Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hawaii and Japan, 2014 - 11/5 - Day 20 - Ueno Park, Vintage Shopping and Curry

Breakfast today was again on the 30th floor dining room at the Grand Pacific Le Daiba hotel. This time we had a table that directly overlooked the harbour. With our remaining day in Tokyo we did a few less obvious things in the city...
We headed out to Ueno, another large neighborhood in Tokyo. Our original goal was Ueno Park, but we became sidetracked in doing some off-Ginza shopping in some of the side streets in the Ueno area. It was a little cooler and Sean hadn't brought a sweater, so he picked up a hoodie with some lovely bad English translations on it. I believe it says "Attention No Section GH University" Which I'm pretty sure is not a real place. (The closest thing I could get in a Google search was the University of Ghana.) Feeling slightly reenergized by shopping, we ventured off to Ueno Park.
Ueno Park is a large public park in the Ueno neighborhood, and home to several museums including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Gallery of Western Art and the Tokyo Science and Nature Museum. By now the leaves in Tokyo were starting to change a bit more, but they hadn't taken on the fiery oranges and reds that we had hoped for coming to Japan in the fall. It was still a very scenic place and worth a walkthrough.
Life-sized sculpture of a Blue Whale in front of the Tokyo
Museum of Science and Nature
We chose the Science and Nature museum as our musée du jour but as this is day 19 of our trip, we were pretty well exhausted going into it (the extra shopping energy had started to fade.) The rooms were warm, and there were a lot of examples of the geological and fossil history of Japan. I'm sure it would have been fascinating if A: anything had been in English, and B: we were touring it at any other time in the trip but the last day of the last leg. Still, one of the up-moments was a 360 degree movie theatre that presented two short films (both in Japanese of course), one of which was about the creation of the universe, big bang and all, and the other was about the rise of the evolution of man. They were both bombastic and spectacular, though the computer graphics were a tiny bit dated. We struggled through about half of the rest of the museum before retreating to the cafe for a coffee - a vain attempt to recapture some energy that failed. Sitting in the cafe, we decided that our best course of action was to continue to do the one thing that had energized us
A friend of ours spent some time in Tokyo last year and had recommended a shopping area known for vintage clothing, so we decided to hit up Shimo-kitazawa (charmingly ‘Lower North Swamp’). The vintage stores come at you right outside the subway stop, so we pretty much plunged immediately into shopping. Sadly, after a few hours of wandering in and out of little boutiques, neither of us came up with any treasure, but it was still a fun experience.
Tonkatsu curry with vegetables at CoCo Ichi
The last thing we had in mind for the day was eating some authentic diner curry. Diner curry is a staple of the Japanese businessman – much milder of spice, though often equal in spiciness, to Indian or southeast Asian curry. We decided on a chain, because it actually had pretty rave reviews in Trip Advisor, and went to CoCo Ichi, just outside of Shibuya station. I had a vegetable and tonkatsu curry at spice level 3, Sean had a vegetable and chicken katsu at spice level 2. The scale goes up to 10, but they won’t even serve you spice level 6 or higher until you’ve proven you can eat 5. While it was a little disconcerting seeing them cut open curry bags and tonkatsu bags and dumping things into pots and deep fryers, the end result was actually pretty darn good. Either the standard for fast food is higher in Japan (which is doubtful considering Burger recently released an All Black Hamburger there), or I don’t know good curry from shine-ola, or CoCo-Ichi makes legitimately good curry in their little plastic bags. Who knows?
Tomorrow is our last day, and it’s dedicated more or less entirely to travel. In fact, it’s really two days of travel, because we gain a day back when we cross the International Date Line. All in all our travel time door to door back home is going to be something along the lines of 20 hours. Needless to say I’ll be waiting until Friday to write my summary post.
Until then, goodnight good readers.

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