Morning had arrived and I was dragging a bit waking up. I was definitely missing the first few days after arriving in Japan, where I could easily wake up at 6am and go all day. I was officially on Japan time just as my trip was wrapping up- perfect.
I got up and did my normal routine- ate my yogurt with Frosties, had some coffee, showered, gathered my gear then called home. While I was Facetime’ing with home, I began to notice balloons floating up past my window on the 26th floor. It was amusing to watch them float higher and higher, up past the top of the Tokyo Government Building (and its’ 48 floors) and then off into the far distant blue. Curious as to where the balloons came from, I peered out my window down to the street far below and saw some sort of celebration coming to an end. To mark the end of it, they released the balloons. Definitely a fun sight the to start the day with.
After hanging up with home, I finished my coffee and decided upon my first destination of the day, Ueno, and the open air alley market next to Ueno Station called Ameya-yokocho, or Ameyoko as it’s referred to these days. (The name “Ameya-yokocho” I guess means “candy alley” or something like that. And not to give anything away now, but I didn’t really see too much candy there. Guess I should have looked harder).
From Shinjuku Station, I caught the Chuo Rapid to Tokyo Station where I transferred to the Yamanote line heading north. (This might not really have been the fastest way there but it seemed like it on the map.) I got off the train at the south end of the market, at Okachimachi Station. The next stop, Ueno Station, would have put me at what I guess is the official entrance to Ameyoko, but I decided to be crazy and do it backwards.
(Side Note: Most of Tokyo is still fairly unknown to me. In all my trips to Tokyo I really haven’t been able to spend the amount of time I’d like to exploring it, the city is just too big. It would require living there and that just hasn’t worked out… yet. So today, I knew I wouldn’t get to see very much of the mega-city but I at least I would finally get to a couple spots I hadn’t yet been to.)
After exiting Okachimachi station, I was a little disoriented but quickly got myself pointed in the right direction. The streets here were wet, which surprised me. It must have rained in Ueno while I was enroute. The strange thing was, the trains that I rode to to Ueno were all above ground and I never saw it rain. In any case, it was crazy humid and seemed like it would start raining again soon.
The walk up from the station was short and I had to stop and wait at the stoplight before crossing to the south entrance of Ameyoko. There were a few people out but it wasn’t crowded by any means, much less crowded than I was expecting it to be.
Once the light changed, I crossed and entered into the market. All in all, I found it to be alright. I guess I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, maybe something more like Nishiki Market? As I walked along, I thought about the ongoing conversation my wife and I have about what tourist do when they come to Los Angeles, what makes something worth seeing.
Historically, Ameyoko was a black market after World War II but walking through it now, I didn’t really get any sense of that history. I will say though that it has a charm that made me glad I was there. We definitely don’t have anything like it back home. I read that there are something like 180 shops in the market with another part that I didn’t see which has more upscale shops.
Not too far in, I came upon a stand set up underneath the cover of the overhead JR train tracks. They were cooking and selling what I think was Imagawayaki with an Okonomiyaki inspired filling (not sure why I didn’t ask what it was actually called as I have seen it before but never tried it). Deciding that I needed and snack, I ordered one, but had him leave off the mayonnaise. It was fun watching him cook and even better when I got to eat.
As I waited for my food, it started raining again, so after getting my food, I moved underneath the tracks to eat. Off in the opposite direction of the stand, in the not too far distance, I could see the new Tokyo Sky Tree still under construction. (It’s open now so I’ll have to go see it next time.) I do love towers and the amazing views they offer, especially here in Tokyo.
After about 10 minutes, the rain let up so off I went. I didn’t make too far up the market though before the rain hit again, this time much harder than before. I decided to get out of the rain and randomly ended up taking cover at a Shawarma stand which worked out great since I was still hungry after my first snack.
I ordered a Shawarma wrap and drink from the man behind the counter. He wasn’t Japanese, and didn’t seem at all interested in attempting to have any sort of conversation other than taking my order. I was curious as to why/how he ended up in Japan and if he owned this stand or what his whole story was. However, I suppose I’ll never know. Regardless of all that, the food I got was outstanding and really hit the spot.
The rain continued for quite a while this time, so after I finished eating, I had a good amount of time to just sit and watch the people stroll by, under their umbrellas. This spot would’ve been an amazing place to sit for the entire day and just people watch.
It was about 3pm by the time the rain finally stopped, and I decided it was time to to get a move on. So, I threw my camera bag over my shoulder and continued on.
If only I wore ties.
It didn’t take me too much longer to make it to the other end of the market. Overall I enjoyed it and was glad I came, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of the must see list of Tokyo spots. However, if I lived in Tokyo, it would be a place I’d return to from time to time, just for the people watching. And Shwarma.
At the north entrance to Ameyoko, there is, surprise (not), Yodobashi Camera perched on the corner! And, as I was extremely hot (again) I wandered inside to get out of the heat. I spent maybe 30 minutes inside Yodobashi, looking at new ball heads for my tripod, playing with some cameras and cooling down before I made my way back out to the street.
The next stop of the day was Tokyo Tower, in hopes that I’d be able to catch a nice sunset. It was another tourist spot that I had yet to see in all my past trips to Tokyo and to get there I needed to catch the Yamanote line south to Hamamatsucho Station. I decided to wander the main street back to the station I started from, Okachimachi and see just a little bit more of Ueno on my way. The sun was now starting to poke out from behind the clouds and I started to think that just maybe, I might get to see a nice sunset from Tokyo Tower.