Up early and off to Ueno Park. Breakfast at Mr. Donut! We walked to the Shinobazo pond at the south end of Ueno Park; Keith photographed ducks (Mergansers?), cranes and gulls. Then we split up; Keith to the Ueno Park Zoo (red pandas, porcupine, storks, spoonbills, ibis, vireo, king fisher, mandarin ducks, and sea eagles) and Pete and Anne off to the Tokyo National Museum. On the way we passed hundreds of Tokyo revelers who staked out their claims beneath the cherry trees that were just beginning to bloom. The locals lay down plastic tarps under the cherry blossoms and unveil their picnic morsels which also include plenty of beer, sake or whiskey and begin to celebrate.
Pete and Anne first visited the Horyu-ji museum of Buddhist 7th century art. The emperor Tokugawa expropriated the treasures from the Horyu temple in Nara in the early 1600s. Museum artifacts include sculpture, scrolls, masks; Pete enjoyed the scroll calligraphy for its clarity. Next door is the Honkan or main Japanese gallery which traces Japanese history of art from the Jomon period of 5th century B.C. to the Meiji dynasty. Exhibits feature the rise of Buddhism and the 8th - 12th centuries Heian period where characteristic samurai swords and warrior armor are on display. Some rooms are devoted to the art of the tea ceremony, folding screens, painting and calligraphy, the lacquer arts and Edo period fashion. Anne enjoyed the National Treasure Gallery displaying rotating art treasures each month; this month’s treasure is a large 4-part screen from the Edo period depicting celebrants under the cherry blossoms, dancing and playing musical instruments. We walked through the garden behind the main museum noting the camellias and cherry blossoms are just about to burst into bloom.
We set out for lunch at Nigoriguro okonomiyaki cafe. Peter attempted to cook okonomiyaki over a very hot plate scraping the potato mixture (Japanese mountain taro) and filling the center the egg batter. He needed a little help from a friend who came to his rescue.
We hopped on the JR to Tokyo Station and walked toward the Imperial Palace gardens. Tokyo station itself is an enormous Victorian style brick building and is undergoing renovation with new copper roofs, white molding, and a clean facade. The Imperial Palace gardens are the remains of the innermost defense circle of the original Edo period castle and the official residence of the Tokugawa shoguns between 1603 and 1867. We strolled the gardens enjoying budding cherry blossoms, moats, swans, camellias, but most of all we were amazed by the the renovated rampart walls, an enormous ongoing project involving millions of tons of reinforced rock.
For dinner we wandered over the Katsuyoshi restaurant which features Tonkatsu style fried pork along with Kim chi condiments, rice and cabbage. Delicious.