Jasmine in Japan: Day 1 – First Explorations – Ueno, Cat Cafe and Asakusa 

First explorations in Ueno Park

After the somewhat nerve-wracking flight there, I woke up well-rested and well-fed. It was time for some first explorations in the vicinity. Ueno has a lot to offer and Asakusa wasn’t far either, so those were my first destinations.

Tips & Tricks

But first, there was a small problem: I only had two pairs of underwear and one sweater and pants in my onboard trolley. So shopping was also on the list. Luckily Lufthansa would reimburse me for the necessary expenses.

So I asked Amber where to go shopping. After all, I didn’t want it to be too expensive, since I had to pay upfront. Luckily, there is a Uniqlo store right next to Ueno station. They would certainly have women’s clothing in European sizes. Amber showed me a bunch of shirts from the Heattech and Airism series. I thought those would come in handy, as well, since I didn’t have any good shirts anyway. That said, on the first day, I didn’t want to rush into a native Japanese shopping experience. Uniqlo seemed like a good compromise.

Amber also gave me some tips on taking the metro. The Suica was fully charged and I didn’t expect it to be very complicated.

Let’s go!

So I set off for the park. I had packed the obligatory plastic bag for the rubbish. It wasn’t worth taking the train to get there, and the weather was pretty good, so I decided to take a stroll. After about ten minutes I reached my destination (thanks to Google Maps) and navigated through the hustle and bustle at the train station. Even on this short walk, I noticed the focus on accessibility: guide strips for the blind everywhere, acoustic signals at the traffic lights showing you the directions, and working elevators at the train station – great! The unfamiliar left-hand traffic and the chaotic cyclists proved more dangerous, but I managed to survive.

The park was still in hibernation, but it was interesting nevertheless. I have collected some of my impressions in a separate post:

Uniqlo – Shopping, Part 1

Okachimachi

Now it was time for some serious shopping! I headed for the nearest Uniqlo branch, located in Okakimachi. It was super busy there – the area is one big flea market and I could probably have bought all my souvenirs there. I could find street food everywhere, but I wasn’t hungry yet and just wanted to be done with my shopping. I had just received a notification that my luggage would probably not arrive until Sunday. Therefore I really needed to find some stuff. But I let myself be carried away by the atmosphere in the area and looked into many of the shops and made notes to revisit them on another day.

Okachimachi
Okachimachi

Shopping Spree

Uniqlo in Okachimachi Yoshiike Main Store
Uniqlo in Okachimachi Yoshiike Main Store

When I arrived at Uniqlo, I headed straight for the women’s underwear section and stocked up on a bunch of panties and shirts. Unfortunately, finding the correct size was kind of a guessing game, as the underwear was (of course) shrink-wrapped. But since the material seemed quite stretchy and the sizes of the few models on display seemed to fit reasonably well, I took the risk.

I also found Marimekko socks. Quite unexpected, but given the relatively low price, I couldn’t resist, even if their size was a bit too small. Generally, women’s socks in size 40 or larger don’t seem to exist there. I also picked up a pair of stylish sports/jogging pants for nightwear. The other dresses and pants were generally too small for me, so I would have to get by with the clothes I had brought along.

I left the store in a good mood and a few 1000 yen poorer. When I had cleared customs, they put an entry including a QR code in my passport, allowing me to shop tax-free in many stores. It was very uncomplicated, I received what looked like a small book of receipts (which I then, unfortunately, lost – bye-bye refund); and I was satisfied and happy with myself. Strictly speaking, I probably shouldn’t have worn the sealed clothes, because that was one of the stipulations for shopping tax-free. But I was pretty sure that no one at customs would actually check it. After all, it was just a few pieces of underwear.