point of our trip.  Russell thought we'd be able to cut through the zoo.  One doesn't "cut through" a zoo.  Once you're in you have to look even if you don't like zoos, like I don't.   I mean they have Giant Pandas for Gods sakes!  I mumbled a little at first. Ok, maybe I complained for a little while.   But then there were monkeys, even baby monkeys, and well, after that how can you be grumpy.  It's impossible.   The zoo took up the rest of our time.  We never made it to the museum.

Now, where did I put that nipple?

Rhino's conspiring.
"Ok, you take the one on the left; I'll take the one on the right.

Giraffe, "Hey, you're not from around here"
Me, "Neither are you"

Russell's favorite.  I think it's because they wear tuxedos - 
Russell's favorite attire.

Make sure you get my good side.

Baby hippo doing laps.

We waited in line for half an hour just to see the giant pandas.   Interestingly, they had two lines for the panda exhibit, ours and the short line.  Apparently if you have children you get to go through the short line.   The Japanese are smart.  They recognize children have no patience for lines and neither do their parents.   Russell and I looked around - maybe we could rent a kid.  No such luck.  The kid line went through in five minutes.  Three Indian teenagers got into the kid line.  We all looked on menacingly.  Finally a line attendant, yes a line attendant, seized them and escorted them to the back of the "adult" line.  Ha!   Justice is served.

The victory sustained us until we finally made into the panda exhibit.  There were two and they were giant just like the sign said.  One was napping and the other just woke up.  There were more line attendants making sure the crowd kept moving and didn't linger too long.  They were so cuddly, the bears not the attendants, you just wanted to give them a great big hug.  But since we couldn't, Russell bought me a stuffed one instead.  The stuffed animal cost more than the zoo entry fee and lunch combined!  But he's worth it.  As Russell handed me the bear he said, "this is for you; not Ranger".  I said, "You get to be the one to tell him."

Believe it or not this guy is napping.

This guy is pacing.

Then we went to see the lions and bears and otters.  Yes, otters.  The otters were "in love" and showed it often.  I don't know what was more entertaining, watching the otters cavort in the water for a few minutes and then jump out and fornicate wildly, or watching visitors' faces once they realized what the otters were up to.  Russell wouldn't let me take a picture of them.  The Summer bears were a highlight as well.  About half the size of the big brown bear from Hokkaido but ten times the fun.  This couple was playing mercilessly.  They kept rolling around and around and jumping on each other in mock battles.  They were hilarious!  Our faces hurt from smiling so much.

Two points for this take down.  Say uncle!

The zoo is a great equalizer.  At the zoo there is no American, Japanese, European.  It's just humans and animals and animals make humans smile.  Which is nice.

Huge bored Hokkaido bear.  
That rock does not look comfortable.

Here tourist, tourist!

The boat Russell wanted to go for a ride in.
What is he ten?

When the zoo closed, music was played throughout the park heralding it's closure so we walked to another shrine.

Toshogu Shrine erected in 1651 and dedicated to the man who made Edo, currently known as Tokyo, the capital of Japan.  The pathway to the shine is lined with massive stone lanterns, as well as, 50 copper lanterns which were gifts from feudal lords.  It was closed when we got there but you could still walk through the gate and up the pathway.

Stone lanterns.


Imagine what this place looks like when all these lanterns are lit.
I'm feeling kind of like Alice In Wonderland right now.

This is one of the two spots in Japan where they maintain an eternal flame from the blast in Hiroshima.  This flame was taken from the burning embers of house in Hiroshima and has been kept "alive" ever since.  The monument stands as a reminder of the destruction and an appeal for world peace.
The colorful hangings on the wall are thousands of origami cranes.  According to legend, any person who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish - clearly these cranes are for world peace.
Let's all keep folding.

And finally who can resist baby ducklings.

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