Today, I was greeted by Bucky in full Adidas tracksuit garb.
No, wait, let me start over…
Today, Xara and I went down to Shinjuku station, the busiest train station on the planet with over three and a half million passengers daily. There, we found one of the Japan Rails offices where I was able to redeem my voucher for an actual Japan Rail Pass. The pass allows the holder to ride many train lines operated by Japan Rails for free, including many of the available Shinkansen trains (bullet trains) which takes passengers to cities farther out from the Tokyo area such as Osaka and Aomori (plus a ton of destinations inbetween).
Locally, the pass works for the Yamanote line and many of the lines that have connections from it. The line we use to go from our apartments to further downtown, the Mita line, does not fall into this category however, so we’ll still need to use Suica cards for that.
Xara and I walked to an art supply store in Shinjuku. One of his friends was looking for Japanese modeling clay which is apparently different than clay back home. I picked up a few useful things for the upcoming Comic Market which should help make our experience at the table and in the lines a little more pleasant.
We dropped off our purchases at the apartment, went to the local katsu place for dinner, and then headed back out to Ueno.
We discovered some cool sights in the area, including a large park with a traditional looking building in the center of a vast field of flora. All around the field was a large pathway. Some smaller stalls dotted the outer edge of the pathway. We walked the path until we neared the source of a lot of commotion… it sounded like a concert hall or a bandshell. After we heard “Let it Go” sung in Japanese, we figured we had to go see what was going on.
We stumbled upon the Ueno Summer Festival, and on stage were a bunch of amateur performances. There were at least a couple hundred people seated around the stage, and a panel of judges was seated front and center. There were roller-skating singing groups, regular singing groups, a singing magic show, and a strange twist on a more traditional performance where most of the performers were wearing panda masks.
You may notice that pandas are a recurring theme. In 1972, the Ueno Zoo received its first giant pandas from China, and has been keeping pandas in residence ever since. For more information, visit the Tokyo Zoo website.
After we had our fill of that, we wandered off to one of the famed Don Quixote stores. There were a lot of unique and dated items (AM/FM tuners for example). I could probably write an entire article about Don Quixote and its wares, but the experience was so overwhelming that I’m pretty sure I blacked out somewhere in the middle and ended up back on the street with no recollection of what happened within the store itself.
That about wrapped it up for us. We headed back for the evening, with no idea what tomorrow will bring.