Shibuya was on the agenda for our third day in Japan. It was also our first day experiencing Tokyo’s public transport system. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people from Melbourne complaining about how bad the public transport is but, having lived in Darwin, NT, I don’t think it’s so bad. Well, it’s not bad but Tokyo’s train system is absofreakinglutely amazing.
Other than the fact that the trains are actually clean (and quiet), they run only a few minutes apart, each line is coloured and labelled and everything links up to everything else. The map alone is a beautiful, colourful work of art that I would definitely hang on my wall. I am pretty weird though.
So anyway, Shibuya, home of Gwen‘s Harajuku girls, the Meiji Jingu Shrine and a man with many cats….
From Yoyogi station we walked through the gardens of Meiji Jingu Shrine. It was so quiet and peaceful it didn’t seem like there were 10,000 people simultaneously crossing a road only a few kilometres away. When we arrived at the main shrine there was some sort of ceremony, possibly a wedding in progress.
The courtyard was surrounded by bonsai trees which are amazing looking. We continued through the shrine to find these giant timelines along the walkway which tell the story of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. Empress Shoken was way ahead of her time, a feminist before the idea even existed, promoting women’s education and taking important steps to improve the welfare of her people.
We started to notice people lining up outside this white canopy and, because we had no idea what was going on, we got in line. We were given a spray bottle to rinse our hands with and then at the front of the line we received a piece of paper with something written on it, again, I have no idea what. There were people under the canopy rolling these colourful cookie type things into flower shapes and we were given one of these and some tea. I ate the flower thing. It was weird. Not gross just really not the texture I was expecting, which can throw you. After some research later on I am 90% sure it was sweetened bean paste and that we took part in a tea ceremony. That’s one mystery solved but I ate many things in Tokyo and may never know what some of them were. And I’m okay with that.
On the far side of the gardens we followed crowds of people toward the shopping area. There were so many people. This is where we saw it, the greatest thing I think my eyes will ever behold. I’m afraid I don’t have any context for the photo, but maybe it’s better without:
Yes, that is a man wheeling a pram filled with cats. He was just walking the street, pausing to allow passers-by to take photos. His cats were so relaxed, lounging out on his shoulder and in his pram, happily sheltered from the light spatters of rain with their own personal umbrella. If I die young at least my parents will know I accomplished seeing this wonder with my own two eyes.
We walked down Harajuku and Takeshita Streets and felt so fashionably inferior. Seriously, everyone looks uniquely awesome. We went specifically on a Sunday because we’d heard that was Cosplay day, but unfortunately didn’t see many people cosplaying. The fashion alone was amazing though, and I feel I fully understand Gwen Stefani’s obsession (though Shibuya also has a Vivienne Westwood which was far less impressive).
On a recommendation we disappeared down a staircase on Takeshita Street and found a room full of photo booths. We picked one with a hilarious name that I can’t remember now, something like ‘Dreamland’… Inside we decided to copy the poses that the models do as they show you how the machine works but oh my god, I was not expecting the result. Each image is auto-photoshopped. Your skin is airbrushed, your eyes double in size, your body becomes longer and skinnier and your cheeks get digitally flushed. It’s hysterical and I understand why they are so popular. If you are in Japan you must get your photo taken. Afterwards you can even decorate your pictures with stamps and backgrounds.
When we could (window) shop no more we began walking in what we thought was the general direction of the Shibuya crossing, (that giant intersection that’s always in movies). We walked a lot throughout the trip and didn’t really use a map so we weren’t sure if we were heading in the right direction. We came across one large intersection and thought we had arrived and I have to say I was a little underwhelmed but then, we rounded a corner and realised there was no mistaking it:
From here we watched some disorientated guy lie down in the middle of the intersection and then stumble out of the way before the lights turned green.
Because we were on holiday and had definitely earned it with all the walking, we had ice cream for dinner and made our way back to the hostel. All in all, a wonderful day.