A Walk from Akihabara to Ueno Park, Tokyo


For over 50 years, Akihabara has been known as Electric Town. A black market in electrical goods sprang up here after World War II, starting out with radios, later moving on to TVs, fridges and washing machines and now it is mostly computer and mobile accessories, software, video games and anime stuff.


We went into this Sega building which is packed with arcade games, including three whole floors of UFO Catchers. (UFO Catchers are those silly machines where you try in vain to pick up a toy or prize with a mechanical two pronged robot arm with pathetic gripping power and drop it into the chute).

Sega Game CentreUFO Catchers

After losing a few hundred Yen here, we wandered off in the direction of the Kanda River where some brave guys were jet-skiing in the rather smelly water.

Kandagawa, Tokyo

The river might have been grubby but the street was spotless, as if the tarmac had just been vacuumed.

Spotless street in Tokyo

Close to Ochanomizu station is St. Nikolai Cathedral. It is rather strange to see a Russian style church in the middle of Tokyo. The original church was built by the Russians in the 1890s at a time when Russia was hoping to extend its influence into Japan. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 put paid to that but the Japanese Orthodox church lives on, an organization with about 30,000 members. The current building dates from the 1920s as the original was destroyed in the Tokyo earthquake of 1923.

St Nikorai Cathedral, Tokyo

Crossing back over the Kanda River we popped into a Confucian shrine called Yushima Seido and, not far away, another shrine called Yushima Tenjin. The latter, pictured on the right was founded in 1355. This shrine is famous for its plum trees and in Spring each year, the Plum Festival draws big crowds.

Gate to Yushima SeidoYushima Tenjin

Tokyo is a relatively low-rise city compared to many Asian capitals and two-storey homes can still be found even in the central parts of the city.

Two storey house in central Tokyo

Ueno Park is worth visiting. There is a large lotus pond, a boating lake, some museums and a zoo.

Lotus Pond at Ueno Park

A couple of people were feeding the local birdlife by hand.

Bird Feeding at Ueno Park

It was a pleasant walk. We finished off the day by visiting a funfair at Tokyo Dome City with a spectacularly scary roller coaster which is wrapped around a shopping mall. Luckily it had started to rain so the roller coaster was closed. Phew!

Funfair at Tokyo Dome City

Hachiko Statue at Shibuya Station

Hachiko statue at Shibuya

On a stone plinth facing Tokyo’s Shibuya station sits a bronze statue of a dog. It commemorates a loyal dog called Hachiko who was born in 1923. Hachiko was an Akita, a large breed of dog originating from the mountainous areas of northern Japan.

Hachiko was acquired as a puppy by Dr. Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor at the Japanese Imperial University. A close bond between master and dog developed and over the next year Hachiko used to accompany Dr Ueno to Shibuya station every morning and when he returned each evening, Hachiko would be waiting for him at the station entrance.

Professor Uenohachiko

On 21st May 1925, when the dog was 18 months old, he waited for his master’s arrival on the six o’clock train as usual but Professor Ueno never returned as he had suffered a fatal stroke at work.

For the next nine years Hachiko returned to the station every day to meet the 6 o’clock train and await his master’s return. He allowed passers-by to pet and feed him scraps but he never gave up the vigil at the station for his master, until his death in 1935.

hachiko's deathShibuya station in the early 20th century

The story of Hachiko has become well known and at least two films have been based on his life; a Japanese film called Hachiko Monogatari (1987) and a Hollywood remake starring Richard Gere, Hachiko A Dog’s Story (2009).

Hachiko A Dog's Story

Akita puppies like this one are very cute but they grow into large, strong dogs which can be aggressive and require careful training and handling.

We saw a cuddly Akita puppy in a Shibuya pet shop. ‘Let’s buy it’ said my daughter. Even if we wanted to we couldn’t bring it to Malaysia where Akitas are a banned breed.

Shibuya Station 2013Busy Shibuya intersection

Dr Ueno would scarcely recognise Shibuya station today but no doubt would be delighted that his faithful pet not only has a statue but also a mural on the station wall.

Hachiko mural at Shibuya station.

The station entrance used by Dr Ueno is now called the Hachiko Entrance.

Hachiko Entrance, Shibuya Station

An old railway carriage has been positioned in front of the entrance and serves as a tourist information office and is a popular meeting point for the young crowd which frequents this part of Tokyo.

In front of Shibuya Station, Tokyo

Hamarikyu Gardens & Pokémon Center Tokyo

My sons grew up in the 1990’s when the Pokémon craze was at its height. Over the years they amassed a sizeable collection of Pokémon trading cards and Nintendo games and my daughter has since developed an interest in Pikachu and all the other Pocket Monsters.

When I told her we were going to Japan for a holiday, the Pokémon Center in Shiodome Shibarikyu Building, Minato-ku, Tokyo was promptly added to the itinerary, along with Disneyland and all the other child-centric attractions that I have been writing about recently.

Pokémon Center, Tokyo

I could never really understand Pokémon. All I know is the characters seem to spend a lot of time battling and evolving. Still, judging by the crowd at the store, it seems to remain very popular in Japan.

I thought the Pokémon Center might be a kind of theme park but it’s really just a shop selling stacks of plastic and plush toys and other Pokémon collectables.

Hamarikyu Gardens

More my cup of tea is the Hamarikyu Garden, a very attractive park located across the road from the Shiodome. The very first stone-built western style building in Japan once stood here in the early Meiji era. It was used to entertain visiting foreign guests, among them General Ulysses S. Grant.

This building once stood at Hamarikyu Gardens 

This building was demolished in 1889 and its replacement was reduced to ashes in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The garden was further damaged by bombing during WWII.

Hamarikyu Gardens

Hamarikyu has been a public park since 1946. Today it is overlooked by towering glass office blocks but it serves as a momentary escape from the hustle and bustle of modern Tokyo. In traditional Japanese fashion it is planted to look splendid all year round with maples and gingkos providing autumn foliage and cherry and plum blossoms to give colour in the spring.

Here some young ladies are showing off their summer kimonos.

Kimonos in Hamarikyu Gardens