A warm, crisp sunrise brought its rays to start a new day. Based on the forecast I read last night, today should be beautiful.
Clear skies, with a lounging temperature of 21 degrees celsius (70 Fahrenheit). Mother nature picked the right day to cooperate, as today is Greenery Day.
As the third official holiday of Golden Week, Greenery Day is a celebration of all things nature and wildlife here in Japan.
Created after the death of Emporer Showa, Greenery Day pays homage to the late leader's love of nature and promotes the day as a day to rest and enjoy your surroundings.
The agenda for today is to head over to Zenkoku-Ji Temple and if time allows, mosey back to Ueno Park for the Zoo.
One of the few temple visits, up to this point, Zenkoku-Ji Temple was relocated to its current location in 1793 and is centered around Bishamonten, one of the seven lucky gods.
On the way to the station, I found a nearby vending machine and found the best bottle of Green Tea that I could find.
Cliche choice on a day like this, yes, but I haven't participated in a lot of green tea tasting on this trip. I haven't gotten enough green tea or Matcha in my diet, which is sacreligous here.
The tea didn't last long, as I didn't want to carry it around and as you know, it's rude here to eat/consume anything while riding the subway.
I chugged down the natural flavors and made my transit, for the day.
At the entrance of the Temple is two, imposing tiger statues.
From what I understand, Bishamonten was a Hindu God who immersed himself in Buddhist teachings and has long since been considered a God of wealth and prosperity.
It's common for athletes, businessmen, and many other to come to this temple and pray for prosperity.
As a humble and open minded tourist, I pay my respects to the deity and wish for my own share of wealth (espeically on this trip).
It's such an odd juxtaposition, when looking at these places of worship in the city.
For a culture that has achieved technological and architectural feats few places have, it's still rooted in their ancient traditions.
I feel like I'm a broken record about this point but I still can't get over how well this society takes care of its history, and how it emphasizes the preservation of these structures.
Nonetheless, I checked this temple off of the "to do" list and I head back to the subway. This time, I'm going back to Ueno Park.
I've been told by some locals that the Zoo has free entrance on this holiday, so I figured it was worth going back and taking in more of that nested wilderness.
As you would expect, the zoo was packed. If there's one certainty in life, it's that no culture can resist a free ticket lol.
The zoo was built in 1882 and has a variety of exhibits covering over 35 acres (yes, acres). Obviously, many of the animals are divided into their respective species/type.
I'm going to avoid the amphibian/reptile exhibits as I've never been fond of cold blooded creatures.
Instead, I made a B line over to the Panda exhibit and got a first hand glimpse of these beloved creatures.
Gazing at these animals seems to change my emotions, the longer I stare at them. The initial sight of glee has slowly given way to a shade of empathy.
I stare into the Panda's dark, glazed pupils and see sadness. It looks at me with a melanchoic daze, as if it's confused why I'm not in a cage.
It's in that moment that I realized this animal has never seen anything outside the confines of his bar clad house. This poor animal has no concept of space or time.
It's sealed in a concrete shelter, with no free will to roam around environments.
I understand the conservation element of some species in a zoo setting, but something about the looks on this Panda's face was just.... Different...
I pan up and look around to see many people zooming around me. Some of them have a similar glaze in their eyes that Panda possesses.
There's a parallel with this animal's well being and the health of our own kind.
Like this caged Panda, a number of people feel trapped in their current plight and can't seem to break from the confines of their life. Whether it's a marriage, children, mortgage, bills, etc.
Most people seem to feel stuck with their current situations, and they don't know how to shake from the proverbial quick sand.
They have the ability to move and make choices, but alas, something just feels shackled with these people.
As a society, we're conditioned to adapt and conform to whatever our surroundings are.
This leads many to assume what their life path should be, instead of pursuing their own passions and goals.
I don't think it's a coincidence that some of the most successful people, regardless of the passion, are rule breakers.
In a sense, these people are not afraid to bend the status quo and go a step beyond the perceived limits to achieve their goal.
In a society where we're promised free will, very few of us seem to exercise it.
Perhaps I should extend my wish for prosperity to beyond my own wishes, and hope my peers around me find the courage to eagerly pursue their own soul driven goals in life.
In a world filled with strife, I think having more passion and creativity could bring forth a balance in the human psyche that many don't have now.
With my mind thrust into this section of deep reflection, I couldn't help but exit the Zoo and walk about the shaded, well groomed trails of Ueno Park.
I can think of many people back home that chose to settle, or in fun terms, "cruise" through life. To be fair, some people may choose that as their goal or vision in life.
To me, it just seems unfulfilled.
I received many odd looks, scoffs, even "what the hell are you doing?" inquiries when I did my first solo trip. It was 8 countries in 42 days, all by my teenage lonesome.
I learned countless life lessons that I apply to my routine daily and will never forget some of the times I've shared with other travelers.
Maybe it's the pioneering spirit that I inherited from my ancestors on the Plain. At one point in time, they came to America with the idea of settling a new, uncharted land.
Nothing was promised or perceived to be prosperous. Despite that, they took the chance and made the most of their new life across the pond.
To those who say what I do is crazy or why wander in the fashion that I do, here's what I have to say.
Many people came before us to explore, settle, and fight for the free will that we have today. Some of that fight can even come from within.
I can safely say that my life wasn't guaranteed or easy, from the start. My parents had a hard time having a child.
Even when they gave birth to their own, a sickness nearly took my life, in its infancy.
I don't know if these events are buried in my subconscious but for as long as I can remember, I've always had a desire to pursue difficult, but rewarding tasks.
Something about life taking you to the brink of extinction has a way of propelling you to reach for the extraordinary.
If I had to keep make an applicable metaphor, I'd say that I'm not someone that likes to stay in low gear and avoid the ruts.
As a human that's had to adapt, overcome, and overachieve, I choose to "send it" and ride my life through all gears.
The moral of this moment is, every person has their own path in life. The free will that we have to choose from serves as our GPS for our desired destinations.
I wish that everyone uses their guide map wisely to find their own version of prosperity. Life's too short to settle for something.
Go out, kick start that bike, and ride your path to its fullest extent.
With that said, I'm going to end this entry here on the shallow green acres of Ueno Park. Tomorrow is Children's day, the 4th and final holiday of Golden Week.
There's one place left you mentioned to visit in the itinerary, along with another envelope.
I have no idea what you have planned, but I trust that the map you've provided me with keep my on a righteous path.
Thanks again and I'll see you soon!