Tuesday, 8 May 2012

More Tokyo

The plan was to then get the subway to Ueno but instead we were feeling energetic and decided to walk. A very interesting walk through narrow residential streets with a total absence of parked cars anywhere. It seems that on street parking is totally illegal so if  any of the residents want to own a car they have to park under in a space under their apartment block or in one of the carparking facilities that have a lift to get your car up and down from street level.

Finally we reached Ueno Park which was our destination. Ueno hill was the site of the last-ditch defence of the Tokkugawa shogunate in 1868. When they were defeated by the imperial army  the Hill was tranformed into Tokyos first public park. It as temples, shrines, a boating lake, buskers, a zoo and cafes. At the south end of the park there are hundreds of homeless men who live in cardboard and plastc tarpaulin shelters. Apparently many are failed businessmen who went bust in Japan's financial crisis. We saw about 300 hundred of them queueing for a lunchtime handout of food in a corner of the park from what seemed to be a religious organisation as their were a couple of musicians singing what sounded like religious songs. They had to line up in a quasi-military fashion and walk in step with each other when called forward in groups. It looked very humiliating and very sad. Not a smile among them. It clashes strongly with the general prosperity that we have seen everywhere despite the Japanese economy having effectively been in recession for years. Everywhere is spotlessly clean and the roads and footpaths are in excellent repair, there are no empty shops and everyone except the homeless are very well dressed and seem to be spending plenty of money.

We lunched in a cafe just outside the park and then went to the National Museum which we wandered round until we were suffering from culture overload and then headed back to the hotel via a cafe where we had coffees for the equivalent of $7.00 each.

In the evening we went for a walk along the Sumida River along a lit tree lined path. There were a few other walkers and half a dozen joggers. Under one of the bridges were several down and outs settling into their cardboard box tents for the night with their shoes neatly placed outside. After eating we walked to the Sensouji Temple again to see it floodlit. Very impressive, but it's hard to reconcile the fact that one block from the wealthy Buddhist worshippers in their suits and expensive dresses and accessories are people living in cardboard boxes.

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