day 2 – moomin park, akihabara, and sakura (kinda)

Tuesday found us waking up early again, though not as early as Monday, this time getting up closer to 7.  We again lounged around for a few hours, waking up and planning for the day.  Nick was to land around 5:15pm and we would meet him at the bus stop.  We stopped at Oven Fresh Kitchen for breakfast, each getting a few baked goods and relaxing for a bit before catching our train to Moomin Park.

I had discovered Moomin Park from a Youtube channel Texan in Tokyo (no longer uploading videos, but very informative and amusing) and this video.  I like free things, and this looked adorable as well.  The train ride was about 30 minutes and we were definitely outside of the touristy part of Japan, which I was very much a fan of.

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Google maps led us right to the park (unlike our journey to our Airbnb the first time).  And I was not disappointed by all the buildings.  We had to remove our shoes to enter each building, which proved a bit time consuming with tie-on shoes.  At one point we entered a no shoe area but then went upstairs where people were wearing shoes.  It was a bit painful on the rocky concrete, but we couldn’t be bothered to go down to get our shoes until we were ready to leave.  I’m going to post a ton of pictures, rather than trying to explain this place.  If given the opportunity, I highly recommend a stop here.

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We took a slightly different route back to the train station, stopping at our first convenience store (otherwise known as “konbini”), Lawson Family, for lunch.  When we exited, we discovered a temple across the street.  We hung around a bit, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and koi pond.  I love walking around because you discover so much about a place that you would miss by driving through.

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We had decided to head to Akihabara while we waited for Nick to arrive.  We traveled for an hour and a half, and easily made our way there.  Except when we tried to exit the last train station.  I was following the signs to the exit and ended up right back on the platform we had arrived at.  Fortunately I figured out my mistake before making another circle.

And oh, then we arrived at the Japan that most people think of.  Buildings with advertisements everywhere and many, many people milling around.  Here are more pictures:

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We were on the lookout for gifts for a few friends and family.  We ended up in a shop that had many cases of figures from all kinds of anime, and other popular shows and movies.  No pictures were allowed but we wandered around for a bit, knowing that there was a perfect gift for Phil somewhere in the building.  We figured out that each case was rented by the seller to display their figures and hope for a purchase.  We finally found the perfect gift for Phil on the basement level (much less packed than the ground floor).  Jason won’t let me unwrap the plastic around Phil’s gift, so I will not post a picture.

We didn’t get far, just the next shop over, before making another stop.  I had been looking for a tripod and this shop looked promising.  It did not have a tripod, but it did have tons of amazing gift ideas on the 5th floor.  I ended up getting gifts for all four of my family members on this floor.  As they are to be surprises, I will not post them here.  But look at this awesome umbrella we got!

so cool

We wandered around a bit more before making our way to Ueno, where our host said there was amazing sakura.  We walked through the street vendors and past this man who had an owl on his arm.  He was advertising the owl cafe, which I’d love to see, but feel is a bit unethical.

i love owls

the pressure is real

Ueno street vendors

We made it to Ueno park but sadly the sakura hasn’t quite bloomed, but we’ll return in a few days when they have.  There were a few that had some blossoms and you could easily spot them by the crowds of people gathered around, taking pictures of and with the tree.

even the manholes are pretty

this looks like it’s in full bloom

in the middle of the city

It was a short jaunt to the next station but when we got off, we were at the southern exit, rather than the northern.  We got lost a few times and at one point a man came up and asked if we needed help.  He then proceeded to guide us through the maze of people to point out the direction we needed to go.  People are so helpful here!  There was actually a sign that instructed Japanese people to help lost tourists.

We finally made it to the Tokyo Shuttle stop and settled down to wait for Nick.  Bus after bus arrived, but no Nick.  We started to worry when we knew he had landed a few hours before but hadn’t made contact.  While Sierra and Jason waited out in the cold, Riley and I went inside one of the nearby stores.  I wanted to find a tripod, and I did!  We made our way back to the bus stop, but still no Nick.

We finally made contact and he had arrived at the southern exit, where we had originally been!  We got lost again, and again were helped by a friendly Japanese person, who said we needed to go back the way we came.  Oh man, theme of the trip.

We had indeed passed right by the turn in our hurry and finally made contact with Nick!  Poor guy hadn’t been able to connect to the airport WiFi and wasn’t able to tell us when he boarded the bus.  The Tokyo Shuttle had apparently been very booked up so he took another bus.

look, it’s a Nick!

We decided to take the wrong/right way back home to avoid the crush of people and made it to our station by about 9:30pm.  Exiting the station, we stood around for a bit before deciding to go to McDonald’s.  We ate our meal, then returned to our abode, exhausted, but happy.

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