Originally published on 2019/09/23

It was a three-day weekend, so I decided to visit Ueno Park. I had only read about and heard about it a few times — but enough to whet my appetite and color me intrigued.

I told myself to be early to see the pandas, but I rolled out of my apartment around 11 a.m. No biggie, I told myself. I’ll just make sure to see the pandas first.

I got to the park in an hour or so and there were so many people! It’s right outside Ueno Station, and it was huge. Wide. Spacious. Filled with anxiety-inducing crowds.

In any case, I was thrilled to be in a space with so many museums and Japan’s oldest zoo.

As usual, I got lost and didn’t know where to buy the ticket to see the panda. I backtracked and went to the booth selling museum tickets and decided I also wanted to check out the Dinosaur Exhibit 2019 at the National Museum of Nature and Science.

The old guy at the counter told me I could get the ticket at the zoo. With my Dino Exhibit ticket, I went looking for the zoo, walking by rows of tents where many people were selling food and drinks.

I found the park and paid 600 yen for the entrance fee. Seeing the pandas was the first thing I did when I got inside…and I did that because I was carried away by the push of the crowd. And suddenly, there were stripped cones and poles for the panda line, and so it only felt natural for me to go there.

The pandas were so cute…and really far away. And I only had like a minute or two to see them. They were also sleeping.

Because, of course, sleep is important.

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After that, I went around the zoo and looked at the other animals. There were lots of monkeys and birds (and a pheasant from Palawan, Philippines!), and I was surprised to learn that they had bigger animals like giraffes, gorillas, polar bears, a lion, and a tiger.

The lion wasn’t around because he had to get his tail amputated. I don’t know what happened, but he was no-show. The tiger couldn’t give a shit about the audience and mostly sat around.

I didn’t get to see the tapir because I got lost multiple times and went around in circles trying to find the polar bears. I managed to find their enclosure by accident and saw them for a few minutes before they decided they had enough of gawking people and disappeared into their cave.

I also saw elephants that pooped and peeped in front of a bunch of people who laughed and said, “Kawaii!”

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I was planning to have lunch at Ameyoko (Ameya Yokocho), but I wasn’t finished going around the zoo because, apparently, there was still the West area of the zoo with a vivarium and a pond.

It was already around 3 p.m., so I had to zoom in and out of the western area. After huffing and wheezing up the bridge back to the eastern area, I mistakenly lined up to see the pandas. Another case of losing my way. (To be fair, the line was extremely long, so I didn’t see where it was going to. I thought it was towards the exit.)

I finally got my brain cells working again and realized I didn’t have to queue up for the exit. So, I was out and it was time to find the museum for the dinosaur exhibit because I didn’t want to go back to Ueno the next day.

I was tired, by shoulders ached, my feet were sore, but I didn’t want my 1,600-yen ticket to go to waste.

Again, I went around in circles looking for the museum, but it didn’t take long this time. It was close to the tent-filled grounds, and there were staff members in blue jumpsuits at the special exhibit entrance, next to the regular entrance with a train model.

Most of the posters were in Japanese, so I coughed up 550 yen for the audio tour in English. (It was the same price for an audio tour in Japanese anyway.) So, I went around, looking at the holotypes of dino bones wearing a headset, with a walkie-talkie around my neck.

It was a good experience, though, and I got to see more replicas of bones and teeth than I ever wanted in my life, but it was educational and awe-inspiring.

After the tour, I went to Ameyoko in hopes of finding backpacks, but I couldn’t find one I liked the look and price off, so I bought grapes for 500 yen instead. They reminded me of the abundance of fruits in the Philippines and how I took that for granted. I don’t know why I wanted to torture myself with that thought.

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Dinner was a cheese kebab along the streets, with the barker sometimes being too enthusiastic (read: too forward and assertive with some people passing by) with his job. I didn’t get roped in by his forwardness, though, because I stopped by the kebab booth willingly.

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Most of the places I saw were more fit for families (or at least more than one solo traveler), and this one didn’t require a lot of Japanese and gestures. It was pretty big, though, and I was satisfied with it.

There was this old guy sitting nearby drinking water, and the owner of the shop gave him a kebab meal. That was really nice of him.

Anyway, I got home not too late, maybe 8 going on 9 p.m. I had been planning to visit the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa, but it was too late, and I was too tired, so I jetted off home and slept off my exhaustion.

Jam Guibone

Hello! I am Jam. Welcome to my blog! I initially started this to document my adventures while working in Japan as an ALT under the JET Programme. I hope all the information here will be useful to you, whether or not you're also a JET, ALT, or just someone traveling abroad.

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