21 Jun A full Day in Tokyo: Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple & Ueno Park
The tenth day of our Japan trip was a full day sightseeing in Tokyo. We visited Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple and Ueno Park.
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It was supposed to be a straight forward walk from Hotel Century Southern Tower but we somehow managed to lose our way and found ourselves in the street in the photo below. We actually ended up staying in an apartment in it the next year.
We eventually found a sign showing the direction to Meiji Shrine and were soon at the entrance. This is marked by a huge Torii gate made of Japanese cypress. Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji, great-grandfather of the current Emperor, and Empress Shoken. The Emperor passed away in 1912 and the Empress in 1914. In order to honour them, people donated 100,000 trees from all around Japan and overseas, planting them to create the forest. The shrine was completed in 1920 and the main building was rebuilt shortly after it was destroyed during the second world war.
The forested area that contains the shrine offers a sense of serenity within the city. Walking along the path, you are fully surrounded by forest. The noise from the city is blocked out by all the tall trees. During our visit, there were young boys and girls in gorgeous traditional clothing visiting the shrine with their parents.
Displays at Meiji Shrine
Sake barrels that were donated from breweries all over the country are displayed in the shrine grounds. There are also wine barrels that were gifted by wineries in France. Emperor Meiji helped to open Japan up to the rest of the world after a long time of isolation.
There were small marquees set up along a path, filled with tall Chrysanthemums and Bonsai varieties. I believe this was part of the Chrysanthemum exhibition that takes place in November.
It was drizzling rain but I actually enjoyed viewing Meiji Shrine in the mist. I think it added to the atmosphere. We came to another large torii gate upon exiting the shrine grounds. We knew exactly where we were this time as just around the corner was Harajuku station. It’s pretty amazing to think we just left this lush green forest and entered the popular district of teen culture that is Harajuku.
Japanese vending machines
I had woken up feeling a little unwell. We headed back to the hotel for a quick rest. At Shinjuku Station, I came across a drink to help my sore throat. Japanese vending machines sell a large range of hot and cold drinks. I bought a hot lemon drink which did make my throat feel better.
Krispy Kreme limited edition
Krispy Kreme often brings out special ranges throughout the year. They were cooking fresh donuts at the store near Shinjuku Station and we couldn’t resist. We bought a dozen of the Christmas edition donuts and they were delicious and so fresh. I’m not sure if we ended up finishing them all. The Santa and the Snowman were very cute and had a custard filling.
After indulging in donuts and having a rest, we made our way to Sensoji Temple. We had to make a transfer at Kanda station to get to Asakusa station. A short walk brings you to the Kaminarimon (thunder gate), Sensoji’s large outer gate. Once you’ve walked through the gate you then enter Nakamise. It is a shopping street that runs to Sensoji’s second gate Hozomon, which stands in front of the temples main hall.
Nakamise street was so full of people it was hard to move around and see the shops. Luckily we had chosen to use the baby carrier as it would have been a pain trying to push the stroller through the crowd. Many stores line this narrow shopping street, selling Maneki Neko (good luck cats), Yukata’s, fans and other traditional-style Japanese souvenirs. There are also stalls selling freshly made snacks. With Magical Trip, you can book an Asakusa cultural and street food walking tour where you get 3 hours to explore with a local guide.
Sensoji Temple grounds
We watched people wafting incense smoke over themselves from the large burner that stands in front of the main hall. We then walked up the steps and entered the main hall to look inside, careful not to disturb those who were saying their prayers. Beautiful artwork covers the temple’s ceiling.
From the top of the main hall steps, we looked out to the Hozomon gate and could see the crowds of people walking down Nakamise street. To the left of the main hall, we viewed the five-storied pagoda. We then strolled around a little garden area that has a pond with fish and a small waterfall.
Around the area
Walking down a little street outside of the temple grounds, we passed by Hanayashiki, Tokyo’s oldest amusement park. We had no idea it was there but could see rides from over the fence. A quick Google search told us what it was. As we headed back towards Sensoji we noticed some lovely roof details and could also see Tokyo Skytree towering above the building.
We headed back out the way we had come, walking down busy Nakamise street again. It was just as crowded as before. Someone from home had requested a Maneki Neko and this was the place to get one, there were so many to choose from.
While we had stopped to the side of the street to look at one of the shop fronts a group of school girls approached us to ask if they could interview us for their school project. I agreed and the questions were much the same as the ones I had been asked by school children during our visit to Kiyomizudera. After signing their work and saying goodbye to the giggly girls, we passed under the Hozomon gate.
For the rest of the day, we chose to go to Ueno Park. From Asakusa Station to Ueno Station it is a short 5-minute train trip. After exiting Ueno station, you will find a large set of steps nearby, that lead into Ueno Park. After strolling along the path we came to a large water feature. Across from it is a Starbucks. There were white tents set up near the water feature, we couldn’t work out what they were for. Each one seemed to be giving out information, with leaflets and brochures.
Children’s amusement park
Ueno Kodomo Yuen is a small children’s amusement park in Ueno Park. We didn’t come across it on this day but our 4-year-old had fun here during our 2016 Japan trip. There are old-school carnival rides that you buy tickets for from a machine.
Museums in Ueno Park
There are museums within Ueno Park. We chose to enter the National Museum Of Nature And Science. I found the exhibits on the people through history and how they worked on the land the most interesting. The animals were Fletcher’s favourite, even though they were stuffed. We were a bit lost at times as the displays were all in Japanese, so we weren’t always sure of what we were looking at.
After the Museum, our toddler ran the whole way to the park’s exit. It was now late afternoon and it would take us over half an hour to get back to our hotel. We got the train to Yoyogi Station, where it was just a short walk back to our hotel. The next day would be a busy day with an early start, we were going to Tokyo Disneyland.