Dateline: November 12, 2008
Now I eat humble pie…
Leaving the hotel in the morning we couldn’t help but notice all the police officers working the intersections directing traffic. What made it odd was they were doing so even though all the signals were still working; in other words, they were directing traffic and pedestrians with the traffic signals. Strange indeed.
Since we had a full slate for the day, we got breakfast at Andersen again and went out the side door which is closer to the elevator and hill we need to take to get to the accessible entrance. As soon as we stepped foot out the door, the small one-way side street in front of us filled with a flock of police motorcycles, followed by a few police cars, a convoy of shiny black vehicles, a big police van, and a few more police cars. Clearly someone important was making their way through Ueno in this motorcade, but there were no obvious indications as to who that was.
After the motorcade had passed and the police officer that stopped us after exiting the station allowed us to continue, we crossed the street and went the 20 meters to the hill’s elevator only to find it, and the stairs beside it, still cordoned off by the police. Well … now what? They were directing us to the elevator right beside Bamboo Garden which we had surmised from looking at it on the station platform that it took you right up to Ueno Park. Good stuff, we could grab that and walk through the park for a litle ways to get to the station entrance.
Inside the elevator, a lady with what seemed like a New York Jewish accent mentioned the convoy was the King and Queen of Spain who were in town for some sightseeing. Actually, she said “the same reason as you” when I asked if she knew what they were doing in Tokyo; as far as I was aware, we weren’t there for any diplomatic meetings, so it must have been sightseeing. Or something.
Update Turns out, at least one of the things they were there for was to see some robotics demonstrations at Tsukuba University.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what’s up with the section title, just watch this. I had that stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
While waiting for the elevator, we met Nicolette from Georgia. The three of us strolled through the park talking about touristy stuff and we helped her with some directions to the various buildings in Ueno Park. Which happens to also be where we found a quiet corner to munch on our breakfast (good thing we got it to go, otherwise we would’ve missed royalty). As we ate, we were passed by what must have been a dozen, if not more, groups of school kids coming to the park from Ueno Station.
Update: I completely forgot to mention that part of what we talked about with Nicolette was the level of accessibility in Japan. She was serving in Iraq where she was injured by an explosion in 2003, after which she spent three years in a wheelchair. You can read more in an article about an outing of the Wounded Warriors Project.
Adventures in Tokyo (Station)
Before heading off to Kamakura, today’s sightseeing spot, we went to Tokyo Station to reserve our Shinkansen tickets for Friday. We went back to where we got the Rail Passes earlier in the week and got directed over to the Station Master’s Office as all the non-smoking seats were sold out and we needed a bit of a special handwritten ticket process to accommodate the wheelchair as a result. In the Station Master’s Office, we sat on some old furniture located in an adjacent waiting room. In a somewhat shocking moment, the Station Master pronounced our last name correctly on the first try; that hardly ever happens, but almost everyone that spoke it during the trip got it right.
We bought day pass for the Enoden which is a cool little line that runs through town with stations near a bunch of the interesting things to see. Just like earlier this morning in Ueno, there were tons of school kids all over the place which made the small stations fairly crowded.
We passed a temple and garden on the way to Daibutsu. This is one of a number of Giant Bhudda in Japan, standing 13.35 meters tall. Luckily, since the weather wasn’t the greatest, there weren’t too many people at the site so it didn’t feel crowded. During our time admiring the scale of the statue, a worker came out and replaced the incense that sat just in front. I’ve still yet to figure out what the deal is with the windows at the back, though.
We got back on the Enoden and continued down to the end of the line. Along the way, the scenery changed from that of a small mountain town to more of a “big-city” atmosphere. By the time we hit Fujisawa station (which is where we grabbed a train back to Ueno), we were in the midst of tallish office towers and big department stores. The train also ran along the ocean for a little while and at one point the train went down the middle of a narrow street, almost clipping a delivery truck that tried to squeeze its way through.