Photo by Yuka Kayamori
I had traveled in Japan previously. It was actually a homestay, or ryugaku as they refer to it in Japanese. Where I homestayed was in Yamanashi prefecture in the quaint little town of Hinoharu in the summer of ’93. I was in high school at the time and it was my first time living in a foreign country, outside of the U.S. so coming to Ueno on that April day six years later was exciting. My heart was throbbing and I was awestruck by the rows of cherry trees blossoming all around me.
This was and is the Japan people imagine, and desire subconsciously, when they travel here. It is certainly the most beautiful time, most splendid season in Japan. Everything is starting anew. The Japanese have a myriad of expressions for cherry blossoms, or sakura, or saku, to blossom, of which all come alive as does Ueno in April.
Here I was in Ueno Park, having just graduated from university and ready to find a job and work in Japan. I was like numerous Japanese youngsters who had arrived in Ueno on a shinkansen and was enraptured in the cherry blossoms in the gigantic metropolis of Tokyo.
Ueno Park houses not only the Ueno Zoo, with its array of animals, including Rinrin, Kankan, Feifei and other cute panda bears, but a number of popular museums such as the Tokyo National Museum and the National Museum of Western Art. Ueno was an important part of town for the Tokugawa family, one of the most powerful families during the Edo period and it is said that the spirit of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first shogun of that period, lies in Ueno Toshogu Shrine.
Ueno Park used to be a mecca for homeless and drug dealers according to some Japanese friends but on this day, and other times in which I visited, I only have fond memories of the place and have never encountered any of the riffraff.
To me Ueno was the starting point of my new life in Tokyo.
Lived in Tokyo from 1999 – 2009 and calls it his second home. Currently he resides in Oregon and is a Japanese-English translator. He enjoys traveling, learning languages and cuisine. When visiting Japan, he enjoys watching rakugo shows.
*J-E/E-J Translation： http://www.myeyestokyo.jp/translation
*His columns: https://www.myeyestokyo.com/tag/daniel-penso/