Across the River to the Kitties, and Ueno

We've been missing our cats and had heard about a place where you can play with them, so Jen did some research and found a pet store in Odaiba where you can pay a nominal fee and play with the resident cats.  Odaiba's an artificial island seaside community in Tokyo Bay, across the Sumida River, and was originally built to defend Edo against Commodore Perry from the USA.  They mention this on the ride over on the water bus.  We decided to take the water bus to get a different view.  Here's some shots from the dock and on the way over.

This is the Rainbow Bridge. I'm supposing the braces on either side are earthquake-related.

There's a miniature Statue of Liberty there, donated by the French.

The Rainbow Bridge

There really is some beach!  Although it was over 90 there were not a lot of people there.

After going through the mal we found the place we sought, Cats Livin, which is on the opposite side of the building from a dog-focused store. Equal opportunity.

The cats were nice but not the same as our guys.

Some of the many signs instructing you on what you should and should not do with the cats.

We opted for the Monorail back to the city since we were heading to Ueno and this was faster and cheaper than the water bus.

The monorail track follows the highway over the bridge, through this unusual circular path.

Past one of the city incinerator plants

I think this very large cuckoo-style clock was in Shimbashi.

We got to the zoo via JR Yamanote which only took about 8 minutes. It's a nice zoo, with plenty of Japanese, Asian and Australian animals, but also your occasional transplant from elsewhere.

This is a red panda.  They played around like cats.  They also move a lot so this was the least blurry picture I got.

The Thai government donated this to the park.

They had at least 5 elephants, and I thought it interesting that the only separator was a waist-high wall and some electric fencing.

It was hot, and after these bears finished playing it was time for a soak.

These polar bears kept walking the same route back and forth, seemingly trying to get off and into the area where we were.  See the video (45 MB).

This was outside the penguin area, we're not quite sure what it's telling us.

A tapir.

Think this was a groundhog of sorts.

The geese and ducks were just hanging around posing. I thought they wanted their pictures taken so I obliged.

We had a good time at the zoo, which closed at 5, so we left, There was a shrine in the park dedicated to the first Tokugawa Shogun, and has been there since 1627.  Here's one of the 50 or so bronze lanterns in the shrine area which were bought by various lords.

Inside the shrine is "the flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki", which has been burning since 1945.  Read the description below.

At the shrine you can buy cards and put your prayers on them, and I believe they do something with them at certain festivals.

The front of the shrine.

These are instructions on what to do; clapping twice is supposed to awaken the resident kami, or spirit.

This is a 600+ year old camphor tree, the largest in Ueno park.

We paid the shrine ¥100 each to go inside, where you can't take pictures, but can take your shoes off.  Here's a picture of another smaller building outside.

We headed home after another long day of touring, and thought to stay close tonight as well, since the following day we were getting up early to go to Kyoto.  We ate at the next-closest restaurant to the hotel, called Spanish Bar Ququ, which was a really nice tapas-style restaurant. We sat at the bar and watched the sole two employees prepare our dishes. We had chorizo sausage, a small gorgonzola pizza, garlic bread, cheese plate, sangria, and some other things.  Nicely priced and cozy.  Also recommended.