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ueno park and akihabara electric town

2012-10-24 - 4:07 p.m.

What a difference a day makes. From Tuesday's gloomy rain to Wednesday's glorious clear blue day. I headed out to Ueno Park, which I found with surprisingly little trouble, even though the directions made reference to walking behind a MacDonald's -- no, not the FIRST MacDonald's you see when you get out of the train station. The second one a couple blocks over. But he wrote the instructions in 2004, and maybe there wasn't a MacDonald's on EVERY block in Tokyo then. Oh wait. Yes, there was. Anyway, I got there.

I was hoping for the Azure-winged Magpie, but it was too windy for any wild decent birds. Mostly the usual suspects, but no pygmy woodpeckers or white-eyes, and Japanese Great Tit was thin on the ground, although I did see one very well. Well, there were some nice male Pintails on the water, but it's a long way to come go for a pintail.

I strolled around the park and encountered a variety of shrines and temples -- one of them promised good fortune (and it also smelled extremely good), and another one boasted that it held a flame that had been lit by the atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima that some guy found while searching for a relative who had been killed and supposedly he actually kept it going for 10 years before he thought about making it into a shrine against atomic weapons.

It's a good thing the tiny flame is sheltered by the wind under this dove frame, because otherwise i think it would have blown out a long, long time ago.

At some point, I entered the Ueno Zoo, which boasts the 40th anniversary of having Giant Pandas on display, complete with a building holding the taxidermied remains of the first pair. Yikes. The live pandas were also out, munching placidly on bamboo and taking no notice of the crowd. The zoo holds some very fine aviaries, including a good collection of Japanese birds. Not having a Japanese bird book, I snapped photos of some of the signs and then studied the birds on display.

The exotic birds were pretty good too, including a huge tropical house with a trio of Toco Toucans in it. There was a colony breeding display of Fischer's Lovebirds, and one of the pairs was, um, extremely vigorous. Let's just say that I didn't know that a male Fischer's Lovebird could keep humping that long. Despite the fine displays, I got relatively few decent pictures. Considering the cost of the birds, it's no wonder that many of them are under glass that is also embedded with some sort of security wire.

At some point, I realized that I had seen everything except the Red Panda and, as I wondered where it could possibly be, I looked up and realized that it was snoozing overhead. Time to go.

I headed one stop down to the Akibahara Electric Town. I had no intention of buying anything, and most stuff I don't even know what it is anyway. I mainly just wanted to check out the freaks. However, it must have been too early in the evening, because almost everyone in costume was a professional handing out flyers for whatever, and 9 out of 10 of 'em were in maid costumes. Once in a while one of those dolls with long blond doll hair walked by, and they seemed to be real. A guy came by clattering with all kinds of chains. But that's about it. Maybe there was a better show later, but I was getting a bit sleepy, so I headed back to cook some dinner and put my feet up. Also, I never found the freak costume shop that was supposed to be around there. Will have to look up better directions and hope I'll be able to stay awake a bit longer by the weekend.

I was unreasonably pleased with myself that I never really got lost all day and had no trouble whatsoever finding the right train, even though I'd never been in this area before. Probably means I'll get way lost today. Pray for me.

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