Ueno Park - Cherry Blossoms and Street Food

Ueno Park

Continuing on with my one day Tokyo itinerary, our next stop was Ueno Park. It is a short train tride from Asakusa, and it has so many different things you can do, depending on your interests. You can shop along Ameyokocho for food, souvenirs, clothes and shoes, or you can head to one of the many museums in Ueno Park. Our aim was to see some cherry blossoms! 

We started by Shinobazu Pond and stopped along the way to let the boys play on some play equiptment there why we investigated the progress of the blossoms. Unfortunately there were only a few blossoms out on the trees, but that didn't stop me taking photos! As we approached Bentendo temple, which lies on an island in the middle of Shinobazu Pond, there was a path full of street food and drink stalls. We went to have a look at the temple, then on our way out we stopped for some drinks and a waffle stick! 

We continued on our way up to the main path where there are more than 100 cherry blossom trees. They were all starting to bloom, but I can imagine about now they would be in full bloom, which really is an amazing sight! 

If you ever get a chance to experience hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Japan, I highly recommend it. Go to the nearest convenience store, pick up a picnic sheet, some drinks and snacks and find yourself a nice spot under a cherry blossom tree. You might even make some new Japanese friends sitting nearby!

Ueno Park map
Map of Ueno Park taken from http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3019.html

Shinobazu pond
Shinobazu pond

Ueno street cat
Friendly Street Cat
Cherry blossoms over shinobazu pond
Cherry blossoms starting to bloom

drinks stall
I love the limited edition Asahi Sakura cans!
Waffle stick stall
Waffle sticks

Street food stalls in Ueno Park
Street food stalls in Ueno Park

Incense Bentendo
Incense in front of Bentendo

Cherry blossoms and lanterns

More cherry blossoms and lanterns
I <3 Sakura


Weeping cherry tree ueno
Weeping sakura in Ueno

If you ever have a short stopover in Tokyo, Ueno really is a great place to visit. You can get the Keisei Skyliner train direct from Narita to Ueno within 45 minutes. The park is about 2 minutes from the train station, as is a Japanese market street and numerous other awesome shops!

Asakusa, Tokyo - Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Shopping Street

This past weekend I was in Tokyo with some family who had come to visit. It was their first time to Japan, so of course I needed to show them the best of, in one short day! I managed to snap a lot of photos during the day at the various sites we went to so wanted to share them with you.

The weekend was really cold. Maximum 10 degrees celsius during the day, but at least it was beautiful and sunny! We started the day in Asakusa, to see Sensoji temple and do some souvenir shopping on Nakamise Street, which runs from the temple to Asakusa Station. We arrived at about 9:30am, which was before any of the shops opened, so headed straight to the temple. It was already busy with tourists and visitors. This temple is popular for a reason. It is the oldest in Tokyo, and the grounds are lovely. It's a buddhist temple built for the goddess Kannon and was completed in 645. Of course, as with many sites in Japan, it was destroyed during the war, so the current buildings are more recent reconstructions. 

After we had finished looking at the temple and surrounds, we started our walk down Nakamise street. Although it's only about 200m long, we were shopping for about an hour because there are so many shops absolutely crammed with souvenirs such as fans, prints, keyrings, chopsticks, toys, masks, kimono etc. The family loved it!

View of Tokyo Skytree on the walk from Ueno to Asakusa

Shops shuttered before 10am
Cool art on the shutters
Koi Carp pond and Japanese garden on the Sensoji grounds
Sensoji temple
Sensoji Temple
Sensoji temple
Looking down from the temple to the temple gate
View of pagoda from Sensoji temple
View of the pagoda from the temple
Incense at sensoji temple
People lighting incense at the entrance to the temple
View of Tokyo Skytree from Sensoji Temple
View of Tokyo Skytree from Sensoji
Weeping Cherry Blossoms at Sensoji Temple
Weeping Cherry Blossom
Me and the boys in front of Sensoji temple
Me and the kids!
Manju stand on Nakamise street
My favourite stall on Nakamise Street - selling deep friend manju
Deep fried sakura manju
Of course I got the sakura (cherry blossom) flavour!
View of Sensoji temple from Nakamise street
View of Sensoji from Nakamise street
Senbei shop
Senbei shop
Eating senbei on Nakamise street
Boys snacking on some senbei

pretty dangly things
Sensoji and Nakamise Street are a short (2 minute) walk from Asakusa station, served by the Ginza Subway Line, the Asakusa Subway Line and the Tobu railway.
Entrance to the temple is free and it is open all year round.

Tokyo with kids - 1 day itinerary

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Tokyo to show some family around. We were travelling with 2 kids, one 8 year old and one 4 year old. My family had never been to Japan before so I really wanted to give them a good taste of what Tokyo has to offer in the one day we had to do it (the second day was Tokyo Disneyland). It took me a long time to decide on what I thought they needed to see to get a great Tokyo experience, and in the end, based on their feedback, I think I nailed it! We got to see some traditional Japan, some cherry blossoms and street food, as well as the bright neon lights of busy Tokyo.

So basically I thought I would share with you our one day Tokyo itinerary to give you an idea on what you can realistically achieve with 2 kids in tow. Of course if there were no kids involved, we would have been able to fit in a couple more sights. For reference, we started our day, leaving the apartment around 9am, and returned for the night at around 7:30pm.

Traditional Japanese Breakfast
"Typical" Japanese breakfast

Start your day with a good breakfast

We were staying in a great Airbnb apartment in Ueno, walking distance from Asakusa, so I knew about a cheap, family friendly chain restaurant called Royal Host and saw that there was one located on the way between our apartment and our first sight of the day, Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. Their morning menu has everything from scrambled eggs and bacon, to pancakes, french toast and traditional Japanese breakfast sets. After we had filled up, we were ready to start our sightseeing!

Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree

Sensoji Temple Asakusa
Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
Sensoji Temple, Asakusa

Sensoji Temple in Asakusa is the oldest temple in Tokyo, founded in 648. It is also one of the most popular tourist sights in Tokyo. The grounds are beautifully preserved and not only is there the main temple halls, but there is also a nice little Japanese garden with cherry blossom trees and a koi carp pond! My family loved exploring the grounds and getting some beautiful photos.

Sensoji temple is a short 5 minute walk from Asakusa Station.

Souvenir shops on Nakamise Street
Nakamise Street, Asakusa
Souvenir shopping on Nakamise Street

After visiting the temple, we walked down Nakamise Street, which is full of souvenir shops and food stalls. We stopped and got some deep fried manju (we got custard, sakura and red bean paste fillings), then continued down the street buying souvenirs. You could easily spend a couple of hours here, but I think we managed to keep it to just one.

Yamashiroya Toy store
Inside the toy store

Toy shopping at Yamashiroya in Ueno

After all the souvenir shopping for the adults, we headed back to Ueno on the subway for lunch and stopped in at Yamashiroya, a HUGE 6 floor toy shop right across from the main entrance to JR Ueno station. The kids had a great time exploring the different levels and playing with the various toys before deciding on one thing each.

Cherry blossoms shinobazu pond
Shinobazu pond, Ueno Park

Food stalls ueno park
Ueno Park food stalls
Ueno Park

After getting some lunch (giving us a much needed sit down and relax), we headed to Ueno Park to see if there were any cherry blossoms in bloom and wandered by the pond and over to Bentendo, a buddhist temple in the middle of the pond. The path leading to the temple is lined with street food stalls, so we got some waffle sticks and some drinks to snack on as we walked through the park. There is so much you can choose to do in Ueno Park, from visiting one of the numerous museums, to paddling a swan boat on Shinobazu pond (which we did last time we were in Tokyo).

Izakaya shibuya
Izakaya for dinner
Eat dinner at an Izakaya

After a little rest back at our apartment to drop off our shopping, we caught the Yamanote line train in to Shibuya to have dinner at one of the many izakayas there. Even though izakayas are more "drinking" extablishments, they are very family/child friendly and it gave my family a good introduction to Japanese food. We were seated at a sunken table and had to take our shoes off before entering the seating area. I ordered a bunch of food off a touch screen for everyone to share. You can get anything from sashimi, yakitori, edamame, salads, onion rings and chips (good for fussy kids). You can usually pick an izakaya based on the menus they will display out the front, that shows you a huge variety of food available. They are also often located on the higher floors of buildings, so it definitely pays to look up when you're wandering around Tokyo!

Shibuya intersection
Shibuya bright lights
Check out the neon lights of Shibuya

The final thing I wanted to do to round off the day in Tokyo, was to show everyone the bright neon lights and bustling intersection in Shibuya. You know the one. It was fantastic because when we went in to the izakaya for dinner, the sun hadn't yet set, but by the time we came out, we got to wander the streets, look at all the crazy lights and get some photos before taking the kids back to the apartment for bed.

If you're interested in more of my past Tokyo posts, you can find them here.

The airbnb we stayed in was this one.  If you want to get $46 credit to book your Airbnb, use this link!

My cherry blossom obsession

It's a pretty well known fact that i'm obsessed with cherry blossoms (sakura さくら in Japanese). I think it started when I was first living in Japan about 10 years ago and my mum came to visit during cherry blossom season. We followed the blossoms from Tokyo, down to Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka. I was even lucky enough to have a cherry blossom tree in the backyard at my last house in Melbourne, and I was obsessed with it! Now that I'm living in Japan again, this time in Okinawa, my cherry blossom obsession has come back in full force. Last year we were lucky enough to go to Kyoto for full bloom and this past January we went in search of the Okinawa cherry blossoms at Nakijin Castle ruins. I even took a million photos of the blossoms on the few trees in my neighbourhood.

Another great part about the cherry blossom season in Japan (which is just about to start on the mainland) is all the limited edition cherry blossom items. Different beers have limited edition cans, Starbucks has a sakura latte, sakura flavoured ice creams come out as well as chocolates and other snacks! Pepsi even has a sakura flavour this year (it's not that great.... I tried it). Japan really makes the most of the short cherry blossom season!

The most awesome thing I have found this year though is the cherry blossom range of Nike shoes available! As soon as I saw them, I knew I must have them! I even bought a pair for my mum, who is equally as obsessed with Cherry blossoms as I am. At the moment i'm torn between preseving their pristine condition and wearing them constantly because I just love them!

Next week i'm off to Tokyo for a few days, and am hoping to catch the beginning of the bloom up there and take part in some hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Ueno Park. No doubt I will also sample a decent amount of cherry blossom themed products because I just can't resist. No doubt you can expect more cherry blossom posts in the near future.

Cherry blossom Nike Roche
Yes, I own these...

Cherry blossom full bloom in Kyoto
Full-bloom in Kyoto
Sakura pepsi
Sakura Pepsi

Sakura chocolates
Cherry Blossom chocolates I found in Daiso

Orion Ichiban Sakura
Limited edition Okinawa beer. Does not taste like cherry blossoms.

Sakura Mochi ice cream
Sakura mochi ice cream

Sakura Cream soda
Sakura cream soda
Sakura cookies
Sakura cookies at Nakijin Castle ruins
Sakura Ice cream cone
Sakura ice cream

Okinawa cherry blossom 
Sakura product display
Cherry blossom display at Onna-no-eki おんなのえき