Dashing through Ueno Park, Tokyo

So I only had one morning. Actually less than that. I only had about an hour or two to spare before we had to check out to catch a plane home. I was in the Shinagawa Prince complex. Initially I wanted to visit the Sengakuji shrine nearby which held the graves of the 47 ronin. It was not far but required a bit of a hassle to reach – train and some walking but I thought this was do-able. But at the Yamamoto line, I made a mistake. I jumped on a train which went in the opposite direction. So what did I do? Abandon plans to visit Sengakuji and headed for Ueno’s lotus instead. It was summer and a friend who lives near Ueno had told us the lotus were in bloom in Ueno pond.

Does it seem stupid to go out of my way just to see a bunch of lotus in bloom? Maybe. But with every spare minute I had, I didn’t want to waste it in a hotel complex. I wanted to maximise seeing Tokyo. So this is really just a mad dash out to take a whiff of Tokyo on the limited time I had. Even getting on a train on the Yamanote line was a tiny experience I relished. The train was not full and exuded a lazy Sunday morning feeling quite unlike the usual packed, frantic pace of Yamanote at rush hour. I guess even trains get Sundays off.  

Not my first time to JR Ueno station but first time at this exit. Ueno on a Sunday morning is really quiet and low-key. Where were all the people? I didn’t have time to wander around too long so I just crossed the road, walked briskly in the general direction of the pond and along the way, cut through the Hanazono Inari shrine and the Gojoten shrine.

The avenue of orange torii is an abbreviated version of the Kyoto Fushimi Inari shrine where more than 4km of torii wound round the hillside outside Kyoto.

As with the inari connection, the kitsune is ever-present. The keys to the granary are still held by the foxes and since they were heavenly messengers (like the pesky deer at Miyajima and Nara), your best bet to get your wishes up to heaven is to whisper it in the ear of a fox. The Hanazono shrine’s resident kami’s portfolio covers marriage, relationships and health. I paused to say hi but regrettably could not linger.

Finally across the road, I arrived at the Shinobazu pond. And yes, the pink lotus was in full glorious bloom, peeping coyly out between the large fan-like leaves. I spotted some people trying to capture the scene on water colour.  

I would have loved to stroll through the area more but the reality was that I only had barely 35minutes from the time I started at Ueno station. That meant that just after taking some pictures, I had to skedaddle back to JR Ueno to catch a train to Shinagawa.

It was short and quick but that blitz of a visit out into the streets of Tokyo made me both sad and happy. I always get that wistful feeling upon leaving Tokyo and this time, knowing how short a time I really had, made me even sadder. I don’t know what’s the draw but several of my trips to Japan always ended with Ueno, Tokyo being the last stop. Somehow it was just always like that.

On that Sunday morning, just taking in the unusual quiet and serenity of the park, the pond and the shrines, I wished I could stay but had to say goodbye to Tokyo and to Japan. But at least I know I can definitely say that I will be back again someday, hopefully soon.

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