Tokyo day 3 – Harajuku and Shibuya

It’s another beautiful day in Tokyo! After yesterday’s entry, I went out for a walk to take some photos around the hotel. What resulted is a beautiful 314 photo Photosynth set of the plaza outside of Shinjuku station…

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It was off to have a quick lunch at the station and then off to the Harajuku area. It’s known as one of the trendier districts in Tokyo and is full of boutiques, clothing shops, and some of the most interesting fashion I’ve ever seen. Sundays are typically the day when the younger folk get dressed up and go hang out in the streets. Cosplayers are no exception here, and they typically hang out on the bridge next to the station…

…at least, that’s what I’ve been told. There was a very small showing yesterday, as I think most of them were over at TGS showing off their art. There was, however, something pretty interesting going on at the Meiji Shrine next to the station. There was apparently some sort of traditional event going on and folks were carrying around what looked like a portable shrine and chanting.

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The shrine itself was pretty cool. As one of the more famous shrines in the Tokyo area, it was teeming with tourists and sightseers. Not wanting to be outdone, I quickly set to work with the camera and snapped a whole bunch of photos. On the way in, we passed a wall of sake barrels. These were all donated by local brewing companies (for good fortune, perhaps?) and set on display.

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With a city as large as Tokyo, it’s also not very common to see a lot of heavily wooded areas. Our guide tells us that all of the trees in the area were planted after World War II to help restore the area to it’s natural beauty. The shrine itself is also not that old and was built around the same era.

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Once close to the main gate, we all took part in the ritual hand cleansing. I think I probably should have taken a bath there. I’m sure it’s just more than my hands that are dirty…

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The shrine is also a popular place for weddings. We saw two separate parties, one posing outside and then another inside. Both looked like traditional ceremonies and I one procession even came through while we were inside.

Having the procession go through also provided the unique opportunity of having the area mostly clear of people. Not to miss the opportunity, I snapped another set of pictures for use in Photosynth.

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With that out of the way, it was time to move on. We left the temple and wandered out into the main streets of Harajuku. The crowds were out in full force and it was difficult making our way through the streets.

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There were a lot of interesting little clothing stores (many of them featuring Goth/Loli fashion) and plenty of stands selling Crepes. We couldn’t resist the temptation and wound up with one each. I went for one with peaches, strawberry ice cream, and whipped cream. Yum yum!

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We were tempted to stop at each stand for one, but I’m sure that would have made us very very sick. One was enough for us. While we were walking and browsing, a couple groups from the shrine was making their way up the street carrying their shrine and chanting. It was pretty cool to watch and my friend even got pulled in to help out (look for him around at around 0:45)!

 

It was a pretty cool experience for him and apparently a very rare one. He must prayed for the right thing while at the shrine earlier. 🙂 Once through the side street, we hit one of the main streets in Harajuku. Most of the stores here are western based, including a newly opened Forever 21 and the H&M building. There were areas set up outside for people to line up to go inside. They’re both very popular among trendy Japanese women and get special attention.

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We took the opportunity to do a little shopping in some of the gift boutiques on one of the side streets and picked up some nice little souvenirs. Not going to post a picture of what I bought so I don’t ruin any gift surprises! As it was getting late, we decided to move on to our final objective for the day: Shibuya.

Similar to Harajuku, Shibuya is mainly a shopping district popular among the younger crowd. There are a lot of large department stores and western style shops there, as well as one of the most famous intersections in all of Tokyo. Right outside the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station, this 5-way intersection is featured in many films, photographs, and documentaries. It’s often used as an example to show how modern and busy Japan is. Of course, I had to go across it and film the whole experience!

Also in that area of Shibuya was the famous statue of Hachiko. It was modeled after the famous dog from 1920’s Japan who would faithfully wait for his master to return from work even after he passed away. For the full story around Hachiko, check out the wikipedia entry.

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A walk through Shibuya pretty much ended our day. We somehow managed to walk from Shibuya to Harajuku (took about half an hour) and took the train back into Shinjuku. Dinner was our last stop, along with a little shopping. We found a nice little drinking parlor with traditional seating and a la carte food service. I’d seen places like this in anime before, but it was nice to actually go to one.

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The food was delicious and atmosphere was great. The only dangerous thing about the restaurant was that the food was all ordered via a touch screen. What made it even worse was that I figured out how the thing worked (it was all in Japanese with pictures) and ended up ordering a bunch of drinks and food.

Look for more tomorrow!

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