Tokyo in Blossom
It takes about and hour and a half to get to Tokyo from Tokai, so I made us a picnic tea to eat on the train, which we washed down with a can of Kirin and followed up with a refreshing little nap (on my part at least!). Ueno is an enormous railway station, but already starting to become comfortingly familiar, and this time it was totally festooned with blossoms. Artificial pink and white blooms hang from every corner, pink and white flags abound, and in the middle of the main entrance is a pair of huge plush pandas sat under an equally huge artificial cherry blossom.
Saturday dawned mild and sunny, and I bravely donned a summer dress (and tights and cardigan and coat) for my first blossom viewing. Ueno park is right next to the huge railway station, and yet manages what the best city parks do, creating a beautiful oasis somehow separated from and at the same time surrounded by noise and chaos. Despite the earliness of our visit, a few cherry trees were in full beautiful blossom. The Japanese make a real celebration of the start of each new season, and in their Spring festivities they really excel. Under every single cherry tree in Ueno park sat a party of people, of all ages and backgrounds, gathered round on picnic blankets and plastic sheets, celebrating the coming of spring. It is difficult to relate exactly how exciting and joyful the atmosphere is amongst those beautiful trees. The picnics themselves seem to involve a dizzying array of delicious (and less delicious, in my opinion) foods, both hot and cold. Unlike in the UK, when a picnic is either cold finger food or a spontaneous barbecue, in Ueno, the picnickers were eating all sorts of rice snacks, hot soups, fried noodles, even using portable grills to prepare fresh tako-yaki (fried dough balls stuffed with pieces of octopus). The scrumptious smell of the picnics only added to the overall effect.