2018-09-27: I originally posted highlights for Day 4 and rather than just filling in the blanks, I’m doing a whole other post to add the commentary and all the pictures.
We had big plans for the day but mis-timed some things so we missed out on crashing the annual YouTube Hanami party and a chance to meet several of the J-vloggers I’ve been following for several years. That took place in Yoyogi park, as it does every year – it was a coincidence that I was going to be IN Tokyo for the first time at the same time it took place and wanted to take advantage of it so I could personally thank a lot of the people who had given me such inspiration to plan this current trip and our last one.
Alas, we spent way too long in Shibuya and too long recharging at the hotel afterwards and by the time we were headed over to Yoyogi, it was getting dark and they were long gone. Boooooooooooo. 😦 I was a little disappointed but I’m not much one for mingling with strangers anyway and part of me had not made it much of a priority. We still had a pretty great day!
The Shibuya eki (station) koban. It’s an iconic scene from a silly anime series I watched a few years ago, Super Gals!. (Just be prepared to see pictures of koban whenever I come across them.)
It was early in the day and rainy when we got to Shibuya. I have never seen the iconic famous “Shibuya Scramble” so deserted. Of course, it wasn’t completely empty (Is it ever?), but every time the light changed, it only looked like a regular crosswalk, size aside.
The area in front of the station around Hachiko (the famous bronze state of a legendary dog – Google it if you’re unfamiliar!), was still crowded, but much less so that usual so we took advantage and took a couple of pictures with the faithful metal canine.
I wasn’t expecting the sakura trees around Hachiko and was impressed by the beauty. Something about an object of nature, so delicate and ethereal as a tree full of cherry blossoms, in juxtaposition with the technology, concrete, and crowds of modern Japan was striking.
There are usually at least a few interesting characters in the Shibuya area but it was amusing to see one so interesting so early in the morning. I wonder where she was headed… I’m not sure how to classify this girl’s style. I don’t think it’s really gyaru but has elements of it. I like it though.
After taking the few obligatory crossing pictures and videos, we went into Tsutaya to take a look around before going upstairs to the Starbucks. I know it’s cliché, but I still enjoy taking a few minutes people-watching there with a nice hot drink.
I was hoping to get some sakura themed cake or some similar sort of treat but I guess the cherry-blossom menu comes and goes earlier than the actual flowers. They actually had no cake at all at this location so I just got my obligatory matcha latte. Oishii!
I don’t know if it’s just a Tsutaya thing or if all Japanese music stores put these liners along the shelves to draw your eye, but as someone who used to work in retail and had to merchandise product in creative ways, I was really impressed with this tactic.
I also spotted the Japanese editions of the Twilight and Harry Potter movies. I can’t read kanji so I don’t know if they are just subtitled versions or if they actually have Japanese dubbed tracks. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know because I totally would have bought them for that and they were expensive.
After that, we walked up the street to the 109 building. It seems that not a lot has changed there in the past 5 years. The stores have ridiculous names that Hubby and I enjoyed. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the building at all, but… I snuck some. (Lecture me when I’m in hell.) Most of them didn’t turn out anyway.
The fashion is a lot tamer now that it was in 2010. Last time, there were gyaru everywhere. Now, everyone looked fairly… normal. The only notable trends were blonde hair, flared skirts, hats, and the ever-present trench coats.
There is literally nothing in there that would ever fit me but we had fun wandering around and adding our commentary to the interesting fashion and dubious store names. And I did actually make a purchase. I bought a Shibuya-styled blinged out Rilakkuma stuffie. You are supposed to hang it from your bag but he (she?) will have a prized place on my stuffie shelves back home.
There is a balcony area on the 2nd floor with vending machines and another zoo exhibit style smoking area. From there, you can see a cool view of the area looking back down to the crossing.
We were hungry by then so we were ready for lunch. After seeing this video, I was set on the idea that we HAD to eat at Genki Sushi. It was just as fun as it looks in Kyde & Eric’s video. I even won a prize from my digital Jankenpon battle – a gatchapon sushi keychain. I really wish we had kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants back home!
After lunch, we wandered around the area and ended up in Loft for awhile. It was a cool store but nothing I actually wanted to buy. There was a lot of trinket-y stuff and a sort-of art gallery.
We did a bit more aimless wandering, then hit one on Hubby’s List of Things to Do – Mandarake.
On our way in to Mandarake, a gaijin family was in front of us and we overheard the following conversation:
Daughter: What is this place?
Son: Mandarake. It sells anime stuff.
Mother: (*scoffs*) Honey, it’s pronounced mandrake.
