Trip Start Aug 25, 2006
17Trip End Sep 10, 2006
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We didn't know it at the time, but yosakoi is a unique Japanese dance form, which combines traditional Japanese dance movements with modern music
Several large stages were set up around Harajuku station near the entrance to Yoyogi Park for the festival. We watched the dancers for a time, and then bought lunch from one of the many vendors. Noodles and bubblegum-flavored shave ice - yum!
After lunch, we decided to make our way into Yoyogi Park to visit Meiji Shrine, or Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine. As we walked into the park, we were still surrounded by lots and lots of yosakoi dancers, but that tapered off as we neared the shrine. This torii, or gate, marks the entrance to the shrine.
The shrine itself is quite beautiful, although sadly, it is not original - the original building, dating to 1920, was destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt in 1958. Since this is the first Shinto shrine we visited, it was interesting to learn how people pay their respects. First, you approach the Temizusha, which is a sort of fountain with wooden dippers. You take a dipper, fill it with water, and rinse your left hand, then your right hand, and then the handle of the dipper before placing it back on the ledge
After purifying yourself at the Temizusha, you can proceed to the main shrine. There, you can elect to toss coins in an offering box, at which point you bow twice, clap your hands twice, bow again, and say a prayer. To go off on a slightly longer tangent, many Japanese practice both Shintoism and Buddhism. Shintoism is seen as emphasizing nature and finding happiness in this life, while Buddhism emphasizes the afterlife and rebirth. Shinto Shrines are considered places of worship as well as the home of the kami, or gods - there are no services as in a Christian church. I found both the shrines and Buddhist temples we visited to be lovely, peaceful, and quite moving.
After visiting the shrine, we walked around the Harajuku area a bit, and did some shopping. There were more of the yosakoi dancers in a sort of parade down one of the main streets. By this point, we were almost tired out but decided that we could visit one more place. We decided on Shibuya, which was one metro stop away. Shibuya is a major shopping and entertainment area in Tokyo, probably most famous for Shibuya Crossing, which is a huge, six-way zebra crossing that gets crosssed by a sea of people ever time the light turns, and which was featured in Lost in Translation. As you can see from the picture below, it is overlooked by large neon billboards and video screens. (notice the billboard touting Paris Hilton's CD in the upper left). We tried to visit a few shops, but everything was so totally mobbed that we gave up.
Completely beat, we decided to call it an early night. We had a light dinner of appetizers down at the hotel bar overlooking the city, and then turned in.