Ushiku Daibutsu & Nihonryori RyuGin

Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
Trip End Mar 17, 2013

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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Thursday, February 21, 2013

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I waited for my guide from Tokyo Free Guide at my hotel. My guide today is not the same one as yesterday so this will be our first meeting.  Our scheduled appointment came and went. I asked the person at reception for help making a couple phone calls trying to contact him but didn't have any luck. I went back to my room and checked our e-mails. I realized there had been a typo in one of the times in the e-mail. When I looked back at it I realized that it was not clear which of two times was the typo. Previously I had assumed the error was in another time and that the meeting time was correct but after realizing there was another possibility I decided that the typo must have been in the meeting time, which meant he was due an hour later than I had thought. I waited in my room. He called from the lobby a few minutes before the hour was up.

We were planning on going to Ushiku Daibutsu, which is a huge Buddha statue on the outskirts of the Tokyo metropolitan area. The statue is also known as Ushiku ARCADIA, which stands for Amida's Radiance and Compassion Actually Developing and Illuminating Area.  After a little paperwork we headed across the street to Ueno Station to catch a train to Ushiku, the town it is in. In Ushiku we then caught a bus to the site of the statue.

I'm not sure why, but I had a vague recollection that it was a lying Buddha; it isn't. It's a bronze statue of a standing Buddha that at 394 feet tall (120 meters), including a 10-meter high concrete base and a 10-meter high bronze lotus platform, is one of the largest statues in the world. It is listed as the third-tallest statue in the world based on just the bronze portion of the statue. For comparison, the Statue of Liberty is 46 meters on a 47 meter pedestal for a total height of 93 meters (305 feet) .

Like the Statue of Liberty, it's possible to go up inside.  After removing your shoes, you enter on the first floor.  After following a winding path you reach the stairs to the second floor.  The path eventually leads to an elevator.

The elevator takes you to the 5th floor viewing level, which is in the chest of the statue.  The windows are just tiny slits and the views out are very poor.  After walking around and taking a peek out of each of the windows we walked down to the 4th floor, which has a few displays and a gift shop.  You catch the elevator down on the 4th floor and are let out on the 3rd floor, which has over 3,000 gold Buddha statues.

After exiting the statue we walked around a little, took a few pictures and then headed for the bus back to the train station and our train back to town.  I said goodbye to my guide and got off at Ueno. 

I went back to my hotel for a little while before heading out for my dinner reservation at Nihonryori RyuGin.  Due to my confusion yesterday I didn't need any help finding the restaurant. 

RyuGin is very small with around 18 seats.  I was surprised when another table seemed to be an American couple.  The only dinner available is a 10-course tasting menu, although you can request some minor adjustments.  I discussed the menu and had them change a couple courses to eliminate some of the meat although not all of it. 

Dinner was very good but like at Tokyo Shiba Tofuya-Ukai, many of the flavors were fairly subtle. The linens and tableware were gorgeous with lots of lacquer, fancy ceramics and trays that had drops of water condensed on them. When I ordered a sweet sake, which turned out to be very good, I was brought a tray of a couple dozen unique cut-glass glasses and asked to pick the one I wanted to use.

My favorite course was "Tangerine Candy", which was a freeze-dried mix of tangerine and yogart inside a thin sphere. The sphere is brought to you whole and chilled. You're instructed to break open the sphere. The server then adds warm tangerines in a sauce to the dish. The combination steams and crackles as you eat it. It was fun and tasty.

After dinner I headed back to my hotel for the night.
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