Day 4: Shibuya

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!

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The station wall art mural is several depictions of the famous Akita inu (dog) Hachiko.

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.)

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Tokyo is interesting. You can’t smoke on the street unless it’s in a designated smoking area. I don’t know how fencing off the people who are smoking makes the smell any better or the air any cleaner. The air still moves in and out easily. Maybe it’s a shame thing – it does make the smokers look like a zoo exhibit.

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.

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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.

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Drain covers are a “thing” in Japan. They are designed by artists and usually have a motif that is indicative of the area. I like this Hachiko one.

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.

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The super-famous youth fashion hub, the Shibuya 109 building, is off to the left and up the street a bit from the crossing.

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Hachiko isn’t the only metal statuary in the area. These little naked boys look like they are playing in water, which makes some sense because the area around the station was allegedly built on top of a river. (I’m sure the plaque says something about the meaning, but of course, I can’t read it.

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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!

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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.

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It’s fun to see these cute little carts zip down the street, making take-out deliveries. The box on the back is where the food goes and is kept hot or cold inside.

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That’s some delicious looking sanpuru.

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Store fronts and window displays are impressive.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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view on the left, up Dogenzaka Ave (We got donuts at the Krispy Kreme 5 years ago.)

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view on the right (I don’t know what this street is called.) – Note the Fujiya family restaurant on the 2nd floor of the building across the street which I’ll mention again later.

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!

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I love Japan! It’s common in restaurants to have baskets or shelves under the table to hold your bags so they don’t get dirty touching the ground. The umbrella holder on the back of the chair is great too. Saves so much space. (Just don’t forget your stuff!)

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You can choose between a discount coupon for your next visit or a gatchapon prize if you win your pack-rock-scissors game. I chose the toy since I’m not sure if we’ll get a chance to come back. I got a little plastic squid (I think?) nigiri. It says “Don’t put this in your mouth”. Hahaha. I guess Japanese people need reminders not to be stupid just like we do.

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.

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Loft is at the top of the slope and you can see Genki Sushi about halfway up on the right hand side.

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Hubby likes to buy himself a watch as a souvenir for our big trips. He has one from our last time in Japan and is on the lookout for a new one.

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I’m not sure if the 50,000 yen price tag is for the set or just one panel but… O.O

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WTF?

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This guy was giving some sort of live demo of a beauty product and drew quite a crowd.

We did a bit more aimless wandering, then hit one on Hubby’s List of Things to Do – Mandarake.

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I took a very similar picture in this same spot last time. The nickname of this restaurant still amuses me. Fa-kin. Ha.

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This guy would not move out of the way so we could take a picture. He just stood there, not doing anything for several minutes. (Not EVERYONE in Japan is super nice.)

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Something else we’re beginning to notice is that these thin puffy jackets are super popular. If you’re not wearing a trench coat, you’re probably wearing a puffy jacket.

This is probably the coolest looking koban I have ever seen. I like it so much, I couldn’t choose just one picture.

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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. 

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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.)

When I came back out to wait, I noticed this Croissant Taiyaki place. I was intrigued but didn’t want to move from my spot in case Hubby couldn’t see me. I wish I had got one though. They look yummy.

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.

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Something about this print seemed familiar to me so I snapped a picture. I knew it was of yōkai but I realized later that I had seen work from this artist before. It’s Kappa no Sanpei from Gegege no Kitarō – a famous manga series from the 60s.

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Mandarake does sell manga and figures, of course, but they are best known for their vintage items. Lots of toys and collectables from ages past. This particular case is a bunch of various kaiju – monster villians.

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Were you paying attention earlier? This is Peko-chan. She’s the mascot of the Fujiya company, particularly as the face for Milky candy. There is an “urban myth” about her too (which is absolutely not true, BTW). These dolls are usually posted outside of the Fujiya bakeries and the toys are retro and super collectable.

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peko case

I actually love Milky candy and buy them frequently. Once, I got some in a souvenir tin and now I keep my business cards for my Etsy shop inside. 🙂

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.

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Remember this lady’s face… (It shows up again.)

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Trench coat AND a hat. Double points!

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There always seems to be some themed pop-up café going on. This one is pretty meh on the scale of awesomeness.

The entrance to Supeinzaka is on the left (behind me). You can see the start of the construction wrapping.

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I like this guy’s shirt.

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There are a lot of ~OFF stores – Book Off, DVD Off, etc. It means discounted (like half off or something). I have no idea what this one sells, but the exterior looks cool.

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As we passed these billboards, Hubby said, “I’d hate to see what sexy 1 & 2 look like”. Granted, I was super tired by this time but it seemed like the funniest thing I’d ever heard at the time.

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It was somewhat jarring to see an Outback here.

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Shibuya Donki

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It looks like a fancy hotel check-in or something but it’s just karaoke.

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.

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We stopped off at this Family Mart for a drink.

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Hubby took a sitting up nap while he was waiting for me.

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I noticed that some of the tea bottles had these packages attached. I bought one and opened it up and it was a …sock? It’s actually a bottle cover. And Rilakkuma! I’m a sucker for “collect them all” so now I have a new mission.

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.

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A-ha! Now we know where all the puffy jackets are coming from.

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Bic Camera A & B

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It got quite a bit more busy throughout the day.

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We aren’t the only people who have “fun with statues”. Haha.

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.

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This is the route we walked today.

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.

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