Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cycling Japan 2013 Day 2 - Of Parks & Temples

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Cycling Japan Day 2 : Of  Temple & Parks
Tokyo, Japan : 8th November 2013
Small Group Ride - Kuramae>Senso-ji Temple>Ueno Park>Yanesan>Tennoji Temple>Nezu Jinja Shrine>Kuramae
Distance : 20.67 km.
Time : 9:30am to 7:30pm
Duration : 10 hours (including time for breakfast, lunch, dinner, sites visits, etc.)

Route map of our Tokyo Day 1 Ride (click here for map link)

We rode off from our hostel at around nine in the morning; despite just having more than a couple of hours sleep, I was looking forward towards the adventures for the day.
The first order of business - breakfast!
We had it at this place called Sukiya, recommended by the hostel staff. It is a 24/7 chain of food outlets selling relatively cheap food (by Japanese standards). One can get a decent set of rice meal from as low as 250Y, water is on the house.

I opted for the Rice with Pork Set and had an additional egg. But I was in for a surprise; the egg came raw! I tried plonking it into the soup, but the soup was not hot enough to cook it. Undeterred, I put it in with the hot rice and after a while stirred it into the rice, hoping that it would have cooked to a certain extent. Sorry lah, it all just came out as a gooey mess. Guess, this is the way the Japanese eat - so I just dug in.

With lunch over, we continued on, riding mainly on the wide pedestrian walkways. The difficult part of riding in Tokyo is that the building blocks are short and we had to stop often at the zebra crossings. At the main roads, sometimes the wait for the light to turn green stretches on & on and on...

Although it took us longer than expected, we were real glad when we reached the area of the Senso-ji Temple, after all it is our first real destination of our trip.
A red arch marks the road leading to the temple, on one side it is lined with modern buildings and on the other side by stalls selling souvenirs to tourists.

First a bit of fun: trying to look fiercer than with those fierce statues along the street.

Careful,  Someone's Watching Over You ....

Taking a left, we were greeted by the huge red entrance pavilion of the Senso-ji Temple.

Beyond that was the main temple building with it's easily recognizable large roof.

The signature icons of the temple are these giant red lanterns and ...

... and its multi-roofed pagodas.

We met some young Japanese dressed in traditional costumes. At ease and away from work, they were more approachable and easier to talk to (... see more at Senso-ji Temple blog).

We took a 45 minutes ride over to the Ameyoko District and had lunch at this restaurant specializing in Unagi (Japanese eels).

I had this mixed Unagi, seaweed rice set that came with Miso soup.

While Siew Yung had this caramel barbecue Unagi set.
Waaahh.... hers looks so much nicer!
I always like the Japanese rice; short, thick and rounded, it's good to chew on.

Looking around, I saw this poster advertising a prison themed restaurant with waitresses dressed as uniformed guards. The Japanese do comes out with unique ideas. Anyone up to trying this, hopefully one does not have to eat in handcuffs!


From lunch, within a mere five minutes cycling we were at the Ueno Park. This park is one of the larger parks in Tokyo; and it is renown as it has more than one thousand cherry trees lining it's pathways.

We were here during early Autumn, and the fall brown colours of the trees have started setting in, making the park rustically beautiful. I can imagine in spring, when the cherry blossoms are blooming, it would be a awesome sight then (click here for photos of cherry blossoms in Ueno Park).
Hmmm.... I wonder whether that guy above is admiring the Brompton bicycle or the lady rider?

In this lush green setting, cycling was fun and was made even easier as no motorised vehicles are allowed in. All the beautiful sights have rejuvenated us, our tiredness from lack of sleep was a thing of the past, and we rode on to another part of the park...

... to Shinobazu Pond, a large pond filled with so many lotus plants that one can hardly see the water. Unfortunately, the lotus were not blooming; then that would be another wonderful sight. But then one cannot have the cake and eat it, it's either autumn beauty or spring pretty.

Despair not, for on a nearby small island is the fine-looking Bentendo Temple.

At the entrance spring well, a couple of us took to drinking holy water from the well.
There is a certain protocol to drinking from these holy wells. Firstly, wash the ladle handle and scoop with the water, then drink from the scoop without touching it to your mouth if possible. Don't drink over the well, this is in case excess water overflows out from your mouth and contaminate the water. Drink over the floor just before the well, any excess water will be drained away to an outlet on the floor.

Leaving Ueno Park, we cycled through the Yanesan area. This area was spared the Allied bombing during World War II and as such it is one of the few areas with old-style Edo Period Japanese houses that are still intact.

Siew Yung was most happy to be here, as she loved viewing the old houses. In fact, one should take a slow ride here as there are many jewels of old places are here. Even at the back alleys do look out as interesting places have their entrances there.

From the Yanesan section we cycled through - would you believe it - a cemetery! But there is nothing scary about the cemetery, Japanese cemeteries are serene and well landscaped.

At the far end of the cemetery is a nice temple, the Tennuji Temple.

A large Buddha's statue sits on a shrine in the temple.

Leaving the temple, we rode through the Yanesan area again, the old houses and narrow lanes here makes us feel like we were back in Japan's medieval period.

Life here is much slower paced than the other parts of Tokyo, there seems to be no hurry, no hustle & bustle. These ladies were slowly transporting children, in special trolleys, from the nursery back to their homes.

Just round the corner and we we riding into the Nezu Jinja Shrine!

Entrance pavilion of the Nezu Jinja Shrine.
This shrine have quite a large compound. I find it a bit odd, sometimes shrines seems to occupy larger grounds than temples, is there any significance to this?

For those visiting the this shrine in future, don't miss this series of torii gates, these are very nice and good photo opportunity. It's to one side of the temple grounds slightly up-slope and hardly noticeable. I think these are one of the most photographed torii gates in Japan (... see more photos of Nezu Jinja's torii gates).

This is the entrance into the shrine building itself. We did not go in as it was starting to get dark.
It was only getting close to 5:00pm and the skies were already getting dark, coming from the tropics we were unfamiliar with this. Past five o' clock and it's like night time already, just like 8:00pm in Malaysia.

With our night lights on, we rode the forty-five minutes back to the hostel. Taking a short rest and a quick bath, we were ready to walk out to dinner.

Dinner for me was this curry ramen, thank goodness the egg was cooked so no messy or gooey meal for me. YummY! and slurp, slurp good.

Our first day cycling in Tokyo proofed to be an interesting one and we were all looking forward to the next day's ride. It will be early to bed for us as we will be starting very early at 3:00 am in the morning. We will be going to the Tsukiji Fish Market to see the Tuna Auction!


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