17 May 2014
We had only reserved the one night at the Kimi Ryokan as this was our first trip abroad and thought we should force our feet under us with the new venture of “urban camping“. I (Ash) figured that an easy way to get to the know the Tokyo Rail system would be to go to the famous Ueno zoo and see their Giant Pandas (you know the black and white one’s). On the way to the zoo we found a local grocery store and started to get acquainted with the new diet for the next 7 weeks and officially have our first Japanese food. We purchased some dumplings and ate them in the Ueno park with chop-sticks. I was pretty decent with them as I had been practicing, mom on the other-hand was hilarious with her comments about her hand cramping, but the food was delicious and cheap for about 200 yen (or about 2 USD) for a pack of 8 or 12. Then off to the zoo which also had gorillas, red pandas,

Californian Sea Lions (which was pretty funny to us, having been born in Southern California). Zoo admission was also a lot cheaper then U.S. standards. I was expecting admission to be north of 20 USD as the LA zoo is about that, we were delighted to be greeted with a ticketing machine which we easily converted to English, select the number of tickets wanted, and paid 600 yen per adult. Walking forward to the turn-stiles, inserted our tickets, the gates opened, and woosh we were off to the zoo, but wait! we couldn’t forget those backpacks we lugged through the Tokyo subway; on the right-hand-side of the entrance we paid 100-200 yen for a locker and were free birds. We spent much of the day getting used to some general Japanese customs, acclimating ourselves to the new culture, time zone, and trash can system all in the safety of the zoo.

Leaving the zoo we went to one of the other attractions on my list of Tokyo that might be a little less crowded: The Emperor’s East Imperial Garden. Frolicking around the brilliant green lawns, dark grey stone walls, and steal-y blue waters we began to feel more at home, more natural in our environment, less like outsiders. The Palace gardens had large wall foundations of bygone forts, traditional gardens, and peaceful meditation areas. Admission was relatively cheap for around 300 yen (if I remember correctly).

We liked the Ueno area and especially the un-touristyness of the area around the Imperial palace so much that we settled down across from the Marunouchi Police station (purple star) by the Kokyogaien ( 35°40’39.6″N 139°45’29.8″E).  This was our first “urban camping” experience and we were skeptical about the welcoming nature of the Japanese (aka we still had our American anti-pilgrimage culture) so we hid in the cruntchy leaves along the bank after the sun had set marked with a red circle. I don’t think we were as incognito as we had imagined it might be due to the leaves always giving us away. Once or twice in the night we got up to use the bathroom marked with a blue hut and saw a couple other urban campers located more out in the open, sleeping with suit cases and the like on benches, walkways and under street lights. It was a great first experience. 

Japan, Tokyo, Urban Camping, Stealth Camping, Hammock, police, palace
Red Circle = hammock location | Purple Star = police | Blue Hut = Bathroom

  • Didn’t read day 1’s post: Chicken head’s and Tokyo
  • Read day 3’s post: Odaiba and further afield
  • See other Japan adventures here