After having been to and written about a few of the more traditional areas of Tokyo recently, I decided to head to the breeding ground of Japanese teen Pop Culture, Harajuku. This is a shopping district with a lot of big brands having shops here, but also a lot of smaller shops catering to the cosplay (costume play) crowd. Rain had set in for the day, so I grabbed my umbrella and set off.
I got off the train and before heading to the shopping area I went the other side of the train line toward the park where I took the cherry blossom photos recently, Yoyogi Park. Just before the park entrance, there is an entrance to Tokyo's most famous shrine, Meiji shrine. Whereas temples are the worshipping places for the Buddhist religion, shrines are the worshipping places for the Japanese Shinto religion. The entrance to the shrine is marked by a huge wooden gateway.
From here you find yourself in one of those contrast situations that I have spoken about. Just behind you is bustling Tokyo with it's crowds, traffic and bursting trains. Once you step beyond this gate, you are transferred into a different world with the only reminder of where you are is the faint sounds of the trains coming and going from the station. The deeper you go into the shrine grounds, even those noises disappear and you are left with peaceful tranquillity.
The grounds of the shrine are, quite simply, amazing. The shrine itself is quite young by Japanese standards, having been built in 1921. The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The emperor reigned from 1867 until his death in 1912. During this period, Japan underwent great change. The first national government was formed and Japan went through a period of industrialisation that allowed the country to become one of the world's great powers in a short period of time.
After walking through the outer grounds where all of the greenery is, you arrive at the shrine itself. The peacefulness that you experience walking through the grounds and around the shrine is so hard to put into words. I think the pictures do a better job than I can.
Reluctantly I walked back out the way I had come, and after walking back out through the front entrance, as tradition dictates, turned and bowed back in the direction of the shrine and made my way back into reality. The rain was continuing to fall, and the cloud cover was so low that some of the tall buildings were enveloped in the clouds.
I made my way to Takeshita street where some of the more interesting and quirky shops are. Due to the rain, at the start of the street, all I could see ahead of me was a sea of bobbing umbrellas!
This is the area that some famous fashion designers have been known to come to to draw inspiration form the fashion that the local teens wear here. Looking at some of the pictures here, you may wonder about that, but it is true!
You can find shops selling the most weird and wonderful fashion. Cute socks (and shark backpacks?), jackets, shoes, hats, all kinds of weird and wonderful shirts and tops, even spiderman has a shop here!
Walking down Takeshita street is absolutely a feast for the senses and any visit to Tokyo is not complete without visiting it.
Another reason I wanted to come to this area is that one of my housemates works at a hat shop here. A little walk from the above mentioned shopping street, it is located in an area that is home to all of the big fashion labels. The name of the shop is Harajuku Polka Dot (www.polcadot.com) and it is the hat shop of choice for Rock Music Royalty!! My housemate, Jinseul, was working one day when this foreign guy came in. Being that Jinseul is able to speak English well, she started chatting with him. She asked where he was from, the USA he answered. He then asked her if she knew the rock band, Van Halen. It was David Lee Roth!! Rock Music Royalty shopping for hats in her shop! I think he is married to a Japanese lady and lives in the neighbourhood. The funny thing is, he didn't come into the shop with bodyguards and personal helpers, he just rode up to the shop on his shopping bike like any normal person!
Here are a few photos of the shop.
Jinseul with the hat that David Lee Roth bought.
A nice shop that I will be going back to again. Thanks to Jinseul and Yuda-san for showing me around the shop.
Heading back towards Harajuku again in search for food, I stumbled upon this shop selling.......um.......Pandas and stuff..
I had the same expression on my face looking at him!!
I headed to a nearby Okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake) restaurant that I had heard was pretty good and also that they had an English menu too. The restaurant name is Sakua Tei () and is well and truly hidden in the little back alleys of Harajuku. I managed to find it and ordered the spicy yaki. At this restaurant you cook the food yourself. It is fun, and also, I guess, if you mess up the cooking, you can't blame the restaurant!
Luckily for me, it tasted good! The inside of the restaurant is pretty interesting, with murals covering the walls, including instructions on how to cook it.
Really nice restaurant with friendly staff.
I headed back out into the rain, my shoes now well and truly soaked through, and made my way back home after another enjoyable day off in Tokyo.
That's it for this week. See you again next week.