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JapanaTour: Otaku Tourist part two

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I love the smell of retcon in the afternoon. 

I've opted to use 'tourist' instead of 'pilgrimage' from now on, mainly because not all of the places I feel I should talk about really count as an otaku pilgrimage. Not that it really matters, but it makes me feel better about it! 

Three more places to talk about this week, which includes pandering over Ueno Zoo, doing as Krauser did at the Tokyo Tower, and finally winding down at the home of the Japanese emperor; the Imperial Palace. You've definitely got to do the sights while you are there, even if you plan to spend your entire holiday in Akihabara! 

Come, child of man, to the other side!

Ueno Zoo, the paradise for panda otaku all across the globe! It is in fact Japan's oldest zoo, opening back in 1882, and is a whopping 35 acres in size. Interestingly, the zoo also holds Japan's very first monorail, which can be used to travel from one side of the zoo to the other. 

It's relatively simple to get here, but be wary of where you will end up if you decide to leave the zoo from the opposite entrance. Also, the zoo is closed every Monday, so don't plan on showing up then! You'll want to hunt down the following trains: 

  • From Shinjuku station, take the JR Yamanote line to Ueno station (about 15 minutes, it's just a few stations before Akihabara).  
  • From Tokyo station, take the JR Yamanote line to Ueno station (about 5 minutes). 

Fun Fact Time!

Did you know that Ueno Zoo is very famous for it's pandas? Pandas are often given to Japan from China as a token of peace and to strengthen relations, and have proven to be very popular amongst visitors to the zoo. Famously, the giant panda known as Ling Ling passed away in 2008, leaving Ueno Zoo without a panda exhibit for the first time since the seventies. However, if you plan to visit the zoo in the near future, you'll get to see two! The new pandas, known as Līlī and Shinshin, were brought into the zoo in 2011. 

Even if you feel that the ¥600 entry fee isn't worth it for the animals alone, I think I could honestly say that the cost of entry is worth it for the views, let alone the exhibits. It truly is a beautiful place, and it's a great location to visit if you just want to spend a day winding down and chilling out. You'll certainly want to take a camera, so that you can remind yourself in the future about the amazing sights.

The panda exhibit is no doubt the most popular amongst the Japanese, but there are certainly plenty of other animals to see. Other interesting animals on display include gorillas, hippos, white rhinoceros, tigers, lions and elephants. Oh, and a polar bear. This is just the tip of the iceberg really, as there are a whopping 464 different species of animal here!

There's a reason for the scenic picture above, rather than just snapping a photo of the next location itself, and that's pretty much because you can't. You'd have to be trying pretty hard or have some super camera to take a photo of the Tokyo Tower in it's entirety, without including the surroundings! Still, with surroundings like that in the picture above, who would mind?

  • From Shinjuku station, take the JR Yamanote line to Hamamatsuchō station (about 25 minutes).
  • From Tokyo station, take the JR Yamanote line to Hamamatsuchō station (about 5 minutes). 

There will be a short walk from the station to the tower, so be prepared to walk a little uphill. I could tell you directions, but besides the signposts, you could just look up and walk towards it! The price isn't as cheap as some of the other towers and buildings you can climb, costing a pretty hefty ¥1420. Still, it's pretty darn iconic, so it's up to you to decide whether the view is worth it!

Fun Fact Time!

Did you know that at the foot of the tower you can find a building known as FootTown? In here, you can find an aquarium, restaurants and a few museums. You can visit the Guinness World Records Museum Tokyo, which displays memorabilia relating to some weird and wonderful records, as well as the Tokyo Tower Wax Museum, which I hear is like that one film

While you'll be up there for the view, there are souvenir shops and other interesting things in the observation deck. There are also frequent events held at the tower, usually for advertising particular products or celebrations. I was quite surprised to find a Pokémon Black/White event being held when I visited, but what even will be on, if any, is really just down to luck. You can't really plan for it, but you can check it out nearer the time just in case! A cool feature of the observation deck is that there are a few glass panels on the floor in some places, meaning you get to jump on it and terrify those around. Still, the views are pretty good if you aren't squeamish! 

The last place on today's list is the Imperial Palace, the residence of the Emperor himself. If you thought the last two places were full of beautiful scenery, this one will probably blow you away! Well, in person anyway. You can get a guided tour of this place absolutely free, and what's more, you get a device for English commentary! No excuse for not visiting! 

  • From Shinjuku station, take the JR Yamanote line to Tokyo station (about 20 minutes, though there will be another ten minute or so walk from the station to the palace).  

If you want to go, you will have to go here and book your tickets in advance, as they won't let you in without them. You will then need to take your reservation details to the relevant gate (there are many gates surrounding the palace) where you will be escorted to the waiting area for when the tour starts. 

Fun Fact Time!

Did you know that there are only two days in which you can enter the inner palace grounds? The first is on January 2nd, which serves as a new year greeting, and December 23rd, which is the Emperor's birthday. 

There will always be a set route on the tour, but depending on when you go, there are extra things you can see. If you go on any day that isn't a holiday, Monday or Friday, you will be able to visit the East Gardens, which is certainly worth checking out if you have the time. Again, doing so is free, and the lush scenery away from the concrete city around it is certainly something you have to see for yourselves. It's not a bad history lesson either!

That brings us to a close, so I hope you enjoyed this somewhat scenic look at Japan. If you want to write about your own experiences, have any further questions or even have some tips of your own, leave them in the comments below! 


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Chris Walden
Chris WaldenContributor   gamer profile

Some say that he can breathe Some say that he can jump over a All we know is that he's Brittanian, and that we are all He's on Twitter though: more + disclosures


 



Filed under... #Japanator Original #JapanaTour #otaku culture #top stories #Travel guide

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