Our first full day in Japan, we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. It was approximately $10 per person and was a buffet style, with both Western and Japanese foods. I had the experience of eating scrambled eggs with chopsticks, which was kind of fun, and they were some of the best eggs I've eaten. There was also bread, cereal, juice, coffee, and spaghetti. I don't normally eat spaghetti for breakfast, but it tasted pretty good.
After breakfast, we walked around the Imperial Palace grounds. It's a great place to visit to see cherry blossoms, and affords many, many opportunities for pictures. Yet another thing I love about the Japanese: they take their cameras everywhere and take just as many pictures as the non-native tourists. So you can feel free to stop anywhere and anytime when you see a shot you just have to have. Also, if you are with someone else and taking just their picture, often someone will offer to take a picture so that both of you can be in it. You don't typically have to hunt someone down; they just offer.
If you've never seen cherry blossoms, it's worth it to go when they are blooming. They are very pretty and delicate, and completely cover the trees. Another thing I like about them in particular is that they are very, very pale pink, which contrasts nicely with the dark wood of the tree.
The grounds of the Imperial Palace are quite large, and there are several vendors on the side streets selling perhaps the tastiest treat we had while in all of Japan. I know it sounds crazy, but these vendors have baked sweet potatoes that they sell, and they are GOOD. They are not the kind of sweet potatoes we have in the States; they are a regular potato-colored pale yellow, but they are very soft and sweet. Truly, one of the best things we ate.
In the afternoon, we went to Ueno Park, by way of the Tokyo rail system. This system can get you almost anywhere, and once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to navigate. Most of the ticket machines have the option to display the information in Roman characters (which means they're pretty much written in English, even thought that's not how the Japanese view it). Determine what destination you want to go to, and there will be a number beside that destination indicating the number of yen required to get to there. Choose the number of people you are buying for, and insert the required amount. Once it spits out the ticket(s), you can put one into the ticket-taking machines, and it will pop up on the other side. Be sure to get the ticket, because you will be required to have it in order to leave the platform once you get to your destination. If, when you arrive at your destination, you put your ticket into the machine and it spits back out, it means that you did not pay the correct price to get to your destination. You can take the ticket to the well-marked fare adjustment machines, and when you insert the difference, you'll get a ticket that will allow you to get off the platform. (Since the machine keeps it on your way out of the subway system, you won't have the tickets to put in your scrapbook. The only way to do so would be to buy a ticket you don't use.) One final note: if you are unsure what the correct amount is to reach your destination, buy the cheapest ticket you can. You can always use the fare adjustment machines to ensure you have paid the proper amount for your transportation.
Before heading into Ueno Park, we had lunch. It was down a side street, and again, I do not know the name. The menu was not in Roman characters, but the people can generally give you a high-level idea of what a particular dish is. Most restaurants do have plastic models or pictures displayed outside to give you an idea what they serve. (You will see some very interesting plastic models, including those of pizzas with a fried egg in the middle or mayonnaise squeezed all over it.) One tip: if nothing else, most people are familiar with the word 'chicken.' So if you just have no idea what to do...say chicken and you'll at least get something you somewhat recognize. Also, many restaurants serve food in sets, which is kind of like a combo meal to Westerners. They set includes the main dish, rice, and usually miso soup.
The park was packed with people, many of them sitting on their tarps for picnics, many of them walking down the sidewalk, taking pictures and seeing the sights. This was also our first experience with what I call "Japanese fair food." For anyone who's been to a fair, it's a very similar food experience: small booths side by side by side dishing up all kinds of treats. Some of them (think the potatoes) are very appetizing; some are not (to me, this included the cut up piles of octopus, including tentacles, and the whole fish skewered and placed upright near a coal fire. I didn't see too many people buying from these particular stalls, but they must do enough business to make it worthwhile.
There are also paddle boats you can take out at Ueno park, some "regular," and some kind of in the shape of a duck. We did not go out, but it was fun to watch those people who were on the water just paddling around.
After our afternoon in the park, we were ready to return to our hotel. The futons had been put away and we had a table in the middle of the room with little crackers and tea available on it. We hung around there for a bit, then went to dinner. We were going to go to a place for shabu shabu (more on that later), but it was closed. We ended up at Jonathan's, kind of like a Japanese Denny's, but with better service. Here, I had what was one of my favorite meals (to be enjoyed elsewhere later): chicken tonkatsu. This is breaded and deep fried cutlet of chicken (in my case; there are other versions including pork as well), served with shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce, and hot mustard. Sort of like chicken fingers, but oh-so-much better. Plus, you get to eat them with chopsticks.
Once we finished dinner, we returned to our hotel and rested for our trip the next day to Yokohama.