Our original plan for Tokyo was to do the Tsukiji Fish Market, but as our first day fell on a Sunday, we had to reconsider. We decided instead to head to a different institution of Tokyo: Harajuku. Finally with a good camera on hand, I couldn’t wait to get pictures of all of the girls dressed up for cosplay. Apparently the stars were not aligned for that either, as there were none when we entered the Yoyogi park and none when we came back out again. It was strange, but perhaps we were too early? Who knows.
I showed Travis the Meiji-Jingu shrine, and our streak of good luck started there. While we were walking the wide path under the shade of the tall, thick forest, I explained that many weddings take place at the temple, and that perhaps we’d be lucky enough to see one today. Couples getting married there wear beautifully ornate traditional clothes, which makes for quite the sight. Little did we know that we hit the wedding jackpot, as we ended up seeing three different wedding processions. One couple was even nice enough to pose for their pictures in the area that wasn’t closed off, so I was able to get a great picture of them. This was clearly the start to a great day.
On our way out we decided to walk down the famous Takeshita street and check out the local shops and of course, the fashion. The area had changed a lot since I was last there though, with Comme Des Garçons being replaced by GAP – what a tragedy. Regardless, the place was still packed and great as ever, and made for a great stroll. Down at the end of a street we found a strange art gallery, and while I was taking photos I noticed that they also had a bar. Since we were looking for a spot to stop by and grab a drink, I dragged Travis in only to find an incredible garden oasis.
This being the hottest Japanese summer in the last 1000 years and with us not being used to the heat, we were sweaty, uncomfortable and really needed a beer. This place had a bonus though: a kid’s inflammable swimming pool with chairs around it and a little table in the middle. Perfect, I thought, and hoped that there would be water in there. Well, they did better than that: it was a bath of iced water, with ice cubes floating around. It was painfully cold, but felt incredible.
After our beer we ate at the restaurant that is part of this art complex, where one can grill their own food or make their own okonomiyaki-style omelet. It was a really cool spot, and the food was good. Being on a budget though, we were a little restricted on our menu.
Off we were to see one of Travis’ “must see” items: the Shinjuku intersection to watch (and partake) in the pedestrian crossing. For the first time I tried taking pictures of it, but I think that it was mostly unsuccessful in capturing what it’s really like and producing any appealing photograph. Oh well! It would probably make a much better photo just after sunset, when the lights are on and people could become trails.
From there we headed back to our neck of the woods in Asukasa, to walk through the amazing Senso-ji temple. By the time we got there though the temples were closed, but we could still walk around the grounds. It’s not the same though as when it’s open, but the crowd was still mad, with a huge lineup to go up to the main temple and pray.
Not hungry yet, we decided to wait for dinner a little but by going into an arcade. We played a few video games where I kicked Travis’ ass by shooting more bad guys than he did. We also went into a photo booth to get those funky Japanese-style photos. It was tons of fun to pose, but clearly we didn’t know what we were doing. We could have selected way more pictures to keep and also didn’t know that the machine didn’t print, but rather sent the pictures via Bluetooth to your cell phone. We were bummed that we couldn’t have the photos, but in the end one of the staff came looking for us and presented us with a sheet of our photos. Apparently there was a printer at the main desk! I really like our photos – the computer gave us bigger eyes with huge eyelashes (to get that girly Japanese look). How fun is that!
We ended up eating on this cute little street filled with red lanterns and outdoor seating. The place we picked though wasn’t so good and was quite expensive in the end, but the staff was extremely nice. The owner seemed concerned that I wasn’t eating enough food and gave me some beef stew and really tried to help us when we asked for directions to walk back to the hotel.
Overall day 1 was a great day, filled with lovely, generous people and great sights. What a wonderful start to our trip!