LMAO. Hubby and I now have a new inside joke to replace our “organtuans at the zoo” whenever someone mispronounces something with an air of authority. (The correct pronunciation, in case you can’t read phoentical Japanese, is man-da-raw-kay.)
It’s located in a basement so I could only handle it for a bit before I decided to wait on the street outside for him to finish up browsing. He took FOREVER and I was suddenly transported back to my childhood when I used to wait for my mom in the car and have horrible premonitions that a psychotic murderer on a spree was holding up the store and that she’d never come out. She did of course, and so did Hubby. Eventually. (I’m sure it wasn’t really that long in reality.) At least I got to rest my achy feet for awhile.
There was another area we had never been to before that I wanted to see before we left called Supeinzka (Spain Slope). We walked up Inokashira dori to hit it from the top and come back down. There’s a famous photo spot right at the top where the stairs are but the building there was under construction and covered up, therefore kind of spoiling our pictures. It was kind of a cool area but compared with the hype, somewhat lacklustre.
In my plan, I had added the possibility of going to the Gyaru Café but, honestly, I was too intimidated. I had also planned to check out Love Hotel Hill but we were already so tired and it seemed like too far to go just for a few pictures.
We walked back down Dogenzaka Ave and I was surprised by how different an area can look in a month. It’s early April now so the trees are bare or have only buds. Our last trip was the middle of May and the trees were full of leaves. It had a completely different feel. Still, it was interesting to see a lot of the same places again, including where Hubby had real ramen for the very first time.
While we made our way back to the station, Hubby wanted to buy a few things at a few stores. He was specifically looking for a golf shirt at Uniqlo (no luck) and a bottle of whisky from Bic Camera (success!). The Shibuya Bic Camera store is interesting because it takes up two adjacent buildings – A & B. You have to go outside to use the exterior stairwell to access the other building. I also bought a USB there to store all the pictures and videos we’ve taken so far.
We also popped into the Tokyu attached to the station, just to see what it was like. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting although my experience with Japanese departments stores is limited.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Hamamatsucho station to have an epic photoshoot with the Little Peeing Monk – something else I had seen in a random YouTube video once and needed to see for myself.
Last time, we stayed in the Hamamatsucho area and had been through the station several times but somehow had missed seeing him. This time I knew he was there but not where exactly to look. We got off the train on the opposite platform but I spotted him so we went down and came up the other side.
Amusingly, we weren’t alone. Two other men were there (at separate times) taking photos of him as well. One of them was quite intense. Something tells me he comes every month to take shots of the peeing statue and has an album full of all his ever-changing outfits.
Oh, how I love Japan!
After resting for way too long, we hopped back on the train to Harajuku to take a peek at Yoyogi park, even though we knew we had missed all the fun. If I didn’t have so much packed into our short trip, I’d make it a priority to come back to see all the sakura there. It really is impressive, even in the dark.
Lots of people were cleaning up after their long day of Hanami partying while we strolled through. It seemed like everyone was drunk, having (or had had) a great time, and still, they were all conscientious, tidying up their space and throwing out their trash. There were gigantic piles of garbage at designated areas.
We passed one particularly enthusiastic group, many of whom were dressed up in various costumes. One large man was in school girl attire and a shirtless Santa yelled over something unintelligible to us. It was pretty funny.
There were also food stall areas, like what they typically have at the approach to a temple or shrine. I didn’t know they had them at parks too, although it makes sense because hanami is like a festival and they would make a lot of money from the crowds.
We walked back towards Harajuku station and noticed a huge crowd standing on the street at the corner of Omotosando. We were curious so we decided to walk past to see if we could determine what they were excited about. Turns out that they were lined up (ever so orderly) because a Garrett Popcorn store was having their grand opening. It was a good thing we did walk down that way because I saw that Sembikiya was still open.
I mentioned Sembikiya in my 2010 Harajuku entry. This fruit store is one of the locations from my Japanese on the Go language tapes. It’s been sort of a bucket list for me to go to as many of the places highlighted by them so this was a perfect opportunity. During the day, it’s always busy but now, there were only a couple other customers there.
I had a melon parfait and some apple cinnamon tea and Hubby had a banana waffle. It was pretty good although I wouldn’t want to pay those kinds of prices for fruit on the regular.
Our last stop for the day was unplanned but Hubby was hungry and hadn’t had any ramen yet today. We happened to walk past a place that looked quite lively on our way back to the station. Hubby was sold by their “We have English menus” sign. That was good enough for him at 8:00 pm.
The details about the place are in my ramen post so I won’t repeat that. I’ll just say I didn’t get my own bowl but I should have. It was good. We may go back there again during our next trip to Japan.