More photos of Ueno and Ameyokocho on that hot October afternoon a few weeks ago! This place really is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tokyo, both for domestic and foreign visitors to Tokyo. The shopping is in my opinion second to none in Tokyo, both in terms of prices and in variation. There’s a huge variety of shops and many little arcades and malls nestled among the restaurants and hidden under the train tracks. This is also where quite a few different genres of subcultures converge for their shopping needs, as you will see anyone from sports team freaks to old men trying out golf jackets to rockabilly boys, punks, skaters, vintage military gear lovers and many more. The area is right between Ueno and Akihabara which means that you could easily spend a couple of days slowly browsing your way from one end of to the other. The first photo is of one of the three different tourist bus lines heading out from Ueno station and covering the area, a great way to see the city if you are a tired of walking around. The bus is called Megurin.
It is the last day of October and the word most suited to describe this month would probably be “hot”. We had the highest October temperature ever recorded in Tokyo, earlier in the month, and I am still rolling up my shirt sleeves when stepping outside. On one of those really hot days, as the sun was setting, I took a quickie walking photo tour of the colorful Ueno/Ameyokocho area. Starting from in front of Ueno JR Station, the shopping streets here are full of shops, street stalls, restaurants, hotels, cafes and even the odd house of ill repute. The third and second photo from the end should be of special interest to the casual tourist, as it shows one of the restaurants of the biggest tempura chain in Japan, Tendon Tenya. Apart from cheap and good tempura it also serves soba and udon, and it is a cost effective way of experiencing these three Japanese specialities. The portions are larger than the average Japanese fast food restaurant’s as well. You can see their mouth watering official web site here. They also have a shop in Bangkok if you want to try Japanese food in Thailand.
All through New Year’s there’s a tremendous amount of emergency vehicles, police officers, officials, public workers and men and women in uniform standing by to keep Tokyo safe. Here’s a few of the random snaps I got in and around Asakusa and Ueno on New Year’s Night. Not the best quality shots but at least bloggable. By the way, isn’t the fire department Kumade (熊手) fantastic? I don’t think I have ever seen one like this! Stay safe in 2013 everyone!
One of the many ceremonies held around New Year in Japanese shinto shrines is the jouka (浄火), the holy fire. It is a ritual burning of holy items, such as the prayer slips, the votive plates, any old material related to the gods or statues, votive arrows, decorations that have been blessed etc. The ritual is called Otakiage (お焚きあげ). The basic rule is that since everything you buy at a shrine is blessed it needs to be ritually burned and never thrown away with common garbage. There is also a time limit to most of the things you buy, it should be burned within a year or so, before the holy charm is used up and ceases to be effective. This is one of the reasons you see so many Japanese shop at shrines but you never see the stuff piling up in homes and very little of it ever reaches the antique markets. At New Year’s Eve, many people bring their old charms and decorations to the shrine and leave it with the attendants who man the holy fires. I took these photos of an attendant at the Shitaya Shrine in Tokyo’s Ueno district. A young handsome man and a big roaring fire, very photogenic!
So if you ever need to throw something from a shrine away and you are too far from the shrine to go there yourself, you might consider just mailing them the thing and asking them to burn it for you! I think a lot of tourists get home with some holy trinkets in their pockets after a trip to Japan. Or you could just keep it because it is beautiful, like I do!