Day 2: Tokyo – Harajuku and Shibuya

It is a family rule that the day after lengthy international travel, you wake up at an hour that is early to the point of ungodly. So it was that we were awake at 5am, local time.

Only one thing to do – hit the streets.

We headed down to Harajuku via Shinjuku. Harajuku is home to the equivalent of Camden Market, Takeshita Dori. With a teenage daughter, we were on to a winner. Stopping off at the 100 yen store (think Japanese Poundland) to buy some sticky tape to fix my camera, we slowly walked the narrow street, descending from the JR line station.

Takeshita Dori

This was like a Moroccan bazaar, only geared toward young Japanese girls. My daughter was in heaven. The street wasn’t hip by any stretch of a London imagination. It catered for the cute/kawaii market, which judging by the crowds, is significant.

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Step Back In Time
“New Arrivals” apparently

From arriving at around 1030, the street quickly grew to the wrong side of heaving. It had that “I’ll meet you outside of Covent Garden tube” feeling, where people stand, waiting in groups and generally stopping anyone moving at a decent pace.

The inexorable kawaii tide

That said, I’m a long way from their target market and my daughter had a ball. Sure she was indulged in a lovely little boutique but, hey, we are on holiday.

After lunch on the roof terrace in the sunshine (did I mention the miraculous temperature shift from the previous day’s sleet?), we wanted some peace.

220px-Black_and_white_photo_of_emperor_Meiji_of_JapanMeiji Shrine is dedicated to the eponymous Emperor, and his wife, who died in 1912. The Emperor presided over the change of Japan from its traditional isolationist world view in 1867 into a non-feudal capitalist society. This shift was hugely dramatic, something akin to the impact of Britain’s Industrial Revolution.

The shrine was constructed after his death but was destroyed by the air raids of WWII. Reconstructed in the late forties, the roof was clad in copper which, unfortunately for us is being refurbished. The builders were well and truly in, with much of the shrine being clad in scaffold.

As a consequence, we weren’t able to get into the heart of the shrine but did hear the evocative beat of the ceremonial drum at 2pm.

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The huge Shinto gate at the entrance to the Shrine
Offerings at the Shrine

The Sake barrels in the cover image are from Japanese producers who contribute to the temple offerings. On the opposite side of the path are wine barrels from France from producers of wine used in the temple.

The Yin to the Sake’s Yang

We headed down to Shibuya, the site of the famous chaotic crossing that prompted Boris Johnson’s interpretation at the junction of Oxford and Regent Street. The traffic fumes were choking and after a brief stop to watch a cycle of the pedestrians, a trip to Tower Records (more on that to come) and a sighting of a Super Mario gokart tour of the city, we headed home. We were exhausted.

An evening was spent enjoying shabu shabu, a Japanese pot au feu, with my old school friend Shaun before walking back to the hotel and, ultimately, bed.



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