Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya

Trip Start Jul 13, 2006
1
6
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Trip End Jul 30, 2006


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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Woke up around 10 or so somewhat rested. Nick and I had spent quite some time chatting and catching up instead of sleeping the night before...and so I didn't get as much rest as I should've. The heat and humidity also made it a bit difficult to sleep.

We headed out to Tokyo by train (they go practically everywhere) and made it into Shinjiku around 1 PM or so. We had packed our bags for the Mt. Fuji adventure we would be having later on and brought them with us (since we would not be returning home). We rented a locker at the train station and left our belongings there so we would be able to tour/sightsee unhindered.

We went to the bus station to buy our ticket to Mt. Fuji for later. We scored some seats on the 7:50 PM bus. The bus station was right next to Yodobashi...which is this absolutely gigantic electronics establishment. Nick and I went inside to check things out. It was overwhelming! The technology here is so incredibly advanced! They have these computer/TV/DVD appliances. The digital cameras here are also incredible. I might just have to buy one if the price is right! The streets of Tokyo are incredibly crowded. There are just SO many people everywhere! Nick and I stayed very close all the time. If I got carried off by one of the crowds rushing back...we might never find each other again! Walked back to the train station and hopped on a train to Harajuku.

The first thing you notice about Harajuku is the strange clothes people wear. Lots of people dress "goth' in black...but then it's also Victorian goth. Well, not sure what the hell you DO call the style they wear. Girls in corsets and frilly skirts, combat boots and lots of bows. A picture says a thousand words...so you just take a look at THOSE after and you will know what I am talking about. I also saw quite a few "Little Bo Peep" look-alikes walk by. A few people in nurse outfits as well. I went into this one store (I couldn't take any pictures from the inside) that looked like it was selling Halloween costumes. Except, they WEREN'T Halloween costumes. They were outfits that people actually wore when they didn't have to wear work clothes.

We made our way to the Meiji Shrine. It's so amazing to be in the heart of the biggest/busiest city in the world and then come across a large chunk of green land with one of the most famous shrines around. Every entrance to the shrine has a "Tory Gate" made of wood. It designates the area as holy ground. This particular shrine has THE largest Tory Gate in Japan. Impressive, non? Before entering the main shrine area there is this little water fountain you have to perform a cleansing ritual at before going in. You walk up to it and grab the ladle with your right hand. Dip it into the water and pour the water over the palm of your left hand. Put the ladle in your left hand, dip it ino the water and pour the water over the palm of your right hand. Switch back to your right hand, dip the ladle in the water and bring it to your lips (using the left hand to support the bottom) and take a drink. Now you are clean enough to enter the shrine.

We walked around for a bit taking some pictures and seeing the women dressed like shrine maidens (Priestesses) walking about the shrine. The next thing we know there is a commotion of some sort and a procession of people dressed in their best kimonos come out. First there was a main priest, then a second priest. Two priestesses followed. We realized then that we were witnessing a Japanese wedding! What luck! The bride was so beautiful and the groom wasn't bad either. They looked so young though! At the end of the procession the mother in-law (in the green kimono) walked up to her new daughter in-law and re-tied the obi (sash for kimonos). You see, when women are single...their obi is tied one way. when they are married, it's tied differently. By re-tying the girl's obi she shows that she accepts her into the family and changes her status.

We walked around the shrine a bit and then took one of the paths leading away from it. Came across a nice park with like...millions of dragonflies darting about. The path led to the museum, which was unfortunately closed. Entering a nearby public bathroom, I discovered yet another kind of waste management system commonly used by the Japanese. There is thing that looks very much like a urinal...except it's horizontal with the ground instead of vertically on the wall like you'd see in a male bathroom. It is used for both sexes...and you pretty much walk up to it, squat and do your business. Weird, huh?

Left the shrine and walked back to the train station. Hopped on a train to Shibuya. Shibuya is famous for the "Shibuya Scramble". Lots of Japanese AND international films have featured this phenomenon...as well as documentaries. There is this major intersection in Shibuya and when the light turns green, some 200+ people fill up the intersection. It's like...this 1-2 minute instense street crossing extravaganza. People walking in high speeds across the street and zigzagging through the human traffic to hopefully make it to the side of the street they wanna get to. It was just mind-numbing to see that many people in one place at one time (that wasn't a major event of some sort). I was actually even a part of the scramble later on. I latched on to Nick for dear life. If we got separated...well, it would be kinda tragic I think. Shibuya is famous for the Shiba Inu...a breed of dog exclusively from the region. There are many statues as well as art dedicated to this dog breed all over. We made our way to TGI Fridays (yes, they have those in Japan!) but could not afford the 30 minute wait for a seat. We went to this "Italian" restaurant instead. The food was cheap, the food was good and the service was the fastest I have ever seen. You are taken to a table and given menus. When you are ready to order you click a green button and it lights up your table number. A waitress comes running over, takes your order and leaves. Any time you need/want something you just click the green button! Our food was seriously at our table in some 5 minutes. Japan is crazy for cold coffee. They have it in their vending machines and they have it next to soft drinks in restaurants. Nick has learned to love the stuff. Me, being the Brazilian that I am (and having lived off the hot version for the past 8 months...) couldn't just drink a glassful of cold Joe. I had some melon flavored pop instead (it was yummy).

We finished eating and then made our way back to the train station. On the way there we stopped in a department store. I checked out the fans. My grandma asked me to buy one for her. I wanna shop around a bit before getting one. We also walked past a HAAGEN DAZS building. My eyes grew wide and my mouth instantly watered. I am SO gonna be hitting THAT place later! At the time we had to make it back to Shinjuku to catch our bus to Mt. Fuji, so we couldn't dawdle.
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