Tokyo - swans and pandas

There's an advantage in traveling to a destination where you have been before, especially if time is limited. You don't feel this pressure of missing the must-sees - although in Tokyo, it would probably take you at least half a year to visit all the important sights! 
Anyway, we found that there were a lot of great things to do in walking distance of our hotel, so we stayed in the area. 

But first I got up very early (thanks, jet-lag) which left me with ample time to use the WiFi in the hotel lobby. The hotel was opened in 1968 and I am pretty sure they haven't changed a thing here since then...
Passing through a temple on our way, where highschool students were on a field trip. Not just visiting but actually praying in the temple.


On the day of our arrival we had already shortly visited the Ueno Park and this is where we spent most of our day.
That's me with my new Japanese umbrella with UV protection!
First we walked around the big pond. Part of it is covered with lotos flowers, the other half is open for little boats and pedalos. But on every side there are big carps by the shore who stick out their heads and open their mouths as if their were waiting to be fed.
OK, here somobody was actually throwing them some crombs and they got pretty exited!


Hand washing facility.
In front of the temple the food stalls were getting ready for the day. Oli got his first shave ice and me a deep fried chicken skewer.
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for since Thursday: we  rented a swan shaped pedalo!
Cruising around the pond
Cool and cheesy at the same time
Walking on - the park is huge and hold a lot of temples, museums and other attraction. Imthink you could easily spend 3 days to check everything out!
Up,the hill by the next temple: the round shaped tree.
We walked over to a newer vuilding opposite of Ueno Station for a very different view.
The small street left of the "flat iron" building is where we went later that day.
The food displeays just never get old these were hung up vertically which made them look rather surreal.
And there was a Baskin Robbins with all kinds of special flavours which you would never get in the USA.
There's also a baseball field in the park. This is basically the Japanese national sport. Oli showed a surprising lot of knowledge about the game's rules! He's not usually a team sports kind of guy. Turns out he learned it all watching a TV show.
Guess what this is? A police station!
Now here's a special section dedicated to the other national sport of Japan in which everybody participates with a passion: standing in line. Everywhere, for everything.
You think those students waiting for their Starbucks fix are in a long queue? 
Oh no, THIS is the real thing. The line starts in the center of the picture, goes all the way to the left, then turns to come back and dissapears in the trees, to the right.
We were very intrigued and followed the queue. To the left, some official person is stopping the waiting people to leave a gap. Whenever the ones on the right move up, the barrier is opened to let a group through. Again, the line continues to the right, out of the photo, then takes a turn and comes back.
Finally, after what must have been about a kilometer of waiting in line, the people arrive at the Metropolitan Art Museum for a special exhibition in honor of the 300th birthday of a Japanese painter. I wonder how long they have to wait on front of every picture....
Good for us: the zoo entrance was right beside the museum and there was NO line. Shocking, right?
They even have automats for the tickets and we were in very quickly. Starting with the big birds.
Hello vultures!

There's a big tiger cage and at first we saw no animal - until we walked around and found the tiger chilling right by one of the windows. If there was no glass, I'd be concerned for the kids...
People trying to spot a gorilla...
Photo time! The pandas are one of the zoo's big attractions.
Time for melon cream soda. Yes, in case you were wondering: we had ice cream and sweets all day. What good is it being a grown up if you can't eat like a kid?
I wonder if the ice bears didn't find it a bit too hot.
Macacas - this was one of the biggest groups of animals and also a very active one.
Finally we succumbed to the Japanese culture and stood in line ourselves for a ride in the monorail, a hanging train. It was basically waiting for 30 minutes and then a ride of 2 minutes. Also, it's much more spectacular from the outside than the inside.
There were a lot of animals on display and I won't bore you with a list or pictures of them all.
But here are lemurs - they are fun to watch!
Did you know that flamingos have a rather strong "smell"?
The pelican pond
The monorail that connects the two parts of the zoo.
Have you ever been to the Louvre and tried to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa behind hordes of Japanese tourists? Same here with the pandas! Only that a panda is considerably bigger than that painting. 
But who cares - in and around the zoo there are other possibilities to see pandas. You can even eat them! Here's a machine that makes panda waffles...
A panda letterbox!
Panda bread, panda brioches, panda water....
Enough with the pandas for a moment - let's go shopping! Not in the big stores like the day before but a small streets with a market atmosphere and hundreds of little shops.
As it is the custom, there's a lot of yelling going on to sell those goods.
We were not alone...
And if ever I need a döner kebab, I know know where to find them!
The cheap store Don Quixote - so many colors, products and noises! After half an hour or so I had to leave before I went crazy...
Another "only in Japan" moment: many brands will have products that are produced especially for the Japanese market, like this cherry blossom Pepsi.
We had been walking for nearly 10 hours by then and really needed some rest. Fortunately this was still within 15 minutes of our hotel.

The hotel has it's own little onsen (hot spring bath) on the top floor, an excellent way to relax after a long day like this. We both went to soak in the hot water - separately of course in a women's and men's bath, since everybody is getting naked for this. Sorry, no pictures :-)