Tag Archives: Ueno Park

Never Again

In real time, there’s news that the Trump administration will try to tank the number of refugees admitted to the US to zero in 2020.  Zero.  The average number admitted annually since 1980 has been 98,000.

I am disgusted to say that the person leading this drive is a Jewish guy named Stephen Miller, whose own forebears fled pogroms in Belarus and were allowed to enter the US.  Here is a great article about him entitled, “Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.”

This reminded me of an event I left out of my Summer Summary a few posts back. Jewish Community Action, along with other advocacy groups, held a rally themed “Never Again” at the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) facility near the airport in Minneapolis.  I wasn’t involved in the planning; I didn’t do much except show up and hold up one end of a banner.  But I showed up.  It felt good to get out there and yell and pump my fist.

There were a couple hundred of us.  We blocked traffic and some among us tried to get arrested but were only ticketed, which made it less of a news event.  The event was covered by a smattering of local news outlets.

After a couple hours I had to use a bathroom and there were none to be found.  I walked back to my car and heard a government employee on his cell phone, probably talking to his wife.  “Yeah, I agree with what they’re protesting, but I don’t work for ICE.  Why should I be stuck here?”

I despaired.  I see these policies as having everything to do with all of us. We’re all citizens.  We can vote, protest, write letters, and at the very least, be informed.  If you think it has nothing to do with you, you must be a Native American—the only Americans who aren’t immigrants (volunteers or slave-shipped) or descendants of immigrants.

In Japan.  I didn’t have the National Museum of Western Art on my “must see” list.  I have seen tons of western art in western countries. But Lynn had heard raves about it.

We passed The Gates of Hell by Rodin as we entered.  I hoped it wasn’t a sign of art to come.

“There are some of Monet’s water lilies, and one of your favorites—Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles!”

“No!  Not the Bedroom in Arles!” I exclaimed in mock horror.  We had paid extra to see a special exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute three years ago on our road trip from St. Paul to New Orleans.  There had been a very long build up to two versions of the painting, which looked identical to me.

Normally I am all for art, but I could only shrug.

Now I was going to see another version.  It looked just like the other two.  I’m sure it’s all very significant but I’m too much of a philistine to understand.

The museum in Tokyo houses the collection of shipping industrialist Kojiro Matsukata.  His story—of buying sprees in Paris and World War II efforts to protect his collection from the Nazis, was interesting.  At the very end of the exhibit, here were the water lilies.  What’s left of them.

At first I thought it was an abstract version of Monet’s famous theme. But it was just terribly damaged, which was sad.

Outside, I had a green tea ice cream cone from one of the many vendors in Ueno Park.  Lynn and I sat on a bench for hours; I don’t know what we talked about but it’s always good conversation with us.

The next morning we boarded a shinkansen to Kyoto.  A very loud American extended family sat near us; one of the kids lowered his seat into Lynn’s lap.  She politely asked his parents to corral him—not in so many words—and they did so but the mother then nagged all the children loudly for the two-hour trip, maybe to show the proper English lady what a responsible parent she was.

Enjoying the TOKYO

I had been traveling and walking in the rain all day.  If only I could sit down and have a cappuccino or a beer, and people watch ….

But there were no coffee shops or bars in the covered mall.  I didn’t want to duck under the restaurant curtains into a restaurant without knowing what awaited inside.  Were they empty at this time of day, or packed?  I didn’t know if it was okay to sit and nurse a cappuccino for an hour, taking up a table that could seat people spending a lot more than me.

I walked back to the hotel, hoping the abrasive landlady would let me into the room early, and she did.  This hotel, the New Tohoku, ranked 5th cheapest out of the eight places I lodged.  It ranked #1 as the most run down.

The carpet looked like it had been installed in 1972 and never shampooed.  This was the bathroom; I shared the photo already in my post about Japanese bathrooms.  Yes, you could swivel the sink faucet over the sink to wash your hands, then over to the tub to fill that up.  The tub was stained yellow, and the shower curtain was composed of the flimsy plastic used to make Walmart shopping bags—and spotted with blackish mildew.  Couldn’t they have spent 100 yen to buy a clean shower curtain?  I am halfway tempted to buy one at the Dollar Store and mail it to them.

The good thing about a grotty hotel is that you aren’t tempted to spend a lot of time there.  I changed into dry clothes, drank a couple mugs of green tea to fortify myself and perused the guest book.

Most of it made absolutely no sense, especially the opening line, “Enjoy the TOKYO empty-handed.”

I headed back out into the rain.

On the other side of the station lay Ueno Park, a vast urban oasis with museums, shrines, restaurants, and gardens.  There was a sparsely-attended festival in progress but it looked like the few attendees were all teenagers so I kept walking.  The hydrangeas were unendingly gorgeous, and the rainy weather made the colors—cobalt blue, violet, lime green—appear all the more saturated.

I crossed the park and walked down a hillside toward an enormous water-lily-filled lake.  I wondered if I had missed the water lilies blooming, or if they might be in bloom when I returned to Tokyo in ten days’ time.

There was a land bridge with food stalls which to my disappointment were all closed, and it led to a shrine.  This bull was at the entrance.

If you look closely you may be able to see the crow on a post and ginger cat sitting below it.  I watched them for some time, wondering if they might start talking—they looked so much like an illustration from a fable.

These were the prayer plaques being sold at the shrine; they looked like sitars.

I bought a couple, putting my money in the offering box.  So there, Mr. Judgmental Buddhist in Nikko! I am not a thief!

I found an open restaurant back in the park and made the mistake of ordering the Chinese special.  I’ve been wondering—I’ve had great Chinese food in London and Minneapolis and elsewhere.  Why not in Japan?  Again, it was a pile of gristly meat on top of white rice and doused with a shiny, gelatinous sauce.

Back at the New Tohoku, I pulled back the 1981-vintage polyester bedspread with trepidation and was relieved to find crisp white sheets.  My RLS was a living hell that night. I gave up any hope of sleep at 4am and fiddled around online and drank instant coffee until the breakfast service began, at 7am.  Brekky was served in a storage room.  Paint cans, pieces of scaffolding, and tarps had been pushed aside and three tables for two squeezed in.  But the food wasn’t bad.

At 8am I was out the door to meet Keiko, her parents, and my nephews at a seaside amusement park.  I usually arrive before anyone else, but today I was a whole hour early.  Keiko had proposed meeting at the west entrance of the train station, but none existed.