Saturday would be the day we would take Tora out for a big walk in Ueno park while enjoying the view of the many cherry-blossom trees. What we did not expect, was that it would be so busy it was even a challenge to go through the park at all! We started with a train-ride that was very interesting for us because this would be the first long train ride for Tora. He already went two times, a short distance to the veterinary for his vaccinations and we wondered how this longer distance would go. We must say we trained Tora well and he almost made no racket in his special carrying bag we bought some time ago. He can stick his head through the side so he can see everything while carrying him or sitting in the train. And when he would become a little difficult we gave him a snack and it worked every time!
We first went to the Yushima Tenjin shrine near Ueno where they have some 300 plum trees. It would have been nice if they were still in bloom, but unfortunately that time was probably 2 weeks ago. So we quickly took the road to the Ueno park. There we made the discovery that entire Tokyo must have had the same idea and were here as well. As we had read on internet Ueno does have a lot of beautiful cherry-blossom trees but there were even more people. Wherever you looked you saw people everywhere. On the road but also underneath the blossom filled trees on a big picnic cloth enjoying a lot of food and alcohol. This event is called "Hana-mi" (flower viewing) and is enjoyed by everyone in Japan. It was so packed with people it was even a challenge to see some bare ground. In the beginning walking with the dog was not a big problem, although many Japanese kept calling Tora-chan "Kawaii" (which is 'cute' in Japanese) so that we did not get very far. We already noticed that Tora-chan is a very unique dog and people never have seen something like him before. We never pass a day without a person saying our dog is kawaii (cute) or mezurashi (unique), and of course ask what race he is. Soon the intensity of people became too much and it was not safe to leave Tora-chan on the ground or he would get trampled. So the rest of the way he was carried while we continued our hanami visit.
We hoped that if we passed the cherry-blossom trees the crowd would become less. But passed the trees there is a temple in the center of the pond of the park. There were food stands that are typical for a matsuri (festival). And were there is food there are... more people! Since it is nice food, most of them had many long queues too. Those same queues made the path too small for the amount of people who were getting through turning it in one big congestion point. We did manage to get baby-castera though. It is a nice snack which can be compared with sweet dough baked in a ball, very nice, and most importantly we managed to get through the crowd to the next part of the park. What we did not expect was that there were even more cherry-blossom here and the path that leads through the park was completely covered with people. You can compare it with being packed in one of those busy trains, but instead of waiting the whole crowd moved in one direction little by little... It was more like standing in line than really enjoying the park and the Sakura-blossoms. We concluded we did not want to spend the rest of the day as a piece of a crowd and we took the other line back that lead us out of the park... finally AIR!
We had an appointment for the trimmer for Tora-chan today so we decided to go in that direction already and be a little early. We went to Meguro with the train and soon discovered it was busy there as well. Then we remembered the cherry-blossom trees that were so beautifully lid in winter, they must bloom now as well! Our way to the trimmer was following the crowd and soon we saw that was indeed causing it to be so busy. The Sakura-trees were beautifully in bloom, a great sight to see. We continued our way and were glad we left Ueno a little early. Although it was not as busy as Ueno there were a lot of people who were not moving very fast so it took us some extra time to get out of the crowd to the pet-store. We dropped Tora-chan off just in time! We had to entertain ourselves for an hour until he was finished. We walked along one side of Meguro-river and we saw the other side was packed with people doing hanami as well. There was even a small square were there was a hanami festival. We only saw some remaining stands and a poster because it was already late so they were cleaning up. The river side we walked along was almost empty, our guess is that hanami was not permitted on this side with the exception of a few places. We even saw that people took the trouble to reserve a place with colored tape marking the spot and a paper saying the time and date and how many people. The people seemed to honor these "reservations" and did not sit there. That is one of the things you only see in Japan. We went to a Royal Diner restaurant while waiting. We know this restaurant from Shibuya and knew we could expect a good variations of food and it did not let us down. After the nice dinner we went to get Tora (who was now clean and nicely cut) and walked home.